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Video File Formats & Encoding Basics

Learn about each video format and how video encoding works

Updated over a week ago

What is a Video File Format?

When choosing the right video file format to upload to Uscreen, be aware of the differences between formats.

A video file format is the combination of a container and a codec. The codec encodes and decodes multimedia data such as audio and video, then compresses it. A video format is a container that stores audio, video, subtitles, and other metadata. After the file is compressed, it is stored in the container—which is the file format.

Most Commonly Used Video Extensions

Although we accept the video file formats listed below, we recommend that you follow our guide for recommended quality settings so that all of your users have a perfect streaming experience.

1. MP4
MP4 or MPEG-4 Part 14 is the oldest and most widely used video file format. It is suitable for most devices and digital platforms. Images, text, video, and audio files, can be stored in this format, but the resolution is lower compared to other file formats. Nevertheless, it is still high-quality and allows a small file size for your videos.

Most Apple users will recognize MOV as a video file format since it was developed by Apple. It stores high-quality videos, audio files, subtitles, and other media types, but these files require significantly more memory and space. It is supported by Facebook and YouTube and is well-suited for TV. However, the larger the file size, the more likely your users will have playback issues.

3. WMV
WMV, which stands for Windows Media Viewer, was developed by Microsoft and is mainly used by Windows users. It offers good quality, but it is a large file. However, it can be compressed into smaller a file. It is great for streaming, but it is not suitable for all devices.

4. AVI
AVI, which stands for Audio Video Interleave, was developed by Microsoft. It works with almost all web browsers, Mac, Windows, and other devices. With this file type, there is no loss of quality over time, so it is lossless. However, to be lossless, the file is not compressed as much as other file types, and it becomes quite heavy. A video can consume 2 to 3 GB per minute of video. This makes it harder for you to save space. It also increases the loading time for users because the file is very heavy.

5. FLV, F4V, and SWF
Flash video formats—FLV, F4V, and SWF—are used by Adobe Flash Player. However, many people use them to stream on YouTube. One of the problems is that iOS devices and some other devices do not support Flash. However, it is supported by almost all video platforms and browsers.

6. MKV
The MKV file format was designed to be open source and free. It contains audio, video, and subtitles in a single file. It supports almost all video and audio formats, but it is not supported by many programs.

AVCHD (Advanced Video Coding High Definition is specifically used for high-quality video recording. It lets you store a lot of HD video using only a small amount of space.

The Importance of Encoding

The term codec is made up of the words "coder" and "decoder". When you want to share a video with someone, you need a codec that first encodes the video file and then decodes it, so the viewer can see it. Encoding a video involves compressing and reducing a video and audio file.

Coding and decoding video and audio is required to convert video and audio into transmittable bits of information. The most commonly used codec is H.264, and many manufacturers have adopted this codec, making it compatible with the majority of programs and devices.

Which Video File Format Should I Choose?

The MP4 format offers the best balance between video quality and playback experience. You can upload other file formats; nevertheless, you may experience some trouble uploading them and degrade the playback experience for your users.

Although the file size is relatively small, the quality is still high after compression. It is more popular than other file formats because it is compatible with both web and mobile browsers. It can be used with multiple operative systems on computers, tablets, phones, game consoles, and TVs. It is also accepted by various media players and editing software.

Not all browsers, programs, and devices can play a specific video format, so you should choose the format that is most compatible with the majority of them.

MP4 is currently the industry standard for high-definition video and offers the most practical way to distribute video content.

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