Wrapping your head around concepts like video formats and codecs can be truly terrifying, with large collections of weird letters and numbers like MP4, MOV, and H.264 being thrown around. It’s enough to make anyone’s head explode. While these critical technical concepts for creating and sharing high-quality videos may appear intimidating at first, understanding them can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. Whether you want to be a successful videographer or simply edit videos for fun, understanding video formats and codecs is essential for getting the most out of your efforts.

Why Video Container, Codec, and Video Format Matter

Before we get into technical jargon, let’s review the fundamental role that video formats and codecs play in video production. 

Video Container

Simply put, video formats are “containers” that hold video data. Containers are exactly what they sound like. It’s similar to having a designated location for all of your data. 

  • Containers store the video, audio, subtitles, and metadata that make up a video file;
  • They keep all the elements together so they can be played back synchronously;
  • Containers are identified by their file extensions, such as .mp4, .mov, and .avi;
  • Containers can support different codecs, but not all codecs are compatible with all containers.

The video container determines which video file formats you use. Make sure you understand which containers are compatible with various codecs and formats. 

Video Codecs

Codecs, on the other hand, describe how the video stream is compressed and encoded. It’s essentially how the items/data are organized in that box “container.” 

  • Codecs are responsible for compressing and decompressing digital video content;
  • They encode video data for storage and decode it for playback;
  • Common codecs include H.264, H.265, VP9, and AV1;
  • H.264 is the most widely used codec for web streaming and online video due to its efficiency and broad compatibility.

Let us imagine a world without video codecs. Uncompressed audio and video files can occupy a lot of space, especially for long recordings. Without video codecs, you’d have to wait a couple of minutes, or even a couple of hours, to watch any video on YouTube due to the large file size. That’s no fun, agree? Fortunately, you can use codecs to compress multimedia files. Voila — you can watch your favorite YouTube videos with just one click.

Video Format

Video formats refer to the way video information is stored on digital devices or servers. It consists of a container and a codec. The container determines the file extension and holds the video elements, while the codec compresses and decompresses the data. When choosing a video format for the video, consider compatibility, codec support, and the intended use case. For example, MP4 with H.264 is widely compatible and suitable for most web and mobile applications. Newer codecs (H.265 and AV1) offer better compression efficiency but have limited support. 

The good news is that you can change the video format if needed with the help of a video converter. It is easy to use, doesn’t require technical knowledge of how to change a video file type, and will convert the file to the target format in a matter of minutes.

Let’s Wrap up!

Did you know that 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and that 37% of all internet traffic is attributed to YouTube? That’s the truth; digital videos can be found everywhere — from YouTube to Instagram. Each platform requires a different format, which can be difficult to understand. However, if you do not follow the guidelines, your video may appear blurry, run extremely slowly, or fail to upload at all, unless you convert video files properly. Getting the above foundations right from the start will ensure that your video reaches its destination and functions properly.

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