The Most Common Video Formats – A Guide

From MP4 to MKV, there are numerous video formats that cater to a variety of purposes. These include uploading, streaming, or video editing. Some formats, however, come with distinct features that limit their adaptability.

The Most Common Video Formats - A Guide

Whether you’re a video editor or simply someone who loves to binge-watch your favorite series, here’s everything that you need to know about the most popular video formats to date.

MP4 (MPEG-4 Part 14)

Kicking off the list is the widely-used MP4 format. This video format has been working wonders for over two decades now. Initially released in 2001, the MP4 format works for various devices and software solutions. In fact, it’s one of the supported media formats for both Apple and Android.

The IT industry labels MP4 as the benchmark when it comes to audio-visual coding. The reason being, MP4 compresses tracks separately, producing a smaller yet high-quality file. This means that you can edit files or even view videos on a bigger screen without having to worry about quality.

While MP4 is popularly used as a video container format, it can also store relevant data including audio, still images, and even subtitles. As such, MP4 files are utilized for social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.


  • Compatibility on different platforms
  • Impressive degree of compression
  • High-quality files in smaller sizes


  • Lossy format
  • High need for computing power due to its nature

MOV (QuickTime Multimedia File Format)

MOV is a format designed for high-quality files. Originally intended for the QuickTime video player by Apple, it has been utilized for Windows as well. Plus, it’s one of the most suitable options if you want better video quality.

However, compared to MP4, MOV files are significantly larger, hence they take up more space on your device. Because of the size capacity, this leads to the restriction of its functionality to some devices and means that not all video platforms can play this video type.

Still, this format works efficiently for video editing, especially when using a Mac. Regardless, MOV functions well for TV viewing and social media platform streaming such as YouTube and Facebook. In addition, an MOV format supports not just videos but also audio and text – in different media tracks.


  • Great choice for video editing via Mac
  • Better video quality


  • Larger in size
  • Compatibility issues with other platforms

FLV (Flash Video Format)

This video format was crafted by another renowned name in the IT industry: Adobe Systems. Accordingly, the FLV video format works perfectly with an Adobe Flash Player and other Adobe applications.

This format ensures adaptability and reliability when using Adobe programs for editing videos or storing video files. Not only that but it’s a remarkable choice for streaming online platforms like YouTube and is well-suited for videos in web browsers as well as for audio experiences.

But just like MOV, FLV videos are much larger than MP4 files. Furthermore, the format isn’t that receptive when it comes to compression. When compressed significantly, the video quality is affected. On top of that, there are certain restrictions with the video coding format and some files could have problems with hardware acceleration. Unfortunately, this could result in the deceleration of the video playback.


  • Ideal for Adobe programs and applications
  • Highly reliable for video editing
  • Good for streaming and web browsing


  • Larger in size
  • Quality may be affected during compression
  • Possible slower video playback due to its format

WMV (Windows Media Video)

If you’re looking for a video format that works seamlessly with Windows Media Player, the best pick is certainly WMV. Developed by tech giant Microsoft, this format allows you to play videos on various Microsoft applications and devices. It can also be used for Mac as long as you download the WMV player.

Additionally, WMV offers a nice streaming experience on websites and other online applications. And because of its small dimensions, it allows WMV video formats to be shared on platforms with limited size for video sharing, like emails.

But of course, there is a downside: the inability to preserve all the original data when compressed. Put simply, it’s a lossy compression, which means there may be information loss that can’t be recovered after compression.


  • Ideal pick for Windows Media Player and different Microsoft solutions
  • Small in size
  • Suitable for email video sharing


  • Lossy format
  • Compatibility issues with other platforms

AVI (Audio Visual Interleave)

Released in 1992, AVI is considered one of the earliest and most versatile video file formats. Its longevity makes it highly compatible with different operating systems like Windows, Linux, and Mac.

However, the drawback of AVI video files is their size. The format itself is generally large and doesn’t support significant compression. Hence, it’s not suitable for streaming or even downloading. Aside from possible viewing issues, it might take some time to transfer the file.

On the other hand, the AVI format is a sound choice if you prefer to store videos on your personal computers. The extensive file size ensures a high-quality video that’s ideal for professional video creators and top-rated camera brands.


  • Long-running video format
  • Compatibility with various OS
  • Impeccable video quality fit for video editing


  • Large in size
  • Lengthy transfer process
  • Not suitable for web browsing and streaming

MKV (Matroska Video)

For a modern video format with superior functionality, the MKV is miles ahead of the competition. This universal format comes with an open-source code, which provides compatibility with various operating systems.

It also supports a wide range of multimedia elements, including video, audio, subtitles, and menus. With lossless compression, it smoothly retains the quality of the video and audio despite altering the size. For that reason, MKV delivers top-notch quality for video editing and viewing.


  • Superior video quality
  • Compatibility with various OS
  • Impressive degree of compression


  • Large in size
  • More recent video format

However, there could be some hitches along the way. For one, MKV may entail some compatibility issues with other media players and devices due to its complex compression system. In addition, with lossless compression, it takes up extra space compared to MP4 and WMV.

Learning More About the Relevant Attributes of Video Formatting

To fully grasp each of the video formats reviewed above, it’s crucial that you also understand the core attributes of video formatting:

  • Containers serve as the storage of all file elements, including audio, video, and text.
  • Codec refers to the software that allows the shrinking of the video file. This is categorized into lossy and lossless compression.
  • Bitrate pertains to the dimension of the video or audio, typically measured in Mbps.
  • Frame rate entails all individual video frames per second.
  • Resolution signifies the total pixels in a frame. The pixels then determine the clarity of the video.
  • Aspect ratio indicates the video width in relation to the screen height.


What is the best video format?

Considering aspects like compatibility, file size, and quality, MP4 is undeniably the best option. It’s universally compatible with various platforms and modern technologies. Not only that but it also comes with a remarkable compression nature, which retains the video quality even with its small in size.

Why is choosing the best video format crucial?

Each different device uses a different video format. This makes it imperative to choose the right video type to get the best viewing experience as well as ensure a seamless streaming experience.

What are the best formats to make a video?

MP4 is the leading choice, along with MOV. These video formats are highly recommended because of high-quality files and compatibility features with most devices and solutions.

Picking the Best Video Format

While there are several video formats on the market, choosing the best one is down to the individual’s requirements and preferences as well as the availability of the format. Pick the format that would make your work more efficient, or opt for something that would provide a better viewing experience.

What video format do you use? Do you have a favorite and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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