Producing and utilizing digital media files — like images, logos, and pdfs — is an everyday occurrence for most marketers. And many have a digital asset management (DAM) system to help keep this content organized and accessible. Video files, however, are much more dynamic and complex. As a result, we are often asked, “What’s the best video format to upload into my DAM system?”
Let us introduce you to the word “mezzanine.” No, we’re not talking about the middle floor in an office building. In the video world, mezzanine files are compressed videos that take up less space than the full-resolution files, but are high-res enough to be used on the web. They can allow you to conserve storage space without sacrificing the quality that your users need.
What is a mezzanine file?
A mezzanine file is a compressed video file that is visually indistinguishable from the full-resolution master exported from your editing program, but significantly smaller in size. It’s not a specific file type, but rather a description of a general set of parameters used to create a file that looks great — without the information that’s only useful to a video editor. When working with your internal video staff, or with an external production agency, you want to request a mezzanine file format from them as part of their final delivery. You would likely ask for an MP4, H.264, MOV, or a WMV at 1920x1080, with a bit rate at about 10 Mbps (megabits per second). These formats are very common and supported by most platforms. The bit rate determines the visual quality, and 10 Mbps will give you high visual quality at a manageable file size (compared to editing level formats that are more than ten times the size). Parameters may vary slightly depending on footage and use case, but in general, this is a good place to start.
What are the common uses for mezzanine files?
Mezzanine files are typically used in DAM systems when the end users are simply consuming and repurposing the video, not re-editing it. Use cases include:
- Playing or viewing it online
- Sharing it with another person
- Embedding it on a website
- Downloading it to use in a presentation
Mezzanine files are perfect for videos that are consumed by users and viewers, not editors. Customer testimonials, product demonstrations, event videos, and promo videos can be great candidates for mezzanine. Editors will want access to full-resolution videos, so things like b-roll footage or raw footage off of a video camera should not be put into a mezzanine format.
Benefits of storing video files in mezzanine format
If you need high-quality video quickly and affordably, mezzanine files could be the best fit for you and your DAM users. After all, mezzanine files are:
- One-tenth the size of full-resolution versions
- Visually identical full-resolution versions
- Compressed with enough quality for use on the web
Video-heads might argue about the quality of mezzanine files, but they’re looking at it under a microscope. The average viewer of your finished video will see no difference.
DAM systems help marketers store and repurpose assets — which is pretty straightforward for files like images and logos. Video, however, is a different ballgame because these files can be large and complex. Luckily, there is a fairly simple solution. Mezzanine files should give you both the visual quality and file size that you want...so your viewers and users can access and spread your marketing messages far and wide.
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Note: This article was originally published in May 2008, amended in January 2019, and has been recently updated to reflect changes in video formats and management capabilities.