Video formats can be confusing, luckily there are only a few fundamental concepts that you need to understand. It is important to know that a video format is more than just a file extension. An extension could be a container, or a codec.
Confused? Lets look at how it all works.
What are Codecs and Containers?
The majority of videos are compressed – which means they have been altered to take up less space on a computer. A codec simply compresses and decompresses this data, interpreting the video file and determining how to play it on your screen.
Containers are essentially a bundle of media files. A container usually consists of a video and an audio codec, but may also contain information such as subtitles. Containers allow you to choose one codec for your video and one for your audio.
TS – Transport Stream
A video Sransport Stream file is integrated with standard MPEG-2 video data. The video transport stream files contain video data and other interactive features of a DVD disk, such as menus and tables with items that can be selected by viewers. Standard DVD players are implemented with support for playing these TS files, and many video playback applications, video development tools and DVD creation programs can be used to open and view the content of these .ts files.
AVI – Audio Video Interleave
AVI files are the long running digital video container, created by Microsoft. The format’s popularity has dipped in recent times but AVI still reigns supreme with the swarms of legacy videos propagating the internet. AVI was replaced by Microsoft’s Windows Media Video (WMV) format and usually offers less compression than comparable video file formats including MOV and MPEG. It also does not allow users to select aspect ratios manually, which can be a rather irritating feature.
The H.264 codec is a popular standard for high definition digital video. It’s a versatile codec that works with very high and very low bitrates. For example, it can send low resolution and highly compressed videos across the web and then can easily encode high definition movies at high bitrates to play on a HD television. The H.264 codec is often used with digital video cameras and camcorders and it uses the AVCHD container.
H.265, or High Efficiency Video Coding(HEVC), is a new video coding standard that specifies how to decode video, which is the successor to Advanced Video Coding (AVC), also known as H.264.
VP9 is YouTube’s open source alternative to HEVC.
QT or MOV – QuickTime
MOV and QT are QuickTime Movie file formats created by Apple, both support a wide range of codecs. The .mov format saves video files and the .qt suffix is cross-platform, meaning that it supports both Mac and Windows systems.
AVCHD – Advanced Video Coding, High Definition
The result of a Sony and Panasonic collaboration as a video file format for digital camcorders, AVCHD is commonly used for data compressed with the H.264 codec. It supports both standard definition and high definition variants and the latest 2.0 version supports 3D.
MPG – MPEG Video File
The video file format integrates MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video and audio compression. MPEG-1 is almost exclusively used for VCDs (Video Compact Disks ). MPEG-2 (also known as H.262) is used for DVDs and broadcast HDTV.
MP4 – MPEG-4 Video File
The MPEG-4 format is used to share files on the web. Video and audio tracks are compressed separately where the video file is compressed with MPEG-4 encoding and audio with AAC compression.