Have you ever recorded or edited a video and had to choose a format to save it in? That choice is a lot more important than you might think, and the format that you use can have a big impact on your video and how it can be used in turn.
Simply put video formats serve a very specific purpose. In fact every ‘format’ has two parts: A container that holds together the various types of data that make up the video, and a codec that determines how that data is arranged and stored.
While you don’t need to know about the technical side of how video formats work, it does help to know some of the more popular video formats that are out there – and when they should be used:
- MP4 with H.264
The most popular video format right now is MP4 with H.264. Its popularity was initially due to its ability to compress videos effectively into small sizes, but nowadays it is mostly due to how widely-supported it is.
Essentially MP4 with H.264 is a ‘safe’ format that is almost certain to be compatible with most modern devices. That makes it perfect for distributing videos in general, as you may not always know what device the video will be watched on.
On top of that MP4 with H.264 is also the format that is most frequently used for online videos. It is the recommended format for most online streaming platforms, and the most widely-supported format used for HTML5 videos too.
- MP4 or MKV with H.265
As you may have guessed from its name, the H.265 codec is the successor to H.264 and builds on its success. Most notably it is able to compress videos far more effectively, and can reduce the file size of even H.264 videos by about 50%.
Although it may seem like that makes it a better option, the fact of the matter is that H.265 isn’t nearly as widely supported. Its adoption has been slow due to many factors, most notably its complex licensing and royalty structure.
That being said if you know the device you are going to view the video on does support H.265, using MP4 or MKV with it will provide you with a smaller file size while retaining the video quality.
Compared to the other formats listed above, MPEG-2 is old – but it is still relatively popular. The reason for this is mainly because it is the format that is used to encode video DVDs.
That is the main reason why you may want to use MPEG-2 as a format – if you intend for the video to be burned onto a DVD and viewed using DVD players. Some newer DVD players do support other formats, but the majority of older DVD players will only read videos that are stored in MPEG-2.
If your video is already in a different format than the one that you need, you may need to convert it. That can be done using software such as Movavi Video Converter, for example.
It should be noted that the list of formats above is by no means immutable. That is why it is important to stay up to date, and keep tabs on new formats that may replace some of the options listed above – or even render them completely obsolete.