When implementing a digital asset management (DAM) system, you begin by adding the typical mix of marketing assets, such as images, logos, pdfs, documents, etc. Most of these file types are familiar to the average marketer, until you get to video. Because video files are much larger and more complex than other media files, we are frequently asked, “What’s the best video format to upload into my DAM?”
This is where mezzanine files come in. Mezzanine files are compressed videos that take up less space than the full-res 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 that is exported from your editing program, but smaller in size. It’s not a specific file type but rather a description of a general set of parameters. 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 file delivery. If your finished video is 1080p, 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 bitrate determines the visual quality, and 10 Mbps will give you high visual quality at a manageable file 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 make no mistake, they are looking at it under a microscope. Editors are not the average end user of your videos. The average viewer 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.
Learn about Widen's video asset management solution.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 22, 2008 and has been updated to reflect changes in video formats and management.