Video encoding formats can be understood as the methods for optimizing digital video files for various devices, programs, and platforms. As digital needs have evolved, so have the number, type, and strength of video encoding formats – which has led to a variety of formats to choose from.
However, one thing is common between each format – they are primarily made of two parts: a codec and a container. These specify how the original, uncompressed file is stored, transferred, and viewed. In video streaming, it is necessary that the encoding format being used is compatible with the most number of devices and platforms possible to not restrict the video to only some users and devices.
This makes selecting and knowing about video encoding formats important. And with so many formats to look at, it is natural for the process to get tedious and overwhelming. This article will look at the most common and important video encoding formats that you must know.
But before that, it is important to clarify some common confusions – primarily that of the difference between codecs, containers, and file formats!
Video Codecs vs Video Containers vs Video File Formats
Digital video files are made up of two parts – a codec and a container.
Video codec can be understood as the strategies for enCOding and DECoding (therefore CODEC) a video file to make it easier to transmit and view. Some of the commonly used codecs include MPEG-4, H.264, VP9, etc. The better the codec, the smaller the video file size will be while keeping the quality intact.
Contain formats, on the other hand, defines how the file data and metadata will be structured. This does not concern how the video is encoded and decoded. The container file holds the compressed video (which is compressed using the codec) and metadata. This is commonly called “the format” and can be seen from the file’s extension. Common container formats include .AVI, .MP4, .MOV, and so on. Container formats can be clubbed with various codecs to influence the compatibility of the file with different platforms and devices.
Common Video Encoding Formats to Know
With all the confusion now at bay, let’s look at the most common video encoding formats that you must remember.
This was created by the Motion Picture Expert Group. The MP4 format performs a separate audio and video compression from the digital file, making it possible for MP4 to keep high video quality even after compression. Most browsers and devices support this encoding format.
This was created by Apple. Although the QuickTime MOV format runs on Windows and macOS, it is compatible with just QuickTime players. It keeps the quality preserved in terms of performance, but the compression is not as good as MP4 and other encoding formats.
Short for Audio Video Interleave, AVI was created by Microsoft. This is one of the oldest formats on the list, and it works with a variety of codecs – which goes on to affect how well it is supported on different devices and platforms. In terms of performance, AVI prioritizes quality over compression; therefore, it produces files that are better in overall quality, albeit not that compressed, so, large.
Adobe Flash created the Flash Video Format, also known as FLV. FLV can perform good quality compressions without severe loss of quality. However, it lacks on the compatibility front when compared to other formats. It is still in use and supported by most devices and browsers, but it can’t be accessed on macOS devices. But, Adobe itself has stopped its support as of the end of 2020 on accounts of it being insecure.
Google developed this encoding format as a subset of the broader MKV (Matroska Video Container) format, which is open-standard. WebM is an internet-friendly, open-source format that has presented itself as a viable alternative to MP4. This format allows for the same file quality while performing good compression.
Are You Ready to Choose the Best Video Encoding Format?
Choosing the right video format is all about your requirements and goals at the end of the day. However, it is good to have knowledge of all that you have available. That said, the list mentioned above is not exhaustive, but these are surely the more important and common encoding formats that you must know. Feel free to explore this further to find more formats! However, when choosing, you should pick the one that gives you the video quality you require but adds nothing more to keep the file size as low as possible. Another thing to keep in mind is that it should be compatible across as many devices as possible.
We hope this article broadened your knowledge of video encoding formats and will help you pick one whenever you need to!
As the internet becomes increasingly global and data-hungry, serving media in a high-performance, low-latency environment is considered table-stakes for all to earn customer trust.
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