October 2002

IFF and QuickTime File Formats

IFF is a venerable data meta-format, introduced in 1985 by Electronic Arts as a standard framing mechanism for multimedia data. In short it defines a nested chunked format, where the file as a whole is considered to be a chunk. A chunk has as its first four bytes a tag that indicates the type of data in the payload, a 32 bit (four bytes again) count of the number of bytes in the payload, and then that number bytes being the payload itself. Some chunk types are known to contain zero or more other chunks in their payload, so an arbitrarily complex hiearchy can be established. There are other details, but chunk types and sizes are IFF's essentials. QuickTime's file format is almost the same, except that the size comes first, and includes the eight bytes of the chunk header.

IFF/QT are simpler than most file formats, but can still be fiddly to work with. To make it easier for me to parse and generate QT files manually (on platforms which don't have QT libraries) I put together a suite of ZooLib streams that take care of all the bookkeeping.

Projects by Category

Recent Projects

Project Archives