What are the Difference between the video formats and which one is better?

video formats

Every video that you are watching across your various devices has a unique format to it and if you are a video creator you must know about these formats. First, let me tell you that each video format has a separate usage for it especially if you are a web developer. There are many video formats available across various devices but the most commonly used one is MP4 and MKV. Exactly what are these video formats, are you ever familiar with them, what are containers and codecs and why is that that there are A lot of video formats available? These and many other questions are available that must be answered and in this article, I am doing my best to cover what are the differences between the video formats and finally which video format is better.

What is Codec?

If you have used video converter software to convert your video into another format you may come across various video formats such as MP4, AVI, WMV, MPEG-4, DivX, WebM, and more. For an average user, these are just video formats that can play videos however it is not the case if you are a developer. The truth of the matter is that these extensions that you are seeing are file formats that are defined by their multimedia containers. And the other stuff that you are seeing are codecs that are helping to compress video and audio within those containers.

In simple terms If I have to define the container, it means files such as video and audio codecs are contained.

Also, the term for defining codecs is that it is compressing or decompressing video and audio files since the data is always huge. Simply, codecs compress all the data located within the container and finally, you can preview it.

Let me give you an example so you understand it better.

Think, if you have put your images into one archive what will you do, you would simply zip it. Now, the zip is the container that contains the image codecs within itself.

Role of Codecs:

  1. It compresses the video, following that it conforms to the multimedia container.
  2. It decompresses the video and makes it ready for playing video if the device supports the codec.

Why codecs were created?

Why codecs were created in the first place, this is a question that might bug you around.

The answer is in history, let me explain. If you are taking a photo or video using your camera or cell phone it compresses the video, and in the end, it takes less storage on your device. Not so long ago this was not the case.

Blu-ray Disc which has a capacity of 30 to 50 GB of storage and if you have saved a file of that size on your hard disk, you would run definitely out of space.

to reduce and save the amount of storage they ended up reducing slightly loss of quality which can decrease lot size. The good news is that this loss of quality was not detectable. Keeping that in mind codecs were created which perform the duties of compressing and decompressing.

On your computer and other devices, several codecs are already installed with the default operating system. However, you can install separately another codec if you need. However, for a basic user I would not suggest installing a new codec but instead use streaming apps such as VLC, K-lite codec, and more.

The streaming media player has multiple codecs that can fulfill your need of playing videos and audio. Also, do keep in mind that installing and using these streaming apps is far easier than installing a new codec.

Popular codecs:

A well-designed codec has high efficiency or capacity to maintain quality while reducing file size. Here are some of the best codecs.

  1. H.264/AVC: This codec is widely used in digital video today, especially when it comes to video streaming services. H.264 can be played on almost any device. Data is stored with higher quality and less volume. This codec has a higher quality than Mpeg4 and Divx; H.264 file size is about half that of Divx.
  2. H.265/HEVC: Developed to replace the H.264 codec, but not yet replaced. H.265 can significantly reduce bandwidth requirements during streaming. The algorithm it uses has 50% better compression efficiency, resulting in smaller files. It is the first codec that supports 8k resolution.
  3. AV1: The biggest advantage of this codec is that it is open-source and royalty-free, which means you can use it completely free. The AV1 video codec is not yet fully integrated on a wide scale across all media, But it is very efficient (30% more efficient than H.265).
  4. FFmpeg: Contains formats such as MPEG-2, which is used for storage on DVDs, or MPEG-4, which is used in the iTunes store by Apple or in some online video-sharing services.
  5. VP9: Google has developed the VP9 video codec. This codec is supported by all Google products including Android, Chrome, and YouTube. The free VP9 codec produces excellent quality because it has the same bitrate as H.265. Its big disadvantage is that it is not supported by Apple devices.
  6. DivX: Works with certain types of MPEG-4 files and was commonly used to convert DVDs back in the days before HD formats.
  7. XviD: An open-source version of DivX, popular online and especially for illegal content sharing, XviD files with the same DVD quality are about one-third the size of the original file.

What is Container?

As I have explained earlier, based on that you can define that container as a wrapper of the video file format. The video format is the extension that you see at the end of a video on your device. These extensions look like MOV, MP4, AVI, etc. For a better understanding of the container, take an example of a box that contains all the data much like a zip file that I explained earlier.

What kind of data is stored within the Container?

  1. Video codecs
  2. Audio codecs (It can include Multiple Languages)
  3. metadata
  4. Subtitles (You can include several subtitles)
  5. video chapter information
  6. synchronization information and more.

There are differences between the container, the difference can be between the support of the codecs, subtitles, metadata, and more.

Here are some popular containers:

  1. MP4: popularized by Apple and iTunes.
  2. Matroska: It is an open-source project that is used as an MKV extension. Almost most HD files are shared on the internet in this format.
  3. MOV:  Apple designed this video file format for use with QuickTime Player. This is a high-quality file format and as a result, the files are larger. While this file time is compatible with Windows and Apple, it is not widely used because the programs it can be used with are limited.
  4. AVI: It is not as popular today as it used to be. It uses less compression than other video file formats, resulting in larger file sizes. Although the file size is larger, the quality could be better, making this format a potentially good choice if you have a lot of storage space.
  5. FLV: It is one of the most popular formats because of its versatility; This format is supported by all platforms and browsers. It produces videos with easily downloadable and very small file sizes, making them a great option for YouTube and other online video platforms.
  6. WMV: It was developed by Microsoft. It offers better compression and smaller file sizes than the popular MP4 format. The major drawback of the WMV format (and probably the reason why it is not widely used) is that it is not compatible with Apple devices, But you can get help from third-party apps.
  7. WEBM: It was created by Google as an efficient means of distributing media to large audiences. They are relatively small in size and therefore not as high quality as some of the other file types on this list. This format is used for HTML5 video streaming sites such as YouTube.
  8. OGG: They are an open-source alternative to MPG files and are used for streaming high-quality video over the Internet. Although OGG files are used for streaming, higher quality than WEBM files. This means that it takes more time to deliver them to the end user. Because they are open source, they can be used in a variety of applications, including GPS receivers and media players (desktop and portable).

MKV VS MP4: which one is better?

Even though there are a lot of containers available but MKV and MP4 are the most used extension across different devices. I have decided that MKV and MP4 are the best containers that you have to know that their also differences between them so I’ll take a look into them too.

  • MKV is a format that is not compatible across all devices Therefore constantly has to update in case of a failure in any device.
  • At the same time, mp4 is widely supported across almost every device on the planet.
  • MKV is a format which do not lose compression format a lot while MP4 is losing compression format a lot with each compression.
  • MP4 files usually use a lot of computing power because they contain video, audio, and subtitle data.
  • Illegal distribution of MP4 is easy by removing the metadata.


Well, you got the idea What is the difference between the video formats, and which one is better? Let me which video format you are using on the daily basis for your project.

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