MP4, MKV, AVI: Video file formats explained

Video Format

Videos come in different types of formats which can pose an issue of compatibility with your video player be it on your smartphone, laptop or even smart TV. Also not having the right format can get you video rejected when trying to upload due to an incompatible format. All of these might make it tiring at times figuring out which is which or what it entails. A video format as to do with the ‘Container‘ where the compressed video and audio are held as well as other data like subtitle, metadata (video title or other extra information) alongside the ‘Codec‘.

Videos in its raw form are usually very large and need to be compressed for easy sharing and storage. This can be done using different methods. Each method has a codec that is used to read the compressed video or audio file. The video file format dictates which type of codec is used but the container which is usually indicated by the extension. Some of the common video extensions you might come across are discussed below.

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MP4 (MPEG-4)

This is a standard developed by the Motion Pictures Expert Group and was introduced back in 1998 mainly for sharing files on the internet. This format employs different compression methods for both audio and video files. For audio, it uses AAC codec and for the video either MPEG-4 or H.264 codec. It is compatible with virtually all media players, web browsers and is used in a number of video sharing or streaming platform. It also takes video files down to small sizes while still offering decent quality

MKV (Matroska Video Container)

Going back to its inception in 2002, the MKV format remains one of the most versatile supporting a wide variety of codec types for both video and audio. It can harbor more than one subtitle, chapters and other add ons which makes more options available with this file format. However, it is not quite as popular as the rest on this list but you should be able to play it with on most devices depending on the codec inside.

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AVI (Audio Video Interlaced)

Without any doubt, AVI is the oldest among the ones here and supports almost all types of codecs under the sun. It is also very common and can be used almost in any form for any purpose. Videos in this format can be played by most media players especially the old ones.