Which one should you use?

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It wouldn’t be hard to say that most of the content consumed in the digital age is via videos. Whether for education or entertainment, videos have become the primary source of information.

However, did you know that each platform supports specific video formats? If you are a professional videographer, knowing the different types of video formats is crucial. So what are the most common video file formats?

What is a video file format?

For the sake of understanding, let’s first define a video file format. We know that a video is a series of images moving at high speed, associated with the audio at each instance of those images. Since videos contain two elements: pictures and sound, the files can be large, which makes sharing more difficult.

So, for convenience, we use a software tool called a codec which can compress or decompress and encode or decode this data. This compressed data is stored in a container called a video file format. There are different video formats depending on the codecs they support and the features they offer.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Video Codecs, Containers, and Compression

Types of video formats



Video-editing artist

1. Video file format: MP4

MP4 was developed and released by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) in 2001. It is considered the international standard for audiovisual encoding. It is compatible with almost all video software and supports audio, video, subtitles, and still images.

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MP4 also offers higher quality lossless video while maintaining a drastically reduced file size, making streaming easier. Thus, streaming platforms like YouTube and social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram use this format.

2. Video file format: MOV

MOV is another popular file format, first developed and introduced by Apple in 1998. Apple specifically created this file format for its QuickTime program. Similar to MP4, this file format supports video, audio, image, and text. However, MOV files are larger and have higher video quality than MP4.

Therefore, these are best suited for professional editing. It works well with a Mac because it is designed to be compatible with macOS. These files exist in .mov or .qtt format and can be converted to other file formats.

Related: How to Edit Videos Using the Photos App on a Mac

3. Video file format: WVM



Laptop on table showing video

WVM, acronym for Windows Media Video, was developed and introduced by Microsoft in 1999. Microsoft developed this format to allow easy online delivery by consolidating the data into a smaller file.

However, it lost popularity over time due to the inferior video quality. A WMV video file is compatible with Microsoft media players and other cross-platform media players such as VLC.

Related: How to Create Videos Using Windows 11 Photos App

4. Video file format: FLV

FLV, also known as the Flash Video file format, was developed by Adobe Systems in 2003. It is compatible with Adobe Flash Player and other cross-platform video players. Adobe Flash Player popularized FLV because the player can be added as a plug-in on web browsers.


However, due to a lack of performance, users have shelved this duo. Finally, in December 2020, the developers of the format ended support for the flash drive. Later, the FLV video format was replaced by the F4V format.

5. Video file format: AVI



video file-types-explained

Audio Visual Interleave (AVI) was developed and released by Microsoft in 1992. It is one of the oldest file formats and does not support more compression, which makes the file size large and unsuitable for video transmission over the Internet.

However, the video quality is high which makes it ideal for storage. That is why video makers consider it to be a reliable video format. AVI is a must-have file format for camera brands like Nikon and Olympus. Plus, it is compatible with Windows Media Player, Google Drive, and other cross-platform video players.

Related: How To Fix Broken AVI Files That Won’t Work

6. Video file format: AVCHD

Advanced Video Coding High Definition (AVCHD) was developed as part of a partnership between Panasonic and Sony in 2006. It is mainly used in consumer HD camcorders because it supports recording and playback of high quality video. HD. This is why it is popular among professional videographers.

AVCHD video format is compatible with Windows Media Player, VLC player, etc. It also supports removable hard drives and USB sticks. Its successor, AVCHD 2.0, also supports 3D video.

7. Video file format: WebM



Gaming desktop computer running a video game

A format commonly used in modern browsers, WebM was released in 2011 to support video sharing through web browsers. It was originally developed by On2 and Xiph and later sponsored by Google. It is an open source video format used for commercial and non-commercial purposes.


Since it is specifically designed for streaming videos to web browsers, the file size is small and the buffering time is negligible. However, due to the rise of other better performing video formats, the use of WebM has declined over the years. Either way, it is compatible with browsers like Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and cross-platform players like VLC.

8. Video file format: MKV

The MKV video format, also known as Matroska, was released in 2002 and was supported by a French non-profit organization. Similar to the WebM video format, MKV is also a royalty-free open source format.

This format is very versatile because it can store video, audio, and subtitles in separate tracks within a single file, even though they are all encoded in different codecs. This is why it is still compatible with modern codecs, which makes it scalable. It is used to store short videos, movies, TV shows, and to add subtitles.


Related: How To Remove Unnecessary Subtitles From MKV Files

How to choose the right one?



Man with camera filming

As this is not one size fits all in the case of video formats, your only choice is to pick one, as per your requirement. Think about how they will be displayed, shared and edited before choosing one. Some video formats are better than others for specific purposes and platforms.

  1. Web browsers: If you want to share your video online through browsers, it is good to choose a format that is compatible with the majority of them. This will ensure that your video will be viewed directly on the web page; without the need for a plugin or a separate player. These web compatible formats include MP4 and WebM.
  2. Social media: If you want to share your videos on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, you can use MP4 video format. However, YouTube supports several formats like AVI, FLV, MOV, WebM, and WMV.
  3. Television and computers: You can choose AVI, WVM, MOV and MKV to experience HD videos on your big screens like TV and computer.
  4. Storage : If you want to archive videos for viewing in the future, you can use open source formats like AVI, MKV, MP4, etc. This will ensure that your videos will be compatible with most players later on.


Related: The Most Common Audio Formats: Which One Should You Use?

Choose a video file format that’s right for you

Choosing the right video format can be tricky because no single format serves all purposes. However, once you have a clear idea of ​​the specs and usage of your video, it’s easier to pick one. Use different video formats as needed to optimize your storage and fine-tune your video quality.


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