Every video you view has a specific file format that allows it to be optimized for the device or channel it is displayed on. So, as an editor, if you want your videos to perform optimally, you need to know about the different file formats and how they work. For instance, a video hosted on a website will have a different format from one used on social media.
So, to help make things easier for you, we’ve put together a list of the best video file formats you can use in 2023. Whether you’re editing your videos using InVideo or any other editor, this comprehensive list will help you pick the most suitable one for your needs.
In this article, we will cover:
- What are Video Formats?
- 8 best video file formats to use in 2023
- Best video formats for YouTube
- Best video formats for Instagram
- Best video formats for Facebook
- How to choose the best video file format for your needs
Let’s get started!
What are Video Formats?
Video formats refer to the way video information is stored on digital devices or servers. Video formats consist of two main components - Codecs and Containers.
Codec is an acronym used for “compressor/decompressor”. It’s a piece of software that helps you shrink the size of a video file. For instance, if you try to copy data or a video from a Blu-Ray disc to your system, it will easily take up a large amount of space. Hence, these files are compressed to make them more manageable and save space. During playback, these files are decompressed with the same codec and restored to the original high-quality video.
A codec is a short form or a merged term consisting of the words Compress and Decompress. As you’ve guessed, they are used to compress and decompress data. This data can range from anything to a combination of audio, video, image, metadata, etc.
Since this data can take up a lot of space, Codecs compress the data by merging similar pixels, reducing the resolution, or decreasing the number of colors in a video. Later, the same codec is used to decompress the data for viewing, playback, or editing.
Codecs can be lossy - which means that they compress your data by removing or merging them. Lossy codecs may lose video quality after each edit. On the other hand, Lossless compression encodes your data in such a way that all the information of the original file is preserved. You can make as many adjustments to the files without losing quality but this comes at the price of larger file size.
Containers are like boxes that keep all the elements of a file i.e. audio, video, text, etc. in a single place and make it available for synchronized playback. Each container differs in terms of the elements they can support apart from audio and video. For instance, some containers can store metadata, subtitles, ratings, and other information, while some do not. You can identify containers based on their file extension. For instance, a .mp4 file extension means it’s a Moving Picture Expert Group-4 file format. We explain this more in-depth further in the article.
While Codecs are used to encode and decode data to reduce the size of the file, a container is what keeps all this data together for playback. For instance, the MP4 container contains the MPEG-4 and H.264 codec. The MP4 is the package whereas MPEG-4 and H.264 are the supported codecs inside it. A container can hold multiple codecs inside it.
8 Best video file formats to use in 2023
Now that we know what a video file format is, let’s look at the 8 best video file formats you can use in 2023.
MP4 is the most common type of video format available today. It is popular because it is a universally compatible format. Introduced in 2001, it was popularized by Apple in the iTunes Store. This video format is capable of storing text, subtitles, audiovisual files, and still images together.
It is the most ideal format for storing and streaming videos online as it provides high-quality videos without making the size too large. Most modern video editing apps and software, including InVideo, export in the MP4 format. You can open this type of file on most media players as well, which include Quick Media, iTunes, VLC Player, and Windows Media Player.
The only cons of using this type of file format are that it can be quite difficult to edit as it ends up crashing a lot. Furthermore, Standard Adobe Premiere doesn’t save files in the MP4 format.
To convert a file into MP4 format, you can use online video converters such as HandBrake or Freemake video converter. Here’s how you can do it:
This type of file format is best used on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. It is compatible with both Windows and iOS and is also supported by popular devices such as the Xbox 360, Apple devices, phones, TV sets, and even DVD players.
Developed by Apple for QuickTime Player, it is used for watching videos and saving movies on the internet. It contains an array of video content and is quite similar to the MP4 format as it can store audio, text, and video effects. Since the quality of the MOV format is high, it ends up taking up more space on your device.
Most DSLRs like Nikon and Canon produce videos in a .mov container. It is also playable on a majority of USB-compatible TV sets. This format is quite popular in the media and film industry because it employs a multimedia container file that can be separated into a variety of tracks.
A few cons of using this format is that since it was specifically developed for QuickTime players, it might not be compatible with most media players. Moreover, since MOV compresses files to compact sizes, there might be some loss of data which will affect the overall quality.
To convert a file into the MOV format, you can use the Wondershare UniConverter or Adobe Premiere Rush. Here’s how you can also use Adobe Premiere Pro:
Developed by Microsoft, WMV is one of the best video file formats for archiving and is supported by all Windows devices and software. You can use it on Apple as well if you download a Windows Media Player. It works equally well on the DivX Player.
This format is widely used for selling digital copies of video content on the internet due to its licensing and copyright protection function. It also includes 1080p high-quality video support. Owing to its small size, it can be used for multiple purposes. You can even play this file via Google Drive.
A couple of drawbacks of this video file format are that it is impossible to choose compression proportions manually and the image quality may reduce during and after compression. In some cases, it is impossible to restore the licensing information and not many video players accept the WMV format.
