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In this digital age, videos are the new sources of information that we all rely on. Education, training, and the answers to day-to-day queries are all available in the forms of videos on various platforms. As technology is evolving further, the significance and usage of videos are only going to increase. As this usage increases, more and more video content will be created and shared through the internet or via other mediums. That is why we are here to briefly cover the basics of a video and discuss the most common video file formats for 2020-2021.
A video is a series of pictures along with the audio data. This bundling of images and audio makes a video file much more complex than an image or audio file individually. You may already know the pace at which these pictures move is so fast that we see them in flow and are not able to feel any gap in the consecutive pictures. An average phone camera today can capture 30 frames per second, which means 30 snaps of the view are captured in a second. This rate is so high that the human eye perceives it as a video and is not able to feel any discontinuity as compared to real-life visuals.
Now, before we move to various video formats and their specifications, we need to know more about a video file. What makes a video file or what is required to be kept in mind while deciding a video file format.
There are some key features or attributes that are must in a video file, and that can vary based on your video format. These attributes define the quality of a video.
Frame rate – It is the number of frames captured per second (fps). A 24 fps is considered a decent rate of shooting movies and other TV shows etc. Moving to a higher frame rate gives more fluidity to the video but also costs you in terms of the storage space.
Aspect ratio – This is the ratio of width to the height of the video. An aspect ratio is decided based on the common screen size on which the viewer will be watching the video.
Bitrate – Bitrate is defined as the data transferred per second. It is measured in bits per second. This attribute comes more in play when you are viewing or broadcasting your video online. A higher bitrate would require a high-speed connection for the bufferless experience.
Resolution – Video resolution is basically the number of pixels in a single frame of the video. The higher the resolution, the sharper the frame. Common resolutions are 480, 720, 1080 and 4K. A 720-pixel video may look amazing on a mobile phone but will look blurred when viewed in full screen on a 55 inch TV screen. So, resolution becomes more important if the display size increases.
Now that we have covered the attributes of a video let us quickly explain what a video file basically comprises. These characteristics define and distinguish a video format from the other.
Video and audio signal – This is the actual data that is stored while capturing a video. It consists of video and audio data. This is the core information of a video file that is accessed while playing a video.
Container – A container is like a package that stores the video and audio signal data. Most people refer to a container when they talk about a video file format. That is because often containers are kept as the extension of a video format. Such as .mp4, .avi, .3gp.
Codec – Codec is the program or software that encodes and decodes the video signals. It takes care of storing the video signals and then processing those signals when a video is played.
Often, a video container format can store videos of multiple formats, but not all codecs and containers are perfectly compatible. All video recording devices are configured to choose appropriate codecs and containers by default. So, you mostly will have to choose the container/ file format only. But, if you are converting a video, make sure you are choosing the compatible codec and containers.
Well, let us now take you to the popular video file formats available, what they offer and what are these formats well suitable for.
MP4 is probably the most commonly used video file format for more than a decade now. It is so common that all good video player software can play MP4 videos very easily. It was developed by Apple and gained popularity with the iTunes player. MP4 containers can use H.264, H.265, and MPEG-4 codecs. MP4 formats can also be used to store images and audio data. It delivers high-quality video with a relatively smaller size. Not only that, it delivers lossless compression, which means that the video quality doesn’t deteriorate even after multiple editing and file saving. It is also supported by streaming sites such as YouTube, Facebook, etc.
MOV is another video file format that was developed by Apple Inc. It was the format used by Apple’s Quicktime video player. This format was designed to deliver high-quality videos. This format can be costly in terms of size since it doesn’t compromise in quality. MOV format files are generally larger as compared to MP4. Also, this format isn’t as widely used as MP4 due to the limitation that not all video players can play this format. However, after the Quicktime player for Windows was released, the MOV format has become more than just an Apple compatible video file format.
AVI stands for Audio Video Interleave. It is one of the oldest video file formats that is still popularly used. It was developed by Microsoft in 1992. AVI files support a wide range of codecs, which makes it so popular and common. As this format was developed in the 90s, it wasn’t aimed at the internet video transmission. Due to this reason, AVI files are comparatively larger in size as compared to new video file formats. This format is not preferred for internet upload or streaming purposes. It is rather a better option if you want to store the file on your personal storage and don’t want to compromise with the quality of the video.
Flash video format, popularly known as FLV, is another very commonly used video format. It was developed by Adobe Systems. FLV video format is so popular as it can be played with Adobe Flash Player, which can be embedded or added as a plugin for any web browser. As a result, it is very easy to play FLV video files in web browsers. But FLV is not limited to internet browsing; you can play FLV files in any good video player as well. It supports H.264 video codec and HE-AAC audio compression format. Although due to some limitations with H.24 format, Adobe recommends using F4V format with H.264 compression format.
MKV is an open-source video format. It was developed by Matroska, which is a non-profit organization based in France. Being open-source makes this video format common and popular in emerging content creators.
WMV is short for Windows Media Video. WMV is both a codec format and also a video file container. WMV was developed by Microsoft as part of the Windows Media Framework. This format was initially created to be hosted on streaming websites and applications on the internet. It, therefore, creates video files of very small sizes as compared to other video formats. Due to its comparatively small size, WMV formats are popularly used to share videos through emails or on other platforms where limitation to the video file size exists. This compact size comes at a cost though, WMV format is not lossless; it is a lossy compression. Hence, the quality of a WMV video is not at par with other lossless codecs.
Developed jointly by Sony and Panasonic in 200, AVCHD format aims at recording high-definition videos using digital camcorders. The same is suggested by its full form Advanced Video Coding High Definition (AVCHD). It uses H.264/MPEG-4 AVC for video compression and Dolby AC-3 for audio compression. It is the default format for various camcorders introduced by Sony as well as Panasonic. It also supports 3-D videos. These features make this format favourable for professional videographers.
WebM format was originally sponsored by Google to provide a new format that can be used over the internet and as an alternative to HTML5 videos. This format is comparatively new and is not yet supported by Mac OS or Quicktime player. However, it is supported as a default without the requirement of downloading additional codecs by all reputed video players such as VLC, K-player, MPlayer, etc.
By now, you should be well aware of the importance of a good codec in a video. So, for the last two items on our list, let us discuss popular codecs instead of containers.
Advanced Video Coding, also known as H.24, is a very popular video compression codec. Its design is based on block-oriented, motion-compensated integer-DCT, which aims to deliver good video quality at lower bit rates. It is the most popularly used codec and is used in many video file container formats. It supports high video resolutions up to 8K.
MPEG-4 is a comparatively older codec as compared to H.264 but is more commonly used in older systems and video file formats. It is still favoured by online streaming platforms. However, it has lost its popularity to H.264 and H.265 codec formats.
With this, we close this discussion and hope you found some interesting facts and information from this article. Additionally, if you are new to the videography field and have recently faced a video corruption problem, we have good news for you. You can use the Kernel Video repair tool to fix your video without any loss of data.
In this blog, we explained the basics of a video file and the key attributes that decide the quality of a video. Then, we covered the basic parts of a video file and the significance of choosing the right codec and container for your video file. Moving on, we covered 8 popular video file formats and 2 popular video codecs to help you choose the right format for your video. In the end, we briefly introduced the Kernel video repair, a powerful video repair tool, which can quickly repair your corrupt video files. If this article helped you, don’t forget to provide your valuable feedback in the comments section.