Video Formats

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Video Formats

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Video Formats

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There are several video formats on the market. Pandoras Box Server aims to support most of them. Please see further down, why we recommend to use MPEG2 and image sequences.

Important note: This chapter is updated soon, it does not mention all possible video formats and codecs.

PB supports the following video file types:

 Also supported video file types:
MXF (e.g. used by Avid and Sony XDCam). A dedicated decoder is required.
MXL (proprietary Pandoras Box file type, basically it is a MPG2 format). The implemented Encoder Extension enables you to encode and decode 4k resolution files in this format (depends on available graphics card RAM).

Please note:
PB Player versions are limited regarding the play back of large videos, currently the limit is 4k for the maximum file resolution.
On PB Servers, when using video content with more than 2048 x 2048 pixels you might need to alter the texture size in the Configuration > Render Engine. Some FX and features like deinterlacing and FluidFrame need to buffer the media file. The memory space for that purpose is limited to 2k per default. Choosing another texture size will enlarge the buffer for all textures, which increases the used memory space. Thus it will consume plenty of graphics card memory. Please use the option only if needed.

For more information about differences in Players and Servers, please read the Product Overview


A video codec is a compression / decompression method based on a specific algorithm, optimized for different uses, e.g. for web, CD or DVD use. Not all codecs are optimized for synchronized playback.
An important thing about the AVI, Quicktime and MXF file format is its kind of container format. This format may contain different video codecs, it is not clearly determined by its file extension.

Pandoras Box uses all available codecs that are currently installed on your Windows system.
If a video file may not play in Pandoras Box, please check if the codec is installed. For Windows XP systems you may try to playback the file in Windows Mediaplayer. Windows Mediaplayer is able to display the properties and codecs of the loaded files.
Other media players are not recommended as they might use their own codecs which are installed on the system and cannot be used by other applications.

You might need to re-encode the file in a codec that is supported by Pandoras Box. For re-encoding we recommend to use the Encoder Extension.

Optimum video playback and bit rates for encoding

For a proper video playback with synchronization we recommend video files to be encoded to MPEG2 (.mpg), respectively to MXL. Other codecs might be used, but it is recommended to test new codecs before using them on a show.
Each codec must meet the two demands to encode a file with low file size but high image quality. The MPEG codec strikes a good balance between the two demands. At the same time it supports the possibility to playback the file with frame accuracy and synchronization.
In general it does not support to have an alpha channel included (transparent information). However, we developed a feature in the external tool Image Converter that allows to use MPEG with alpha channel.

To provide a synchronized playback it is mandatory to encode the Mpg2 files with a constant bit rate (CBR) and as elementary video only! That means that the audio information needs to be splitted or discarded. Even if the audio level is at 0db, it is still included in the file and will destroy the possibility to play it back synchronized.

The bit rate itself depends on the content. The more pixels each frames has, the higher the bit rate needs to be. The more different color information the frame has, the higher the bit rate should be to preserve quality. The statement that Christie Digital Systems Germany  gives, e.g that a Server may play back 4 HD files smoothly refers to the recommended bit rates seen below. If you encode HD files with a higher bit rate you will not be able to play back four files at the same time!

Recommended bit rates:
PAL or NTSC resolution: up to 8.000 kbit/s with a progressive scan
HD resolution: up to 20-25.000 kbit/s
4k resolution: up to 80-120.000 kbit

Playback with uncompressed formats

If you are interested in playing in uncompressed formats please keep in mind that those codecs preserve the best possible image quality but also lead to very large files. They draw plenty of performance during playback. We recommend to use uncompressed formats with SSD drives.
Alternative to uncompressed video formats, there is the possibility to playback image sequences in Pandoras Box. You choose between compressed and uncompressed image formats. Depending on the image format you can save performance during playback, hence play larger or more files than possible with uncompressed videos. In addition, you can achieve a much higher quality compared to compressed video formats. To render image sequences you can also download the coolux codec (PC and Mac version).

The first topic described the display and content formats in general. Please click these links, if you are interested in other content formats, such as audio, single images and image sequences.