To convert a file in the WMV format, you can use Any Video Converter or WinFF. Here’s how you can convert a file to the WMV format using WinFF:
Developed by Microsoft, the AVI video file format is one of the oldest ones out there. The reason why it is relevant even today is that it is adaptable, versatile, and compatible with different file formats and several web browsers. AVI is one of the best video formats you can use for short videos, teasers, and promos as it offers good quality even after compression.
While AVI isn’t the best video format for streaming because it uses less compression than other video formats and has a large file size, it guarantees high-quality audio and video. This type of video file format is best suited for TV, although it is quite compatible with a majority of operating systems which includes all Windows devices, Android, Xbox, PSP game consoles, MacOS X and Linux.
The drawback of using this type of file format is that it does not support program subtitles, has a large file size, and isn’t widely used anymore.
To convert a file into the AVI format, you can use Movavi Video Converter or Freemake Video Converter. Here’s how you can use the Movavi Video Converter:
The FLV video file format or Flash file format was specifically designed for Adobe Flash Video Players. It is versatile and popular as websites such as YouTube support this type of video format. The file size is relatively small which means that users can download it quickly.
FLV is the best video format for the internet due to its small size it can be easily viewed or downloaded in areas with no high-speed connection to access or upload videos. A major plus point is that it is simple to use and you can add some stunning effects to your video of choice.
A couple of major drawbacks of the Flash video format are that it is not supported by or compatible with iOS devices and that search crawlers do not recognize this video type.
To convert a file into the FLV format, you can use CloudConvert or Movavi Video Converter.
This type of video file format is best used for your website as it can help you add animations seamlessly. You can also use it on online video platforms such as YouTube.
Pro Tip: You can add stunning animations and motion graphics to your video for your website or YouTube channel using InVideo’s online editor, which comes with thousands of templates and assets such as stickers and kinetic typography that make it super versatile and easy to use.
Considered to be one of the best video file formats out there, the MKV or Matroska is a free, universal container with an open-source code that works seamlessly on all operating systems. It allows you to incorporate audio, video, metadata, menus, and subtitles - all under one file.
The MKV video file format supports several codecs and doesn’t allow for loss of data during compression - which means that it provides excellent quality but might take up more space.
A few drawbacks of this type of file format is that it uses a complicated compression process when compared to other video file formats. As it is not an application standard, not all gadgets and media players support it. But, if you are distributing your video files via VLC or a video player that supports MKV, this format’s high quality and versatility make it an ideal choice.
To convert a file into the MKV format, you can use Any Video Converter or Freemake Video Converter. Here’s how you can use the Movavi Video Converter:
MKV is mostly suited for video clips that contain several languages as this file format can include an unlimited number of video and audio tracks, uncompressed digital HD videos, subtitles, menus, etc. Ideally, the best video format for editing, streaming, and downloading.
Designed specifically for camcorders, the AVCHD video file format was born out of a collaboration between Panasonic and Sony. This type of file format utilizes H.264/MPEG-4 compression technology that squeezes video data down to small sizes. This means that you can store hours of high-quality videos using less space.
The AVCHD provides you with the highest quality audio and video that also includes subtitles, menu navigation, and a slideshow with music. It supports high-resolution videos and the newest version, AVCHD 2.0, also supports 3D video.
As it is specifically developed for video recording and is the original format of Panasonic and Sony, the AVCHD’s compatibility with other devices is quite limited. Although, you can record on the original equipment, store videos, and replay them using flash drives or SD cards.
To convert a file into the AVCHD video file format, you can use Any Video Converter or the Wondershare UniConverter. Here’s how you can use Wondershare:
AVCHD is the best video format you can use if you want to record high-quality clips with digital equipment or for editing or recording on Blu-ray. Owing to the high-quality picture and sound, it is quite popular among pro-videographers.
WEBM is an open-source video format introduced by Google for HTML5. The underlying technology for this video file format is available to the public. It has a very small file size and supports high-quality video. It takes less time to load as the video playback takes place directly in the browser using HTML5 without a flash player.
This type of file format can easily compress and decompress video data and is supported by major browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Microsoft Edge, and Internet Explorer. The only downside of using this file format is that it requires HTML to play it and has weak compatibility with mobile and other portable devices.
To convert a file into the WEBM format, you can use HandBrake or the Wondershare UniConverter. Here’s how you can use HandBrake:
WEBM is the best video format you can use when you have videos that need to be shared on websites, as you can directly integrate it into your website without using any plugins. More so, it is an ideal choice if you’re a videographer and want to set up a portfolio or share a video on a website. It also comes in handy for digital marketers when a video needs to be distributed to a large group. WEBM is also useful for personal or business websites as the file size is relatively small - which means your video can be streamed with ease with less loading time.
Pro tip: Creating videos for your website and other digital marketing needs doesn’t have to be difficult. InVideo’s video maker can help you create stunning, professional videos in minutes even if you’re completely new to video editing.
