12 Different Types of Video Files and Formats

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12 Different Types of Video Files and Formats

The amount of digital media we consume has exponentially increased in recent years, and as a result, devices have evolved to accommodate this demand. With this evolution comes a wide array of file types in which the media, mostly video, is available to us.

Most of us identify the formats from the file extensions we see when watching or editing video files. With the plethora of video file types to work with, however, it can be flustering to figure out which format works best for a particular device or system.  For instance, you may be left scratching your head as to which format is most compatible with your 4K or 8K monitor versus, say, your Mac.

To add to this confusion is the possibility of a video file not playing with your intended device, leading to frustration and wasted effort. That’s why staying informed about the properties and compatibility of the various video files and formats can help make smoother your media consumption experience.

This article will give you a rundown of the most commonly used video formats and their properties to help you better pick wiser next time. By the end of this article, you will have a better idea of the differences between popular formats such as MP4, AVI, MOV, WMV, and more.

Let’s get into it!


First on our list is the trusty MP4 (MPEG-4 Part 14) format. MP4 is a versatile format that is compatible with most devices and platforms, making it perfect for streaming and sharing online.

But what makes MP4 so great? Well, it offers high-quality video and audio output while keeping file sizes low, thanks to its efficient compression algorithm. That means you can enjoy crisp, clear videos without hogging storage space. 

Plus, the all-rounder MP4 is playable on most of our devices, from smartphones to laptops and even gaming consoles.

MP4 is a file format we all know — and have grown to love — and is primarily used to store audio files.

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If you’re a Windows 10 user, you may have noticed that the file output of the default video camera is in AVI.

AVI (Audio Video Interleave) is an “oldie” of video file formats, introduced by Microsoft in the 1990s. It’s a lossless format that preserves quality during video compression, making it a go-to choice for professionals. 

However, the large file size of AVI videos can pose problems for streaming or sharing online. While compatible with most devices, not all video players can handle this format. So, if you’re an AVI fan, ensure your player can handle it before hitting play. Despite its limitations, AVI has stood the test of time and remains a relatively popular video file type.

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AVI is a lossless video file format that preserves quality during video compression.

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MKV (Matroska Multimedia Container) is a versatile video file format that is highly preferred by users who desire to store high-quality videos with multiple audio and subtitle tracks in a single file. This open-source format is compatible with most devices and platforms, making it ideal for multimedia enthusiasts. 

MKV’s ability to support multiple streams of video, audio, and subtitles in one file makes it popular with P2P torrenting file-sharing services like The Pirate Bay. This makes it an attractive format for those who want to share or download movies and TV shows with multiple language options.

That said, it’s worth noting that not all video players can support the MKV file type, so it would be a good idea to check your player’s compatibility before diving into your media collection.

mp4 vs mkv
MKV is great for storing high-quality videos with multiple audio and subtitle tracks in a single file.



Apple developed MOV (Apple QuickTime Movie) as a video file format for their QuickTime player. Professionals in the film industry also prefer MOV because it supports high-quality video and audio output. If you’re an Apple user, the odds are you’ve likely come across MOV. It’s also compatible with most devices and platforms, besides Apple’s. 

However, it’s worth noting that not all video players can handle the MOV format. So, whether you’re a professional or just a lover of high-quality videos, be sure to check your player’s compatibility before diving into your media collection.

quicktime movie player app apple iphone
MOV is a video file format exclusive to Apple’s Quicktime Player.



Short for Flash Video, FLV is a video file format developed by Adobe that is perfect for online streaming and sharing. Its efficient compression algorithm and small file size make it a popular choice for video-sharing websites such as YouTube. While most video players can handle the FLV format, it’s worth noting that it’s not compatible with all devices and platforms. 

Some web browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox cache FLV files, making them accessible even without an internet connection. Despite its limitations, FLV remains a favorite among online video streaming services.

flv file format
FLV is a video file format developed by Adobe that is best for online streaming and sharing.

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WMV (Windows Media Video) is a video file format developed by Microsoft for their Windows Media Player. It’s a popular format for online streaming and sharing, thanks to its high-quality video and audio output, and efficient compression algorithm.

Like MP4, it’s compatible with most devices and platforms. Not all video players can handle the WMV format, so it’s essential to check before hitting play.

Content creators and streamers favor WMV due to its ability to maintain excellent quality while keeping file sizes small, which has contributed to its popularity. Additionally, some browsers cache WMV files, which means that you can watch them without the need for a download.

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WMV is a video file format developed by Microsoft for their Windows Media Player.



If you’re intending to share video content with friends or stream it for the world, you might want to do it in WebM format.

First, it’s an open-source video file format that’s perfect for online sharing. Google developed WebM, which utilizes the VP9 video codec known for its high-quality video output and excellent compression, making it a popular choice for those who want to stream video content online.

