7 Best Video Formats: How to Choose Video Format?

Looking for the best video format that combines the highest quality and the most compact file size with universal compatibility? For today, there are many video formats available. They may be transformed into each other or moved to another video platform thanks to the balance of various specifications.

1. MP4 – Best Video Format for Online Videos

Open: VLC player, MPlayer

Convert: Freemake video converter, HandBrake video transcoder

mp4 logo best video format MP4 video format is a universal standard used on-line to record, share or view stream videos, to upload content on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. It is a popular video format for achieving other goals since it compresses high-quality videos into a relatively small size. MP4 clips are ideal to demonstrate some material to the customers.
Pros+
  • Good video quality even on low data rates
  • Slight quality loss while compressing
  • Contains object and scene descriptors, oriented file structures & MPEG features
  • Mixes video with text, animation layers in 3-D and still graphics
  • Universal compatibility of devices, software and drivers
Cons-
  • Standard is still developing
  • Complicated to edit or update
  • Pixelization of “broken” frames
  • Standard Adobe Premiere doesn’t save files in MP4 format
  • Several piracy issues within the MP4 technology
 

MP4 is developed on the basis of QuickTime and has various video extensions, like m4a, m4v, f4v, f4a, m4b, m4r and f4b. Initially, this format was proprietary for Apple DRM when posting the content on iTunes (when DRM is not supported, change the file extension to MP4 to play).

MP4 stores text, subtitles and unmovable images using separate compression algorithms for video and audio tracks almost without losses concerning the small file size. This is the most compatible video format that supports numerous digital devices and platforms, including phones, TV-sets and DVD-players, Xbox and Apple devices.

The MP4 format is also compatible with mobile and online browsers that support HTML5. Modern video editing apps export videos in MP4 format.

2. WMV – Most Compressed Video Format

Open: KMPlayer, DivX Player

Convert: Any video converter, Freemake video converter

wmv logo best video format WMV is one of the best video file formats to use online. Thanks to its quality, it offers even better compression capabilities than MP4. The format’s licensing is suitable for selling digital copies of the video content on the Internet. WMV video format works well in the post system and it includes 1080p high-quality video support.
Pros+
  • High-quality video support 
  • Compression ratio is twice higher than with MPEG4
  • Works on the Internet via Google Drive
  • Compatible with all Windows devices and software 
  • Copyright protection of digital media
Cons-
  • Weak compatibility with other OS 
  • Labeling is problematic
  • Impossible to restore the licensing information
  • Some apps do not see a small file size 
  • Loss of quality while compression
 

WMV format is developed by Microsoft for webcasting on the basis of RealVideo and is the best video format for archiving supported by Windows. However, Apple users may also download a Windows Media Player.

Alternative formats, like WMV Screen and WMV Image, are used with special video content. WMV files are usually stored in .asf container. Another challenge is that it is impossible to choose compression proportions manually.

WMV files are among the smallest ones and their quality is often reduced due to the sufficient decrease in size after compression.

3. MKV – Universal Video Container

Open: Kodi (XBMC) player, Potplayer

Convert: Any video converter, Freemake video converter

matroska logo best video format If a video clip contains several languages, it is usually saved in an MKV format that may include an unlimited number of video/audio tracks, uncompressed digital HD videos, subtitles supporting chapters, menus and metadata with the possibility to restore data. Therefore, it becomes the best video format for editing.
Pros+
  • Universal container 
  • Open free code 
  • Supports subtitles, chapters, menus and metadata 
  • May play damaged files 
  • Fast seeking
Cons-
  • Standard is still low adapted 
  • Complexity means a big file size 
  • Origin does not belong to the original company
 

MKV (matroska ‒ insertion of something smaller into something bigger) is a popular container for many reasons. It is free and has an open-source code focused on the future. This flexible, multimedia container can combine almost any video format and a codec, even with various encoding types.