Now that you know the most popular video file formats, let’s take a look at the ones you can use for your social media and digital marketing needs:
Best video formats for YouTube
While you can use several file formats for YouTube, you need to understand that each file format is processed differently and it may affect the playback of your video.
Different formats also have different file sizes. Using a format with a large file size may take longer to upload, process and view. YouTube itself recommends the MP4 video file format with AAC-LC audio codec and H.264 video codec, in an aspect ratio of 16:9. The MP4 file format enables you to produce high-quality video at smaller file size.
If you need to crop, trim, and add text or effects to your video, you can use InVideo’s YouTube Video Editor which enables you to edit and create stunning videos in less than 10 minutes. The files are directly exported as MP4 in case you wish to edit raw footage.
Best video formats for Instagram
Instagram accepts and recommends two file formats - MP4 and MOV with H.264 compression, square pixels, 30fps frame rate, and stereo AAC audio. The aspect ratio will differ depending on the kind of video you are uploading i.e. 9:16 for reels and stories, and 4:5 for feed posts.
Ideally, you’d want to go for the MP4 file format as MOV files are larger in size and compression may cause loss of data that might affect quality.
To get the best results, you can use the InVideo Instagram Video Editor which lets you create stunning videos in less than 10 minutes. There are over 1000+ Instagram templates you can choose from and the edited file is exported in the MP4 file format.
Best video formats for Facebook
Facebook supports plenty of video formats which include mp4, WMV, Flv, Mpeg, MOV, and Mkv, among others. While the platform may be open to accepting these video formats, it recommends MP4 or MOV. As with YouTube and Instagram, the ideal choice here would be MP4 as there is little loss during compression and this type of file offers you better quality at lower file size.
The aspect ratio, size, resolution, etc. will depend on the type of video you are uploading. To tailor your videos based on your objective - be it ads, feed posts, stories, or reels, you can use the InVideo Facebook Video Editor to fine-tune your Facebook videos in less than 10 minutes using Facebook ad templates. The edited file is then exported in the MP4 file format for best results!
How to choose the best video file format for your needs
Now that you know the different file formats that are best suited for different platforms, let’s go ahead and take a look at the factors you need to consider while choosing the file format for your video:
1. What type of project are you creating
The nature of your project is the biggest determinant in your choice of video file format. Because this determines not only the format you edit in but also the format you shoot in. For instance, if you are creating social media videos, you can record them on your phone in the native MP4 or MOV (iPhone) format. But if you’re making a documentary or feature film, you will need to choose the codec and format while shooting depending on the type of shot you need, the lighting conditions, the treatment you plan on giving to the film later, and several other factors.
Refer to this guide to find out which format suits the needs of your project the best and then choose a format accordingly.
2. What is your platform of choice
A YouTube video’s format will not be the same as that of a Netflix documentary. Your platform determines which format you shoot and edit in. A great way to go about this is to read the guidelines for the format in which you’re planning to create the video. We’ve already covered the requirements for YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram in this article.
Pro Tip: Creating videos for any of your social media handles is super easy with InVideo’s video maker, which gives you access to thousands of templates, stock assets, and more.
3. How you plan to edit the video
If your video requires heavy editing, the inclusion of motion graphics, and lossless sharing, you will need to choose formats that allow you to do all of these things without altering the quality of your video or audio. You’ll also need a high-quality file format if you plan to convert the footage into another format.
Most video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro supports the latest and even the most common codecs. This means that you’ll be able to edit the videos without much hassle or without having to convert to another file format.
4. How long is your video going to be
For longer takes, it’s best to pick a format that compresses your video to a smaller size with little loss of quality. Most recording devices will employ the AVCHD format. You also need to ensure that you don’t burn through your storage while recording or storing the data. Based on the length of the video, be mindful of the storage capability. If you are going to use Blu-Ray discs for delivery, they can hold approx. 2 hours of video at the highest quality. If your video is longer than 2 hours, you might have to lower the quality by selecting a lower bitrate.
5. How do you plan to share your video
If you are sharing a video to get feedback from a client or even with friends for leisure, it is best to stick to a format like MP4 because it is playable on most devices, systems, and software.
But if you’re sharing the final version of a video, the format will depend on what the output is for. For instance, if you want to upload a video to your website and mass distribute it via a web page, a WEBM format is the best use case. One thing to remember is that you will have to choose your storage device accordingly to accommodate larger sizes in case of sharing higher-quality videos.
While there isn’t a universal “best video file format”, you can pick the best one for your needs using the information we’ve shared above. Understanding the difference between each format and where they are applicable can save you a lot of time and effort while editing, exporting, and distributing your videos.
Now that you’re all geared up, try these 11 best free video editing software or learn how you can make some cool edits to your videos in under 5 minutes!
If you found this article helpful and would like to learn more about this topic, about editing or marketing your videos, check out our YouTube Channel.
This post was written by Shayne and edited by Adete from Team InVideo