In video compression, a key frame, also known as an Intra Frame, is a frame in which a complete image is stored in the data stream. In video compression, only changes that occur from one frame to the next are stored in the data stream, in order to greatly reduce the amount of information that must be stored. This technique capitalizes on the fact that most video sources (such as a typical movie) have only small changes in the image from one frame to the next. Whenever a drastic change to the image occurs, such as when switching from one camera shot to another, or at a scene change, a key frame must be created. The entire image for the frame must be output because the visual difference between the two frames is so great that the new image cannot be reproduced incrementally from the previous frame.
For example, a key frame may be output once for each 10 seconds of video, even though the video image does not change enough visually to warrant the automatic creation of the key frame. That would allow seeking within the video stream at a minimum of 10 second intervals. The down side is that the resulting video stream will be larger in size because many key frames were added when they were not necessary for the visual representation of the frame.