Video Deposition Formats – What They Are and How to Choose

At the end of a video deposition, a videographer usually asks counsel if they would like a copy of the video and in what format.  Nine times out of ten, they have no idea that they even have a choice of format, not to mention the difference between mpeg-1 and mpeg-2 (that is, if they even know they want a copy in the first place!).  In an effort to edify and illuminate a fairly esoteric topic, I put together a list of the most common video formats along with their corresponding strengths, weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages.

DVD/VOB: This is your standard DVD disc.  Quality can vary depending on the videographer’s settings but it is typically standard definition with little to no compression.  These discs have title menus and are playable on set-top DVD players and in computers.  I only mention VOB because we occasionally get requests for VOB formatted video which is essentially synonymous with DVD.

  • Advantages:  High quality video.  Universally compatible in all DVD players
  • Disadvantages:  Extremely difficult to edit/make clips.  Long loading time.  Must be stored on a disc (can’t upload to a hard drive for quicker access and archival purposes).

MPEG-2:  This is the raw, uncompressed, high-quality format that is used to author DVD/VOB discs.  It is essentially the same thing as a DVD, except without menus.

  • Advantages:  High quality video.  More easily editable.  Can be made into a DVD or MPEG-1*.  Can be stored easily on a hard drive.  Can be synchronized with transcript and exhibits.
  • Disadvantages:  Requires video editing software to edit.  Limited compatibility.  Will not play in a set-top player and requires a special codec for playback on Window Media Player.  Large file size requires approximately one disc per deposition video tape.  So, for an all-day deposition where seven tapes were used, you will receive seven discs even though they are not authored DVDs.

MPEG-1:  This is a compressed or “lossy” format.  Although resolution is degraded, the tradeoff comes in the form of drastically increased compatibility.

  • Advantages:  Can be played on essentially any computer without requiring additional codecs in programs like Windows Media Player, QuickTime and RealPlayer.  Smaller file sizes require less storage space.  An entire day’s worth of videos can typically fit onto one DVD.  Quicker load and response times.  Best format for synchronized depositions.
  • Disadvantages:  Degraded video quality… that’s about it!

I hope that was helpful.  If you are still in need of further explanation, please don’t hesitate to contact our video department.  We are happy to help!

P.S.  I forgot to mention VHS.  We actually can give you a VHS if you really need it but I promise to try my hardest to convince you to choose one of the digital formats mentioned above!

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