What is MXF file format?

MXF (Material eXchange Format) is a file format for the exchange between servers, tape streamers and digital archives for professional digital video and audio media defined by a set of SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers) standards. MXF a supports a number of different streams encoded in any of a variety of video and audio compression formats, together with metadata (such as specific file information, subtitles and closed captioning) which describes the material contained within the MXF file. The file extension for MXF files is .mxf.

MXF bundles together video, audio and program data such as text along with metadata and places them into a wrapper. Its body is stream-based and carries the essence (audio and video) and some of the metadata. It holds a sequence of video frames, each complete with associated audio and data essence plus frame-based metadata. The latter typically comprises timecode and file format information for each of the video frames.

MFX was developed due to the changing technology of television production and digital services to viewers. Due to the change in ways for moving program video and audio, there far greater use of computers and IT-related products, such as servers as well as an expanded reliance on automation and the re-use of material. Besides the need to carry metadata, file transfers are needed to fit with computer operations and streamed for real-time operations, making possible convenient file-sharing for uses such as reference, archiving filmed material, editing and transcription.

MXF Operational Pattern 1a (OP1a) is used for a file with a single playable essence comprising a single essence element or interleaved essence elements in which the content may consist of multiple, interleaved tracks of picture and sound. OP1a files are self-contained and work well in applications where each file represents a complete program or take. However, it may be less applicable to content- authoring steps such as nonlinear editing, where programs are created by editing different sections of source material. MXF OP-Atom is used for applications where source information (picture and sound ) are kept separate and later edited together.

MXF is openly available to all interested parties. It is not compression-scheme specific and simplifies the integration of systems using MPEG and DV as well as potential future compression strategies. The transportation of these different files is independent of content, not dictating the use of specific manufacturers’ equipment. Any required processing can be achieved by invoking the appropriate hardware or software codec.

MFX is supported by Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro via XDCAM Transfer, Autodesk Smoke, Avid, Dalet, Harris, Omneon, Quantel, Rhozet, Sony Vegas pro, Sorenson Squeeze Telestream, FlipFactory, Grass Valley EDIUS and Grass Valley K2.