Types of Video File Formats – Some Things You Didn’t Know

Most Popular and Common Video File Formats You Should Know About


From the era of home videos to the advanced standards of digital video formats, we have come a long way. Different formats have different uses. A file format for a particular file may not be the right choice for others. Each format has its own purposes.


Basically, there are two parts of a digital video format – a container and a codec. A container gathers all the files which have information. Simply put, it has a combination of both video and audio files to allow video and audio playback at the same time. Some of the common types of formats or containers are FLV, AVI, WMV, MOV and MP4.


Sometimes video files are too large and not easy to play and download. So, codecs are used to decompress and compress a file. Some of the common examples are x264, Xvid, DivX, and FFMpeg. 


Hence, a video format is not a file extension only. Before choosing the codec and type of container, be sure to ask these questions yourself –

       Do you want to rip or download a file or produce your own creation?

       Do you want to distribute your video online or offline?

       What type of software and hardware are you going to use or use?


With that said, here are some of the most popular video file formats you should know about –


1.     Audio Video Interleave (AVI)

Introduced in November 1992 and developed by Microsoft for Windows video playback, AVI is one of the oldest video technologies. It is the de facto for storing audio and video on the PC as it is a universal format. Most systems like Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. and popular web browsers support this format. The data stored on AVI files are easily encoded in different codecs, including DivX and M-JPEG. The AVI files may look similar outside but can be different inside.


2.     Flash Video Format (FLV)

Encoded by Adobe Flash, FLV files are supposed by several third party programs, web browser plugins and Adobe Flash Player itself. These file formats are encoded with VP6 codec’s. It is the most popular video format on the web. Almost all video streaming sites like YouTube support Flash Video Format. Even after being compressed to smaller size, videos are available in high quality in FLV format. Hence, they load quickly and don’t take enough bandwidth. They are widely used in Yahoo! Video, YouTube, Vevo, Hulu, among others.


3.     Windows Media Video (WMV)

It is another video format developed by Microsoft. The main purpose behind launching this format is web streaming. These types of video files are the smallest on the web. After compression, their file size reduces drastically, but their quality is very poor. It is the only video format which can be uploaded and shared easily through email.


4.     Matroska (MKV)

Matroska is a Russian word which defines special cylindrical dolls. It has been the most widely used video file format. It is a free format and can be used by anyone. In addition, it comes with plenty of cool features. It supports almost every codec on the planet, leaving behind QT and MOV formats. However, some devices and programs don’t support MKV format. But it is a very high quality and versatile file format, especially when it comes to playing HD content on Rocks Player, VLC, or other video players.


5.     Apple QuickTime Movie (MOV)

The QuickTime or MOV file format is developed by Apple Inc and is well known viewing and video sharing format for Mac users. It is widely used for saving video and movie files on the web. Apple introduced the latest version of QuickTime X for Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Lion and Snow Leopard. Apple QuickTime Player supports MOV files for Macintosh OS. Well, Apple computers are not the only devices that support MOV files. Windows users can also use the free version of QuickTime Player.


6.     Moving Pictures Expert Group 4 (MPEG4 or MP4)

The MPEG4 Part 14 is the standard file format by Motion Pictures Expert Group who has set benchmarks in digital video and audio. It is widely used to share videos across the web. In 1998, this video format was introduced. It uses its own compression for video and audio files. The MP4 videos are compressed with H.264 codec and audio is compressed with AAC. It is a nice video sharing format and the sizes are quite small. The video quality is quite high even when they are compressed. MP4 is a very popular standard as compared to FLV. It supports both mobile and online browsers and HTML5 also supports this format.

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