Skip to content

The Most Common Video File Extensions, formats and codecs


Video file extensions and formats are of different types. This is not surprising because they each serve different purposes. As a video content creator or a videographer, you need to be aware of the various video file extensions of video formats out there. The knowledge can help you a great deal in your profession and help you to even create better videos.

 It is important to use the best video format when projecting your videos on big screens or when you are uploading the video on websites, like YouTube. Using the right video format will improve the quality of your video and make it more presentable to all who may want to watch it.

In the remaining part of this write-up, we will show you some of the most common video file extensions formats available out there today.

Containers, codecs and compression

Video files tend to be large and this is one of the most obvious challenges. The size of the files even gets larger with the use of high-resolution monitors and cameras that make both 8K and 4K accessible to the general public. The existing limitation in available bandwidth or storage space makes the issue of size a very important one. Consequently, each video file comes with a measure of compression degree and available in the codec form.

Video codecs

A video codec works by compressing and decompressing video files. The compression can either be lossless or lossy also.

The lossy type does the compression by creating smaller sizes of files. However, it leaves out some amount of data and this will cause the quality of the video to be somewhat low. This is apparent with a series of compression. The recurrent compression will culminate in the loss of a significant quantity of data in a cumulative manner.

The lossless type of compression, on the other hand, will safely keep every data from the original file and this will ensure a video with far better quality; it will equally prevent the progressive damage or degradation of the video files consequent of multiple saves. While the lossless type ensures better video quality, it will result in a large file since it does not leave out any of the files.

Most Common Video File Extensions

These are the most common video file types and their extensions:

  • HEVC (H.265), which makes video compression a lot more efficient than before.
  • MPEG-2, which came before MPEG-4 and was the standard codec for early versions of Blu-ray and DVDs discs. End-users that need video streaming software rarely use this since those who have such needs can access a better option.
  • DivX, which is among the oldest video code types and can maximize the quality of the video, while sacrificing the larger size of files. It also has use in various commercial settings where there is little concern about the size of the video file.
  • MPEG-4, which commonly streams videos and equally useful for the online streaming of videos. The compatibility range is very wide too.
  • H264, which is among the most common set of video codec formats and it is also among the most efficient codec. It comes with smaller sizes of files and will not require much download data or storage space. This video format is compatible with MP4 containers and you can play them on various streaming services and video players

Video containers

As its name implies, video container bundles all video elements and store all of them in a container or one package. Some of the elements thus stored are the codec, video metadata, subtitles, audio streams and so on. Each of the types of video containers is highly compatible with a particular video codec. The video editing software you use should only permit the end-user to select a compatible pairing. However, it must attempt to plan what container and codec that you will like to use far ahead of time as this will help you to avoid the occurrence of any issuer when the final video is being rendered.

Some of the most common examples of video containers are highlighted below

  • MP4, which is about the closest to a universal standard of video formats. It is compatible with several versions of video players.
  • WMV, which also means Windows Media Video. It has the smallest file size among all other video formats. It is a very good option if there is a need to send the video via various methods, including email. However, the quality is on the low side when you compare it to other formats in this category.
  • AVI, which is among the most universally accepted and also among the oldest video file formats available out there today.
  • FLV, which mainly works for Adobe Flash Player. The videos that come with this format are relatively common. The file size is small and you can play it on third party flash players. Be that as it may, its use is not as common as it was in times past.
  • MOV, which you can also call QuickTime player. It originates from Apple and works mainly for QuickTime player. The quality of the MOV video format is usually very high. Be that as it may, the volume of the file is very huge. One other factor worthy of consideration is the compatibility of this video format; it is not especially compatible with other non-QuickTime video players. Even at that, you can still play such videos on non-QuickTime players via several third-party video players.

Which one to consider

As a newbie choosing the right video format, you may get confused about the right one to choose. Most individuals involved in video creation go for either H.264 or MP4 when creating videos. Most individuals that upload videos on YouTube go for either of these formats. They go for either of the formats because it gives a mix of high quality and small file size. This format is also available on video cameras. Furthermore, it can be played on different types of devices, both mobile and otherwise.

What is your specific need? This is a very important question you should ask before you choose the right video format to use. You should also consider who your audience is, as well as, bear in mind how the audience will watch your videos.