Although there are many different video formats out there nowadays, some are distinctly more popular than others. Normally there is a good reason for the popularity of certain formats, and knowing what the most popular formats are and why they are popular can help you to identify the right situations to use them.
With that in mind, there are a few formats (both codecs and containers) that you should be aware of:
• MP4 with H.264
Right now MP4 with H.264 is without a doubt the most popular format mainly because it is versatile and enjoys widespread support. It is viewed as a ‘universal’ format because of how widely-supported it is, and you shouldn’t have any difficulty playing it on most devices and platforms.
Additionally most online video platforms prefer MP4 with H.264 and recommend it be used when uploading videos. That is why it helps to convert your videos to MP4 prior to uploading them, and for example you could use Online Video Converter for that.
• HEVC (H.265)
As the successor to H.264, H.265 is designed to cater to the ever-evolving requirements placed on video codecs and is often paired with MP4 or MKV as a container. The most noticeable benefit to using it is the fact that it has much better compression, and can reduce the file size of H.264 videos by about 50%.
Unfortunately H.265 is not as widely-supported as its predecessor and its rollout hasn’t exactly been smooth. On top of that it is now likely to be challenged by AV1 – another new codec.
It may be confusing but MPEG-2 is both a codec and container, albeit one that is fairly dated. For now it is still fairly frequently used due to the fact that it is the format in which DVD video is encoded.
The popularity of MPEG-2 is likely to continue so long as DVDs are in use, and even though new DVD players often support other formats – it is regarded as the safer option for the sake of backwards-compatibility.
• Matroska (MKV)
As an open-source container, MKV has grown steadily in popularity due to the fact that it is more versatile than most other options and capable of supporting most video features. It still falls short in terms of popularity when compared to MP4, but considering it is much newer that is to be expected.
Whether MKV supplants MP4 or remains a container that is simply used as an alternative to it is yet to be seen.
While subject to change, the formats listed above represent the most popular containers and codecs currently in use. As newer formats are released such as AV1 however, they may very well slowly gain ground and supplant some of the ones listed above – especially if they improve on them significantly.
That being said you should now have a fairly good idea of why some video formats are more popular than other – and should be able to identify situations where you could benefit by using them.
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