What Are Media Files and The Main Types of Media Files [MiniTool Wiki]

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The demand for digital media files for encoding audio and video is increasing rapidly in recently years. However, this phenomenon also brings much complex problems. As not all media file formats will play on all devices, the proliferation of various audio, video and picture file formats cause much confusion.

To be specific, you can connect a computer or media server to your network media player (or media streamer or Smart TV with a media player application) through your home network, but you may find that you are unable to play some of your stored audio or video files.

What’s worse, these media files even don’t appear in your music, video, or image list. Why don’t they appear? Probably, they are in a format that your players can’t play. So, what are media files? What are the main types of media files? MiniTool will tell you the answers in the following content.

What Are Media Files

Media files are your pictures, music, audios, videos, and documents in fact. Computer programs or applications can read and work with a digital file after it is encoded during the saving process. For instance, document formats can be read and edited in word-processing programs like Microsoft Word.

Plenty of video formats such as camcorder, DVD files, Quicktime files, Windows videos, and multiple high-definition formats must be converted into a certain format before being played, and cannot be played directly in the initially created or stored format.

Main Media File Types and Their Main Differences

Photos, music, and movies are the main media files. There are some frequently used media files for each kind of category.

  • Photo file formats: JPEG, GIF, TIFF, BMP
  • Music file formats: AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, DOLBY DIGITAL, DTS
  • Other available music file formats: AIFF, ASF, FLAC, ADPCM, DSD, LPCM, OGG
  • Video file formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, AVI, MOV, AVCHD, H.264, H.265.
  • Other available video formats: DivX and DivX HD, Xvid HD, MKV, RMVB, WMV9, TS/TP/M2T, WMV.

These media file formats are different. However, since no standardization for those media files, there is further variation within those categories. Photos are usually stored as RAW, JPEG or TIFF formats. Though storing photo in the TIFF format can keep the best quality of the photo, it is a huge file.

It indicates that you will fill up your hard drive with fewer photos than JPEG format photos. JPEG formats will compress and squeeze down the file to make it smaller. Hence, you can store more JPEG photos on the same hard drive.

In general, video files will be encoded in standard or high-definition formats. There are many video formats, so you need to convert them into a certain format before playing them on players like TV and smartphones.

Similarly, digital audio file can be encoded in either low-res or hi-res format. The audio needs to be streamed or downloaded first, and then check if the playback device is compatible with players.

To sum up, all these media file formats are called codecs as well that is short for coder-decoder.  Besides, converting media file format is necessary. If not doing so, the file cannot be played by another program or by a previously incompatible device, which is called transcoding.

Some computer media server programs can be set to transcode media files automatically. In addition, you can utilize a third-party program to convert your media files. MiniTool Movie Maker enables you to convert different types of video file formats with ease. For example, you can convert VOB to MP4, AVI to GIF, etc.

Media Files Extension

As discussed above, there are many media file types. So, how to identify them clearly? As network media player or media streamer/smart TV with compatible apps must be able to read a file type before showing or playing it.

However, some players will not show the file names that are in formats that cannot be played. To see what types of files you have in your media library, you need to go to the folder view of Windows Explorer (PC) or Finder (Mac). Here, all the files in your media folders will be listed.

Right click on a highlighted file and select Properties (PC) or Get into (Mac). Then, the file type will be listed here.

Alternatively, you can identify the file format by checking its extension – the end letters to the right of the mark “.”. For instance, you may see something like a song in the MPEG-3 audio-file format “MP3”.

Tip: If a digital media playback device cannot play a certain file even though it is capable of playing the format, it is probably a copyright-protected file. However, it is able to share legally acquired, protected media within your home in some cases.

That’s all the information about media file.

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