Author: Steven Sabonjohn

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What is a Mezzanine?

First things first – What is a Mezzanine format?

A mezzanine format is a mid-rez working copy of your video asset which is of sufficient quality to generate your highest output, but small enough to move around, archive, and work with.

The goal is to free up resources once all major edits and processing are completed.

The source of your mezzanine format can come from many places. When encoding from a tape with a fully completed asset, the encode can be the mezzanine file. When exporting from a non-linear editor such as Final Cut or Avid, the format chosen as the output can be a mezzanine. The point is, all major editing and processing is completed in the highest format available and this smaller asset can take it from here.The trick to choosing the right format for Mezzanine files is to find a spec that fulfills all future needs so you don’t have to go back to the master.

Two good rules of thumb are:

  • The frame size of your Mezzanine should be at least the size of your largest deliverable, i.e. if your end deliverable is 1280×720, your mezzanine should be no smaller than 1280×720.
  • The bit rate of your Mezzanine should be at least 5x to 10x higher than the highest bit rate end deliverable. The only limitation you should consider is how easy is it to move and store the asset. ## Other considerations in choosing and working with a Mezzanine file format:
  • Make sure the file can be imported and exported from your editing system without needing to be converted in case timing cuts need to be made.

  • I Frame formats, though they provide a lower resolution for the bit rate than Long GOP formats, may provide easier cutting as each frame is a complete picture.

  • Make sure the frame size contains “full picture” without letterboxing or pillar boxing.

  • Get/keep the content in its “Native” frame rate if possible. For content originally shot in 24fps, keep it 24fps. If shot in 24fps, edited and telecined into 30fps, when creating your mezzanine inverse telecine if possible.

Common File Formats: Below is a list of common formats used as Mezzanine Files.

WrapperVideoAudioSize

  • QuicktimeH.264 SD (15Mbps,I Frame)L-PCM640x480/640x360
  • QuicktimeH.264 HD (30Mbps,I Frame)L-PCM640x480/640x360 QuicktimeDVCProHD 50/100L-PCM 960x720 (1280x720) 1280x1080 (1920x1080)
  • QuicktimeDV (Best Quality)L-PCM720x480
  • MXFXDCAM50L-PCM1280x720/1920x1080
  • MPEG215Mbps Long GOP SDMPEG1 Layer 2640x480/640x360
  • MPEG230Mbps I-Frame Only HDMPEG1 Layer 21280x720 - MPEG250Mbps I-Frame Only HDMPEG1 Layer 21920x1080 - MPEG4 MP4/AVC (15Mbps, I Frame)AAC Audio

  • Note DVCPROHD uses anamorphic frame sizes and stretches the video on playback.