Join Richard Harrington for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing the right file format for video projects, part of Motion Graphics for Video Editors: Terms and Technology (2014).
- Through the years, many different file formats have popped up. That's because we have lots of different manufacturers. Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, lots of different things along the ways, as well as intended use, whether that be the web or digital signage or perhaps print, multimedia, or video. It's important to know which file formats are going to be supported by your editing tool. To do this, it's a good idea to explore the documentation with your particular editing tool. But I'll give you a few top level highlights.
What I have here is a layered Photoshop file. You'll note that there is a Background and then a stylized filter that I created using different filters. These have been combined to create the end graphic and you'll see that those were useful to create the stylized image, a little bit of blur and then some softening. I then apply a gradient just to darken the edges, and added some text.
Well, saving this with the File, Save As command, I could choose to keep this a Photoshop Document. This is going to give me the greatest flexibility for opening it up and making changes. I can also choose to save this as a TIFF file and I'll choose to save that as a copy. Let's click Save and I'm going to include the layers with no compression. On the other hand, I could choose to save this in a flatten format.
A popular format for this, tends to be either a JPEG or a PNG file. However, for least compression, stick with the TIFF format. Let's try PNG and we'll Save that as well. I'll apply no compression and click OK. Now, let's switch over to Premiere Pro for a moment and bring those files in. I'll navigate to that location.
And select the format. Now it's a little difficult to see this in this particular view, so let's switch to seeing Details. And I can see the image types. I'll start with the Photoshop file and bring that in. You'll notice, Premiere gives me the choice to merge all the layers into a single document, to bring it in as a layered sequence. This option keeps all the layers intact, in fact, and you'll notice that every element was brought in and recombined into a Premiere Pro sequence, giving me the flexibility to turn layers on and off.
Or animate them individually. On the other hand, that Photoshop file can also be imported as a merged graphic. And I could choose which layers are brought in, for example, perhaps I don't want the text. So when I click import, I get a single flattened graphic but I was able to control what details came across. On the other hand, the TIFF file comes in just fine and Premiere and other video editing tools recognize that as a flattened file.
It brings it in with no layers intact. But if your tools supports it editing conversions, such as Edit Original, this will open it up. In this case, I'm going to force it to open into Photoshop. It comes in with the TIFF file and perhaps I want to change that text by adding a color overlay. Let's just set that text to a brighter blue.
And I'll click OK, close and save, and when I switch back to Premiere Pro, you'll see the TIFF file updated. This is actually my preferred workflow. I like to save layered TIFFs so they're easy to edit in Photoshop but video editing systems aren't confused by trying to interpret the layers. Now, some of the time, I want to bring in the layered file, so I'll stick with the PSD format. That makes it very easy to bring things in and keep the layers intact if you want to animate them.
On the other hand, bringing it in as a layered TIFF, is treated as a flattened file by the editing tool or by After Effects, but choosing to edit the original in Photoshop, still gives you all of the flexibility to make changes. But how about that flattened file? If I bring in that flattened PNG file, it quickly comes in as a single graphic. And you'll note, if we try to edit that graphic, it opens but all of the layers have been discarded.
So, what's the takeaway here? There are a wealth of file formats. If you choose something such as PSD or TIFF, you could choose to keep layers. Keep in mind that TIFF format both supports having layers as well as being a flattened file. Flattened means that the layers are discarded and it's very difficult to make future edits to the file. This is particularly true if you're using text or effects, where a layered file preserves future changes. On the hand, if you want to make sure that it's easy to hand things off to another person, using a flattened graphic is the way to go.
Things like PNG or JPEG are broadly compatible with small file sizes. However, they can get a bit compressed and show some artifacts. This is why I prefer the TIFF format. So, it's really a matter for you to decide what works best with your NLE, and be sure to do some testing. But with each file, you always want to make sure that the file extensions stay appended so when you choose to save the image, make sure that the extension is added after the file name.
- When to use vector vs. raster graphics
- Working with high-dynamic-range images
- Choosing the right color space
- Understanding file extensions and file formats
- Maintaining broadcast-safe color and luminance levels
- Configuring Photoshop and Illustrator workspaces and preferences
- Using templates
- Building titles
- Sizing photos or logos
- Saving Photoshop and Illustrator files for video graphics