Compatible with most devices and platforms, it’s a preferred choice among video content creators like gamers. Popular web browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge support WebM, which boosts its popularity and makes it a convenient option for web developers in the video-sharing space. 

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WebM is great for streaming and sharing video content.

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If you’re a fan of physical media, chances are you’re familiar with the fading DVD, and thus VOB files.

VOB (Video Object) is a video file format used for storing DVD videos. It’s a container format that contains the actual video, audio, subtitle, and menu content of a DVD disc. This makes VOB files a convenient way to store and share DVD content without the need for a physical disc. 

Most DVD players and video players can play VOB files. However, some devices may have difficulty playing them due to the proprietary nature of the format. Nevertheless, VOB files remain a popular format for DVD video storage and sharing.

VOB is used to store DVD videos.

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3GP is a compressed version of the MP4 file format. This makes it the ideal choice for mobile devices with limited storage space and bandwidth.

3GP is a popular video file format people use for recording videos on mobile phones and sharing them over mobile networks. Its compact size makes it an ideal choice for those looking to save space on their devices while still being able to record and share videos seamlessly.

With the rise of mobile video consumption, 3GP remains an important video file format that’s accessible even with a poor internet connection, such as 3G internet. It allows for smooth playback on mobile devices with little buffering or interruptions.

woman smiling at phone
3GP is best for mobile phones because it’s compressed, compact, and accessible.



When it comes to high-quality video compression, H.264 is the standard bearer and the go-to video compression standard for most online streaming and sharing needs. With high-quality video output and great video compression, it’s compatible with most devices and platforms, making it a popular choice. 

H.264 was not solely developed for web use, as it found its application during the heydays of Blu-ray discs, digital television, and other high-definition video formats. To ensure smooth playback, some browsers even cache H.264 video for faster loading. With its versatility and quality, it’s no wonder H.264 remains a go-to choice for video creators and consumers alike.

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H.264 is ideal for high-quality video compression.

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HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding) is also known as H.265. This video file type is the new kid on the block and its name says it all.

HEVC is arguably the future of video compression, known for its ability to compress videos into small file sizes. It compresses video files with superior lossless quality, making it the preferred format for 4K and 8K video due to its ability to deliver high-quality content even at lower bitrates.

However, due to its more advanced compression algorithms, H.265 requires more processing power to encode and decode video data compared to similar formats like H.264, which can make it slower and more resource-intensive to work with.

HEVC file format professional video camera high-quality video image
HEVC is known for its ability to compress videos into small file sizes without compromising on quality.

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Apple, Inc. developed ProRes, a video codec designed for post-production workflows in 2007. This format provides a balance between file size and image quality, overall providing a high-quality, intermediate codec that offers efficient encoding and decoding of high-resolution video files with minimal loss in quality. The ProRes codec supports a wide range of frame sizes and frame rates and offers a variety of compression options.

There are several variants of ProRes, including ProRes 422, ProRes 422 HQ, ProRes 422 LT, ProRes 422 Proxy, and ProRes 4444. Each variant has different compression rates and is designed for different types of video production.

The film and television industry widely uses ProRes because it can provide high-quality video while keeping file sizes manageable. This format also integrates seamlessly into current workflows as it has extensive support from editing software and hardware.

ProRes raw codec two professional video cameras
ProRes is great for versatility, supporting a wide range of compression options, frame sizes, and frame rates.


Wrapping Up

It’s not every day that we have to know the file format of the videos on our devices, but when we do, it’s helpful to be informed about the properties and compatibility of various video file types.

Now that we’ve wrapped our heads around popular formats such as MP4, AVI, MOV, and MKV, choosing the right format should now be less of a hassle, whether it’s for online streaming, mobile devices, or professional video editing.

12 Different Types of Video Files and Formats FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What's a video codec?

A codec is a piece of software or hardware that compresses video and audio data for storage or transmission and then decompresses it for playback. It’s essentially an encoder-decoder.

What is the difference between video codecs and video file formats?

Video codecs are used to compress and decompress video data, while file formats determine how the compressed data is stored and organized.

What’s the difference between lossy and lossless compression?

Lossless compression reduces file size without losing any data, while lossy compression reduces file size by discarding some of the data that the human eye can’t see, which can lead to a decrease in overall quality.

What’s the best video format for 8K streaming?

Currently, the best and most widely used video format for 8K streaming is HEVC/H.265, which is known for its high compression efficiency, allowing for 8K content to be streamed at a lower bitrate while maintaining high-quality visuals.

What is the difference between H.264 and H.265 video codecs?

H.265 is a newer and more advanced codec compared to H.264 capable of compressing video data twice as efficiently as H.264. This means that video files encoded in H.265 format can be half the size of those encoded in H.264 format, while still maintaining the same level of image quality.

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