Graphics at a Glance

Saving your still images and digital video movie files is easy! There is an array of choices in file formats, depending on the final destination and use you have planned. Here's a quick guide to some of the common ones and their specific uses.

Destination Still Images Moving Images

GIF (.gif)
(Graphic Interchange Format) A graphics format for files being transmitted by modem. This is a highly compressed format designed to support colormapped images with less than 8 bit color. Created at CompuServe.

8- or 16-bit indexed color, capable of single color transparency, large file size results from pixel color changes in any horizontal line, not best for images with smooth fades or gradients from one color to another.

JPG/JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg)
This format compresses pictures by the way data is stored and also by discarding colors beyond what the human eye can see. Because it discards data this algorithm is referred to as "lossy," meaning it will not be identical to the original image. You can choose how much data (image quality) you lose when you save your file. Created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group.

Preferable for photos with subtle color changes and fades from one color to another. Generally small file sizes with tunable quality, does not accomodate transparency, not compatible with all older browsers (estimated to be between 1-15% of any given site).

Web movies are of two types: downloadable and streaming. Downloadable movies are disappearing due to advances in streaming/delivery technologies.

Many streaming video formats require a server that uses proprietary or common Internet protocols to ensure efficient distribution. QuickTime 3.0 and VivoActive are both serverless software-only solutions, and thus appropriate for a wide audience.

All movie types are compressed with a "codec" (COmpressor/DECompressor) so they can travel efficiently by modem over phone lines. File formats have different suffixes depending on their point of origin. (.mov .mpg .avi .ram .vdo)

QuickTime (.mov)
Free plug-in (or $30 with editing capabilities), no server needed. Treats audio and video separately to maximize compression (codec) choices, also will allow delivery from multiple sources according to user-set bandwidth preferences.

Real Video (.ra or .ram)
Currently the most popular format, needs proprietary plug-in that can be free. Server is rather costly--many ISPs have server installed for your use. Authoring tools rely on a codec plug-in for popular movie-editing applications.

Print Out

TIFF (.tif or .tiff)
(Tagged Image File Format) A common bit mapped format which includes a standardized header that carries information about the exact data structure of images. Similar to GIF, TIFF supports image types additional to indexed color. Files are often very large. Created by Aldus, Microsoft and NeXT.

Some applications (Morph, FlipBook) will allow for printing separate frames of a movie to be assembled into a flipbook.


(Windows Metafile Format) A graphics format commonly used by Windows applications.

PICT for Premiere
A bit-mapped graphics format common in the Macintosh community, increasingly being recognized elsewhere as an intermediary format especially effective at compressing images that contain large, flat areas of color. Saving a PICT image with 32 bits will include 1 alpha channel for use in masking or transparency for superimposition in a movie-editing application, like Premier. This format describes black and white (PICT) and/or color (PICT2) bit-mapped objects.