The biggest disadvantage is that MKV is not an application standard so not all gadgets, media players and OS support it. However, its compatibility is increasing rapidly.

MKV files are not suitable for video or audio compression that is why they are compact. Appropriate support and versatility make this format quite a good choice.

4. AVCHD – Professional Video Container

Open: 5K Player, BS Player

Convert: All-in-One video converter, any video converter

avchd logo best video format AVCHD is the best video file format for people who record clips with their digital equipment for further video editing or recording on Blu-ray. Thanks to the high-quality picture and sound, this format is also popular among professional videographers.
Pros+
  • Sharp video and qualitative sound
  • Compatible with Blu-ray Disc format and memory cards
  • Original format of Sony and Panasonic devices
  • Stereoscopic 3D video
Cons-
  • Big file size 
  • Compatibility list is limited, especially for Mac
  • Difficult to store in one file in M2TS format
 

AVCHD is a popular container for data compressed through h.264/MPEG-4 technology. It compresses video info with small quality loss using little data. It appeared thanks to Sony-Panasonic cooperation as a format for digital video cameras of their production.

It means that the format is developed for recording on their original equipment, storing and replaying on flash-drives or SD cards. It is the highest quality video format that includes not only subtitles but also menu navigation and a slide-show with music.

It supports high-resolution videos while the latest edition of this format also supports 3D movies.

5. MOV – Best Video Format for iOS-Devices

Open: VLC player, QuickTime Player

Convert: All-in-One video converter, Adobe Premiere Rush

mov logo best video format MOV is the best video format for Apple devices. It is used for watching videos and saving movies on the Internet. If a MOV size is smaller than 4GB, Facebook and Instagram may post it.
Pros+
  • Good video quality 
  • Wide compatibility of platforms and codecs 
  • Stores data so it is easy to edit without rewriting 
  • May contain various multimedia elements
Cons-
  • Not the most compact format 
  • Apple is making a decision on the compatibility 
  • Loss of quality while compressing
 

MOV is developed by Apple to store full-length movies on QuickTime Player and is compatible with Windows since a free version of the player is also available.

MOV and QT files contain various video content, are usually saved together and use a multimedia container file that may be divided into many tracks (video, audio, effects or text). This iPad Pro video format supports a wide range of codecs to compress movies and other files.

Nikon and Canon DSLRs produce h.264 videos in a .mov container. It is played on the majority of USB-compatible TV-sets but its functions and quality require space.

6. AVI – Basic Video Format

Open: Kodi (XBMC) Player, VLC player

Convert: Movavi video converter, Freemake video converter

avi logo best video format AVI video file formats are used to dominate the market of video containers. As a rule, this format is used by default to store videos on your computer. On the other hand, its high quality may complicate the process of video compressing and this format is not an ideal one for streaming.
Pros+
  • Broad compatibility
  • High-quality video and sound 
  • Suitable to record DVD 
  • Doesn’t require a specific hardware device or software app
Cons-
  • Not the most compact format 
  • Compression goes with losses 
  • No user interaction support 
  • Not reliable when it comes to supporting program subtitles 
  • Morally outdated format
 

AVI format is developed by Microsoft as a part of the Video for Windows technology and is one of the oldest audio and video formats that stores data in “chunks”. As it is the best video format for TV, its popularity has recently reduced. But you may still find tons of AVI videos on the net.

Thanks to its simplicity, AVI is compatible with all Windows devices as well as many Android ones, Xbox and PSP game consoles, and the majority of operating systems, including Windows, macOS X and Linux.

This format effectively stores data to code it in various codecs that also contain video and audio data. It uses smaller compression in comparison with other similar formats.

