The most common video formats and their characteristics

The most common video formats and their characteristics 1There are many different video formats, each one with different characteristics that make them more suitable for one type of use or another. Whether you want to record a video to upload to YouTube, or create a home movie, you will find a video format that best suits your needs. In this article we explain the different video formats that you can find, and their most important characteristics.

Digital video files consist of a codec , which encodes the video, and a container that contains all the files. There are several video formats such as MP4 and AVI that unify both the codec and the container in the same name.


The most common video codecs

The first aspect that we must know to choose the correct video format is the compression codec. Currently there are many different codecs to encode video, some of the most common being MP4, H.264. H.265 and Xvid .

Video codecs are used to compress and decompress the information in the video, in this way it takes up much less storage space. The arrival of high resolutions such as 4K or even 8K, has led to the appearance of new codecs that are much more efficient when it comes to reducing the weight of the files.


It is the most widely used codec today , and this is because it is very efficient at compressing files, while maintaining high image quality. This video codec is compatible with MP4 and MKV containers . A great advantage of this codec is that it is already very established, so almost all devices are compatible.

The most common video formats and their characteristics 1


MPEG-4 is a codec very similar to the previous one, and it is the most used for live streaming over the Internet. Actually, this codec is made up of two standards. On the one hand we have MPEG-4 Part 10, which is almost equal to H.264. On the other hand, we have MPEG-4 Part 10 which is older and less efficient.

DivX and Xvid

DivX and its open source version XviD are two of the oldest video codecs out there. These codecs appeared alongside DVDs and were widely used for years to rip the content of these digital discs. It is a codec that achieves great image quality, but it is not very efficient in understanding the data, so the final file size is quite large. In short, a good codec at the time, but one that has already become obsolete


It is the predecessor of MPEG-4. MPEG-2 is the standard codec for use on DVD and standard Blu-ray discs . 4K Blu Rays no longer use it, because it is not efficient enough when it comes to reducing the weight of the files.

DVD and Blu Ray

HEVC (H.265)

It is one of the most modern codecs out there . This makes it one of the most technologically advanced, and therefore one of the most efficient when it comes to getting high-quality files with a very small size. Its main drawback is that being so recent there are still many devices that are not compatible or the performance is not adequate. It is preferred for videos in 4K resolution and higher, including Blu-ray discs of these resolutions.


Most used video containers

We now turn to see the most common video containers . A video container is a file that has the purpose of grouping all the elements that make up the video, such as audio, subtitles and the video itself, in a single package.

There are many containers, each one of them compatible with certain codecs. Choosing the right container would be the next step in our strategy, after having chosen the codec.


MP4 is one of the most used containers today, this is due to several reasons. The MP4 container supports most of the commonly used codecs , for example MPEG-4 and H.264. Another advantage is that it is compatible with a large number of multimedia devices, such as smartphones, tablets, consoles, Android TV devices, smart TVs and much more. MP4 is the preferred container for major streaming services like YouTube and Vimeo.

MP4 for video on youtube


AVI is another of the most popular video containers, although in recent years it has been losing quite a bit of popularity . AVI supports a multitude of codecs, and it is also compatible with most multimedia devices. The downside is that the file sizes tend to be quite large, so it is not very suitable for high resolution videos.

MOV (Quicktime)

It is a format created by Apple to work with its Quicktime player . This container is capable of offering great image quality, but it also has the disadvantage that it is not very efficient with compression, because the files are very large. There are several third-party players that are compatible with this format, although it is not the most compatible.

FLV (Flash)

FLV is a container that was designed by the Adobe company to work with its Flash player. FLV has gone and is quite used to distribute video content over the Internet . The reason for the latter is that it is a very efficient format with compressing files. The downside is that the image quality is not as good as with other formats.

WMV (Windows Media)

Another very efficient format when it comes to compressing files , making it one of the best options when you need to send a certain file by mail or upload it to a folder on the network. This format was created by Microsoft, and it has the disadvantage that the image quality is quite reduced.

MKV (Matroska)

MKV is one of the most modern and advanced containers that exist today. It is an open format that is compatible with a large number of codecs , including the most advanced ones such as H.265. MKV allows you to include a large number of files inside, so I think we can create videos with many audio tracks and many subtitles, as well as other elements such as various viewing angles.