|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
A bitstream format is the format of the data found in a stream of bits used in a digital communication or data storage application. The term typically refers to the data format of the output of an encoder, or the data format of the input to a decoder when using data compression.
Standardized interoperability specifications such as the video coding standards produced by the MPEG and the ITU-T, and the audio coding standards produced by the MPEG, often specify only the bitstream format and the decoding process. This allows encoder implementations to use any methods whatsoever that produce bitstreams which conform to the specified bitstream format.[clarification needed]
Normally, decoding of a bitstream can be initiated without having to start from the beginning of a 'file', or the beginning of the data transmission. Bitstreams are designed for this to occur.