Nowadays a wide range of video file formats are available for content creators, and their sheer amount is overwhelming. Know which format to use for your specific needs can ensure that your work shines in every context.
Most common video file format types
AVI: Audio Video Interleave. Developed by Microsoft in 1992, this format is one of the oldest and most compatible. It used to be widely regarded as the best, but now it sees a decline in popularity. Nikon and Olympus use this format, and it’s a good choice for cinematographers who seek full compatibility with PC and Mac devices.
FLV: Flash Video Format. Encoded by Adobe Flash software, virtually everyone can play this format in their browsers. This makes it very common for online video viewing platforms, like YouTube. However, this format is not supported by iOS devices – therefore it’s impractical to use for mobile sharing.
MOV: Apple’s QuickTime Movie format. Created for movies, it allows files to be broken down into tracks for storage. This file format is one of the highest quality, and usually quite big in size. Canon DSLR cameras use a variation of MOV.
MP4: Also developed by Apple, this format is specifically made for low-bandwidth compression, resulting in worse image quality than other types. This format is supported by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
WMV: Windows Media Video. Developed by Microsoft, this is the smallest video size available, well suited for email sharing. Because of that, the image quality suffers. This format is made for the Windows Media Player, but there are also WMV players available for Macs.
Less common video file format types
AVCHD: Advanced Video Coding, High Definition. Developed by Sony and Panasonic, it’s their default file format. It supports high-quality images and 3D video.
MKV: “Matroska”. A free and open-source format that can hold multiple pictures or audio tracks.
WEBM: This format was created for use on websites, making it the obvious choice for a videographer portfolio. Together with HTML5, this format creates small video sizes that load in no time. As webpages’ technical performance improves, this format is losing popularity.
There’s no obvious choice when it comes to the best video file format above all. You have to choose one that suits your needs best. Good news though: it’s very easy to transfer files from one format to the other! Just make sure you always have the original file saved to avoid loss of image quality.
Curious about the technical side of video formats? Check out this article about file formats and codecs.