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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.