You may have found an old Avid drive containing MXF or OMF files compressed with Meridien codecs. Sometimes these are known by their compression ratio, e.g. “2:1” or “14:1”.
Because of the combination of the MXF/OMF container and the Meridien codec, rarely found in modern software apart from Avid, these files can be difficult to play, even if your QuickTime installation contains the Avid-distributed codecs.
So how can you view these files for free?
Easy. Avid Meridien compression is actually MJPEG – Motion JPEG compression. The free and open-source utility FFmpeg has a sister player: FFplay. Even though it doesn’t know how to find an MJPEG codec inside an MXF OP1A wrapper, or an Avid OMF wrapper, you can tell it what to do with a simple command line. Then, you can view any Meridien-compressed MXF or OMF files on your drive.
As a guide, MXF video files are named in the following way:
ID” is a hexadecimal string that Avid uses to track the media. The pattern for OMF files is similar.
When the letter ‘V’ follows a clip name, and is succeeded by a pair of digits, you’ve found a video file. Then, the command to play it is:
ffplay -f mjpeg CLIPV01.<ID>_<ID>.MXF
The trick is the “
-f mjpeg” in the command line. This forces FFplay to interpret the file as containing data encoded as Motion JPEG.
And now you can see your pictures. They’ll play with the VBI data included, and the colour range may appear washed out because you’re displaying broadcast-level pictures on a computer-level display.