Tip #689: What Does Video Bit-Depth Determine?

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #689: What Does Video Bit-Depth Determine?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Bit-depth determines the maximum number of colors in a video frame.

Image courtesy of VideoMaker.com

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So, what is bit depth? Well, essentially it determines the range of possible colors your camera is capable of capturing. The higher the bit depth, the higher the number of possible colors your camera is able to capture, which means smoother gradations and less (or no) color banding. However, the higher the bit depth, the larger the files, which means a higher need for storage space and possibly a more powerful computer to handle all of the data.

Keep in mind, though, that even if you go with a camera whose file formats support higher bit depths, that doesn’t necessarily automatically translate to amazing image quality. There are many other factors that play a role in both gamut and color depth, including color sampling and data rate.

If you’re still confused about whether or not you need a camera that offers high bit depth, keep these things in mind.

  • Color banding is ugly.
  • Can you handle all that extra data?
  • Higher bit depth affords you more latitude during color grading.


Here’s a link to a VideoMaker presentation, on NoFilmSchool.com, that explains bit depth in three minutes.

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