Nowadays, technology enables us to consume all digital media according to our liking: time, place, language, subtitles and quality, everything according to our preferences. This is accomplished by a variety of formats which most of us know as .MP4´s, .AVI`s or.FLV. But what is the difference between all of those terms which are suspiciously hidden between convenient abbreviations?

The answer on those and more questions can be found in the following paragraphs. However, before we dive deeper into the matter of video formats, it is required to clarify two important concepts: Container and Codec.

The importance of Codec and Container

A Codec is a method for altering data, a software or protocol if you want to compress and decompress video material. This method is used to store a large quantity of data on a digital medium with a limited capacity, like a DVD or a USB stick. Furthermore, it determines how the data is shown on your screen by decompressing it in a certain way which is predetermined by the format. This brings us to the next essential part; the Container.

Often this container is referred to as, the format. Even if the data on the digital medium is compressed it is not assured that this data stays the way it should. It is required to bundle those floating bytes and bits and keep them together as a whole. To accomplish this, a container is used. Think of it as a cage which holds hundreds of birds, ready to fly away if not kept in check.

Types of digital formats/ containers

The following part contains a variety of commonly used formats and their respective file abbreviation. Furthermore, the appropriate codec will be provided to give you a way to open the file just in case you will get the error message “This Video format is not supported” the next time you want to watch a movie.

Format/Container Name Codec
.avi Audio Video Interleave Windows Media Player, Apple QuickTime Player, VLC media player
.asf Advanced Systems Format Windows Media Player, VLC player
.mov or .qt Quicktime Apple QuickTime Player
AVCHD Advanced Video Coding, High Definition VLC Media Player, Apple QuickTime Player
.flv, .swf Flash Video Adobe Flash Player, Web browser with Flash plug-in

In addition to the standard relation between container and codec, there are a few codecs which have containers with a very similar or the same name. An overview of a few commonly used examples will be provided in the next table.

Format/Container Name Codec
MPEG (MPG) Moving Picture Experts Group Windows Media Player, Apple QuickTime Player
MPEG-4 (MP4) Moving Picture Experts Group MP4 players, Apple QuickTime Player, Adobe Flash Player

As technology advances more and more codecs and containers are added to the mix which can make it quite confusing at times. However, the user is rewarded with an increased quality and a gradually decreasing file size of digital videos. Furthermore, the user gains more control on how to interact with the different types of media files, due to the fact that more and more software types support different kinds of formats.

Conversion of Videos

In addition to using a wide array of software to be able to open the given format it is also possible to convert videos. Programs of this kind are priced around €40 to €60 depending on the features it contains. A good overview can be found here. Moreover, the formatting can also be done by using freeware provided by several providers which can be found in the following link.

Nevertheless a word of advice has to be given: the majority of the time,the converted data will be of less quality, especially if you transfer older formats to current formats. So just ensure you are storing the originals somewhere save, to be able to watch the video unaltered and in its full glory without any compromises.

Who takes the spot on the top?

While reading this you might ask yourself:”What is the best video format up to date?” Answering this question is nearly impossible due to the different preferences which are unique for every user. However, MPEG-4 received a lot of praise due to its quality, flexibility and the ability to be read by a large amount of commonly used media players.

There you go; we hope that we could provide you with information, which were new and helpful to you. Stay tuned for the next update on our website.