7. WEBM – Best Website Video Format

Open: Miro Player, Elmedia Player

Convert: All-in-One video converter, any video converter

webm logo best video format When it comes to videos that have to be shared on websites, users choose WebM ‒ a free format developed for HTML5. It is the best video format for website background since it may be integrated directly without plugins. The format is supported by the browsers like Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer.
Pros+
  • Supports high-quality videos 
  • Small file size
  • Free and open for everyone 
  • Video playback takes place directly in the web-browser using HTML5 without a flash-player
Cons-
  • Weak compatibility with mobile and portative gadgets
  • Is not compatible with some outdated browsers and media players
 

Judging from its name, WEBM was created to be used on websites, which makes it an ideal choice for the videographer’s portfolio or a small video on the website.

Together with HTML5, this format contributes to a very small video size that may be easily broadcast almost without loading time. These days its popularity has significantly decreased due to the improvement of online platforms’ performance.

How to Choose the Best Video Format?

I have reviewed some of the most common video formats, focusing on their strengths and weaknesses. So, what is the best video format? The answer depends on the compatibility of the media player.

The best video file format may be the most compatible, the most compact or the most qualitative one. For you not to be afraid of the notifications like “cannot play the multimedia”, “file extension is not supported”, I will closely consider the video file structure and give you some video file formats explained for you to choose the most suitable one.

For Online Videos (YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram)

for online video best video format

If you want to share the video on the net for everyone to see, you need streaming video formats instantly broadcasting your content with a bit rate that will not “break” the Internet and nevertheless will look appealing.

The MP4, .FLV and .WMV formats are supported by most devices and social platforms, but due to changing requirements and circumstances it is better to follow the links and check compatibility from the source:

Bit rate or video speed in the online stream is measured in millions of bits per second. The higher the streaming speed, the more qualitative the video is. However, videos with a high bit rate are not always appropriate.

An online video is a balancing act between the compression, transmission rate and quality. Fast-streaming video with a slower Internet speed will not be loading and will freeze all the time. 

The best video format for Facebook and Instagram is MP4 with an h.264 video codec, ACC audio codec and a bit rate of 700 ‒ 2500 Kbit/s.

This configuration provides for the best quality and the minimal file size. The majority of other websites, as well as YouTube, are compatible with MOV, AVI and WMV as interchange formats.

For Video Recording and Storing

for video recording and storing best video format

For saved video pieces, the best quality video format will be the one in which the original is recorded. Conversion of files from the camera to even a higher quality file will cause some data loss, not to mention a compression that may cause a significant pixelization loss. The priority of the video creator ‒ a lossless video format without compression for saving all source data.

For HD videos, use MKV or AVCHD and you will get the best combination of audio and video formats with a qualitative picture and sound at the professional level. For videos featuring regular quality, it is recommended to use MP4, AVI or WMV.

If you work on Windows, choose MOV, if on Mac ‒ MP4. The only problem is that a qualitative video format size usually requires much space.

The majority of video editing apps have presets for various compression and distribution methods, such as email or YouTube.

For Video Post Production

for video editing best video format

Speaking about video editing, file format is not significant. Only the structure of storing digital video data in the memory and video editors more or less recognizes all common video formats for PC.

The process of recording a digital video separates audio and video into different streams, codifying each of them with a special program ‒ codec.

Then, both streams are compressed into a special file ‒ container, where they are given a description that allows multimedia players to appropriately synchronize audio and video during playback.

In other words, a video file consists of a container described in video extensions that stores the record and a codec to process sound and picture. For editing videos, the file format codec matters. Such codecs are supported by MP4, MOV, MKV, AVI and WMV formats.

For Websites and Mobile Devices

for websites and mobile video best video format

If a video is created for a website, it’s better to use special web video formats, like WEBM or HTML5. These two formats have small size that makes them convenient for streaming. In such a way, website visitors will not wait long when surfing the site.

For functional 3G mobile phones, they created a special 3GP format on the basis of MPEG-4 container and h.263 codec intended for the transfer of videos and audio between the Internet and a smartphone. MP4, WMV and AVI formats are also supported by the majority of models.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more

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