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Treasured's Movie Repair Guide -- MPEG

This article covers MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video formats. For MPEG4, see dedicated article.
MPEG can be confusing as it refers to a standard, a container format, and also to several video and audio codecs.
In this article, we will talk about MPEG media, video and audio.

MPEG is usually stored inside the .mpg container format. QuickTime .mov files can also contain MPEG media.
In DVD Video disks, the MPEG movie is inside a .VOB container.

MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 are two video formats that were defined and standardized in the early 90's.

MPEG files can be Program Stream or Transport Stream.

How to repair a damaged MPEG file?

MPEG files are relatively easy to repair, because they were designed for robustness. One of the requisites was that a MPEG signal can be broadcasted (satellite, TV, internet) and decoded despite errors, interferences, small connection loss, ...


MPEG-1 file, 640x480, that was recovered by a data recovery software. It doesn't open.
In MPEG files, the data blocks start with 00 00 01 xx where xx indicates which kind of block it is.
The MPEG files shall start with a certain header, that gives information about what video and audio streams it contains.

00 00 01 BA ... is usually the first block (called Pack Header)
00 00 01 BB is a System Header, and should be found nearby. It describes the audio and video streams of the file.
00 00 01 C0 is an audio block
00 00 01 E0 is a video block header.
00 00 01 00 to 00 00 01 AF are consecutive video data blocks that form a frame.

The first video block header should be followed by those two blocks:
00 00 01 B3 is a Sequence Header. Mandatory before first frame
00 00 01 B8 indicates a Group of Pictures.

Therefore, a common method to repair an MPEG file, is to rebuild the System Header and Sequence Headers that are missing:

This procedure works in most cases.

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