How Big Are Movie Files in 2022?

Gone are the simple days of moving pictures and practical effects. These days, movies are more sophisticated, with computer-generated special effects and high-resolution images. However, each addition to a film or episode adds to the file size, which can make both downloading for at-home viewing and the process of creating the project more complicated than ever before.

While large movie files give directors, editors, and special effects artists more to work with, those same large files can complicate the process of sharing, sending, and even editing those files. But why are files so much larger these days, and how can you improve your video file transfers?

How Big is a Movie File?

Big. But the average movie file size depends on the video quality. A standard definition (SD) movie that you download to your device for streaming tends to be between 1 GB and 2 GBs, while high definition (HD) videos are twice that, ranging from 2 to 4 Gigabytes. And those sizes only encompass the final film. How big are the many movie files – multiple takes, effects, audio files, and more – that go into creating the final product?

The size of movie files is only increasing. While HD videos are large, a 4K video is about four times the resolution of standard HD and requires four times as much storage – just two to three minutes of uncompressed 4K film, or the length of a movie trailer, can be up to 500GB. And where 8K video files were once unimaginably large, 12K is now looming on the horizon, with emerging tools that capture footage with even more detail.

Common Video Sizes

HD movie file sizes can vary, but there are currently five standard resolutions used today.

Common Name Pixel Size Also Known As File Size for 1 hour of video
720p 1280 x 720 HD or “HD Ready”* 800 – 900MB
1080p 1920 x 1080 FHD or “Full HD” 1.2 – 1.4GB
2K 2048 x 1080 Digital Cinema (DCI) 2.8 – 3GB
4K 3840 x 2160 UHDTV1 20 – 22GB
8K 7680 x 4320 UHDTV2 36 – 38GB

Video File Size Chart
*Video file size recommended by YouTube

What Makes Movie File Sizes So Large?

There are many factors that go into making video files supersized. These include:

  • Video length: The shorter the movie duration, the smaller the video size is likely to be. Of course, a 20-minute vlog for YouTube is a smaller file than a feature-length film, but even an animated short film will be made of up larger files than, say, a mini documentary of the same length.
  • Resolution: Also referred to as “pixel size,” resolution is technically the number of pixels per unit of area, but ultimately refers to “the number of pixels arranged horizontally and vertically on a monitor.” The number of pixels impacts video quality, which then impacts video file size. The higher your film quality, the more pixels make up the image – and the larger the file size. The video frame rate will also play a role in the resolution.
  • Format: The format of a video plays the biggest role in its quality and eventual file size, and certain broadcasters or streaming services have different minimum standards for delivery. Formats range from consumer-friendly to professional-grade, with others geared towards content creators of all levels. For example, highly compressed mp4 or mkv file types are typically geared toward the end consumers of media. Format is made up of two components, both of which guide your file size:
    • Codec: This portmanteau of “coder” and “decoder” refers to how your files are encoded (compression for storage or sending) and then decompressed (for playback and editing). It can be either a computer code or hardware, like your camera, that dictates the file’s digital format and how it’s compressed for editing, watching, storing, or transferring. The codec that is most-used on web is currently h.264.
    • Containers: It may help to think of the container as the file type; for example .mov or .mp4. This is the complete bundle of all your files – audio, visual, etc. – together as one. The container will sometimes also include metadata, such as author, frame rate, dates, and overall file information. Other popular containers include ogg, mkv, and avi.
  • Frame rate: Also called “frames per second” and usually shortened to FPS, this is the rate at which back-to-back images (called frames) appear in a display and form moving imagery. Video content that we consume daily isn’t actually moving; instead, all videos are made up of images that play one after the other. If a video is shot at 24fps, this means that 24 individual frames are played back in a second. While the standard for consumer video is 30ftps, the FPS standard rate varies across mediums depending on multiple other factors.
  • Camera choice: Cameras capture different file sizes simply due to the quality, size, and detail included. A higher-res camera will output larger file sizes than a more basic camera.
  • Innovations: Other innovations, such as Next Gen TV, offer even more in the way of enhanced experience. This emerging tech offers both 4K ultra-high definition and interactive features. The film and broadcast industries are constantly improving and evolving to remain competitive, which results in more features, higher resolution, and – ideally – a better watching experience.

Improve Your Video File Transfer Agility

There is no best way, just the best way for your particular project. Do you have more time than storage? More money than time? The key is production agility.

The continual growth in video file size parallels the growing concern about how to manage these extra-large files without losing quality or data. Large file sizes typically results in extra processing requirements, including more storage space on memory cards or hard drives, and longer processing times to save, copy, and transfer movie files.

Getting the best quality possible can come with tradeoffs. Says Director of Pro Video Marketing Matt Feury, “there is no best way, just the best way for your particular project. Do you have more time than storage? More money than time? The key is projection agility.” But compromises can have negative returns too.

Related Reading: File Transfer for Live Events

One of the most common tools used to simplify data movement is file compression, but it’s not the end-all-be-all solution. Compressing videos adds complications, including data loss, which can result in lower-quality files to work with. The choice to compress video files needs to take the resolution, frame rate, and any visual preferences into account.

The goal is always to deliver the best possible final product that fits the budget and timeline. That’s where FileCatalyst for video file transfer comes in.

Related Reading: How FileCatalyst and Scale Logic Partner to Accelerate Media File Transfers

Using a fast file transfer solution like FileCatalyst can reduce the number of trade-offs you make as you film and edit your video files. Fast file transfer solutions are adept at transferring extremely large files over long distances, which means you can create longer films at higher resolutions without worrying how you’re going to get the data from A to B.

How to Send Media Files Faster: FileCatalyst

Media houses and broadcast companies rely on FileCatalyst to provide them with blazing fast file transfer speeds, reliability, and security for every file transfer in their workflow. Regardless of location or distance, FileCatalyst can successfully complete transfers that once took hours in minutes!

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