This page contains file formats that are used to transport multimedia data.
Some multimedia file formats, such as Quicktime (MOV) and RealMedia (RM),
are rather well-documented by their originators. Some, such as Microsoft's
AVI and ASF, are loosely documented, if at all. This section has a collection
of official and unofficial documentation. If official documentation exists,
any unofficial documentation presented here will be supplemental and will
focus on quirks and traps to be aware of when decoding such files.
This section primarily focuses on formats that are designed as transports
to carry many different types of data for many different types of applications.
There is a lot of surface information out there about MPEG technology. However,
this website is focused on the hard, technical details necessary to implement
programs that operate on multimedia data formats. While MPEG is "open", the
standards documents are tightly controlled and not freely available.
The Berkeley MPEG
Tools, hosted at
The Berkeley Multimedia Research Center,
has some very useful tidbits on this surprisingly vast subject. Some choice items:
- AVI: Audio/Video Interleaved File Format:
- ASF: Advanced Streaming Format:
Microsoft's successor to the AVI format. If a file ends with a wmv or wma
extension, it's also an ASF file.
- Apple Quicktime Files:
- RM: RealMedia's Multimedia File Format: This is a
local copy of Real's multimedia file format that was originally distributed
with version 6 of their SDK. Apparently, this document harder to come by these
days. Be advised that, while this document does give an overview of how the
data chunks are organized in the file, there is a lot of information missing
(mostly regarding codec-specific data) that would facilitate a complete
- Ogg Multimedia: These documents pertain to the Ogg multimedia container
- Ogg Bitstream
Documentation: This site contains the official format information
for the Ogg data format.
- OggDS: This site
contains information on interfacing the Ogg format with Microsoft DirectShow.
- Nullsoft Video File Format (NSV):
- Matroska File Format: This is a
link to the main site for the Matroska project, which aims to be an
all-enclusive, open multimedia container format.
- Acorn Replay File Format: This is a description
of the Acorn Replay (RPL) file format used on RISC OS machines. The format is
often seen on Eidos games (think Tomb Raider), but is designed as a
- Material eXchange Format (MXF):
- MXF Implementers Group:
This is a portal, with links and news covering the MXF format.
- FreeMXF: A site dedicated to
expanding the use of MXF via free source code and samples.
This section covers multimedia formats that are geared toward a special purpose.
That special purpose is quite typically full-motion video for games. Note that
many of these format descriptions also contain descriptions for video codecs
as the video codec tends to be tied to the specific format.
- Autodesk FLIC & Derivatives:
This is a link to a page that describes all about the Autodesk FLI/FLC format and
its many derivatives and proprietary extensions.
- Sega FILM Format: This is a description
of the FILM format (a.k.a., CPK format) used on many Sega CD and Sega Saturn CD-ROM games.
- RoQ Video File Format:
This format originated in The 11th Hour PC games. Eventually,
the RoQ file format was used in Id games such as Quake III
and Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
- Quake II
.CIN File Format:
This is a description of the Cinematic (.CIN) file format used in Quake II.
- SMJPEG: This
is a link to the official SDL Motion JPEG (SMJPEG) site. This site contains the
file format as well as reference code and applications for SMJPEG.
- Bink Format: This is a description of
RAD GameTools' Bink (.bik) file format.
- Westwood Studios VQA Format: There are a number of documents floating around
which describe this format commonly used in Westwood Studios games such as the
Command & Conquer series.
- Wing Commander III MVE Movie File Format: This
is a description of the movie file format used in the Wing Commander III PC
- Interplay MVE File Format: (Not to be
confused with the WC3 MVE format.) This is a very
thorough description of the MVE file format used in a large number of Interplay
computer games including Baldur's Gate, Fallout, Descent, and many others.
- parse-ipmve.c: This is a simple tool written
in C that parses the structure of an Interplay MVE file.
- PVA Format:
This is a link to a PDF covering the PVA file and stream format.
- DV Format Overview:
This is a link to a PDF that reveals the basics of the DV format.
- 4xm File Format: This is a description of
the multimedia file format from 4X Technologies that transports 4X Movie
video and audio data. Hey! Did you come to this site from Google looking
for some kind of 4X Movie Utilities such as a 4X Movie Player?
It is true that 4X Technologies does not seem to exist anymore and their domain
has gone back into the pool of available domain names. Check out the
samples page to download these utilities.
- Sierra Video and Music (VMD) format:This
document describes the multimedia format used in such Sierra titles as
- "1-Hit Wonder" Multimedia File Formats: This
is a catch-all collection of file formats that were generally only found on
one game software title.
Image File Format Specification: This document describes an image format
developed on SGI workstations.