Internet Video Formats

There are different types of video formats that can be used on a website BUT you need to choose the right one because they will and will not work depending on what type of browser you are using or platform. Here are more details

  1. First things first
    In a digital video suitable for distribution on the Internet we distinguish three basic parts: the video itself, the audio and the file contains both (and other things to ignore). Well, each of which can have different formats.
  2. The video itself
    It be encoded digitally and almost always packed (if not, we would need a huge bandwidth to move …). The programs that encode and compress (or undo) are the “famous” codecs. There are several formats, and each may be one or several codecs. Common formats are:

    • MPEG-4
      MPEG-4 is a set of standards defined by the MPEG consortium as an evolution of MPEG-2 (used in digital TV and DVD) and MPEG-1 (used among others in the Video-CD).The compression format is only part of the MPEG-4, is in fact the “Part 2”. But it is known by the name of the standard. Based on the MPEG-4 codecs like DivX have the Xvid and QuickTime.Although it has a reputation for “free” to be defined by a committee, it is actually a proprietary format MPEG consortium (in which are many firms with interests in this market, such as Apple, Microsoft, Panasonic, Sony … intersante list on wikipedia ) but not Adobe or Google, for example (and this is important …)
    • H.264
      What complicates things is that the MPEG-4 format also defines a “better” in “Part 14”, VCA, better known as H.264, fashion format that is standard on phones in the Blu- ray. So H.264 is only “one” MPEG-4, H.264 but always call …That if, at equal size, usually H.264 will give us a much higher quality than MPEG-4.
    • Sorenson Spark
      Sorenson Spark is little known, but turns out to be the codec “original” of the famous Flash Video. Adobe bought the license to Sorenson Media, developers of the format, so often identified with him, but as we will see Flash defines a file format that supports various video formats, not just this one. In any case, it is also of an “owner”
    • Theora
      Theora if Open Source is a format developed by the Xiph.Org Foundation (comes from one owner, who was released by VP3 On2, its developer, at the time). Pretty used in used in all kinds of open source projects but little in applications “commercial”.
    • VP6
      Owner of On2 and licensed to Adobe. Used in the last latest Flash instead of Sorenson Spark.
    • VP8
      Powered by On2 as the VP3 and VP6, was released-irrevocably-in 2010 when Google bought On2. Is therefore Open Source. Although very recent and enjoys very little support, VP8 is the format chosen by Google for Internet video standard for WebM.
    • Windows Media Video and VC-1
      Microsoft proprietary formats, used exclusively in Windows Media. The codec, including Windows, Windows Media Encoder is both WMV to VC-1
  3. The audio formats
    The truth is that they give less trouble, so I will just mention the most important:
  • MP3
    Name where is confusing because it refers to “Part 3” of the MPEG-1, which defined the digital audio format associated with the video. Format widespread since it was first used for compressing and sharing music.
  • AAC
    Advanced Audio Coding. New audio format defined by the MPEG-4.
  • Ogg Vorbis
    Open Source Format Xiph.Org Foundation. The Open Source community argues that its quality is superior to MP3 and AAC. Used in the corresponding projects and commercial applications like Spotify. Is the audio format chosen by Google for WebM standard.
  • Windows Media Audio
    Microsoft proprietary format
  • Dolby Digital and Dolby TrueHD
    Dolby owners. Used DVDs and Blu-ray, respectively.

File formats

We are the containers. The identify by its extension as a file:

  • . Mp4
    MPEG-4 container (it is his “Part 14”). Can contain video in MPEG-4 (ie, the codec created by DivX, Xvid, QuickTime …) and H.264.
  • . Swf,. Flv and. F4v
    They are the successive formats that Adobe has been defined for the Flash video from 2002 until now. The latest versions support Sorenson Spark, VP6 and H.264. The. F4v only supports H.264.
  • . Ogg. Ogv
    Ogg is the container for Open Source Xiph.Org Foundation. Suitable to contain Theora format.
  • . Mkv (Matroska)
    Matroska is an open source format that can contain almost any video format. Very originally used to compress movies to be shared online.Important: container format is selected for Google to WebM.
  • . Avi
    Microsoft’s proprietary container format. Besides Microsoft formats supports many, including MPEG-4.
  • . Mov
    Container is the file owner of Apple QuickTime. It’s actually almost identical to. Mp4, as the QuickTime MPEG relied on to define; But owning Apple has less support on other platforms.

The players

The player is the “program” that embedded in the browser, open the container file (for which you have to understand it) run the appropriate codecs for audio and video formats (for which the have to be in the system) and adds necessary controls to start, stop, forward…

We have several families:

  • The Flash-based
    Programmed Flash, use the Adobe Flash Player, which in addition to supporting Flash formats, it also supports. Mp4.Available for all platforms except iOS (iPod, iPhone & iPad). If not installed directly by the OS, the browser will automatically download.
  • The “Native” HTML5
    HTML5 specifications <video> add a tag that the browser has to know how to interpret. In its simplest version should be something like:

You just need to:

The browser supports HTML5 (currently only Safari, Chrome and Firefox 4 betas Explorer 9). The browser understands the file format (currently only. Mp4 although Chrome beta also supports Theora and WebM, of course). The codec is installed on the OS.

Those based on Java

Rare and more complex to develop. They can withstand what the programmer has decided if the codec is in the OS.

The world Adobe.

Owner but the most widespread. Composed of successive file formats, both graduates and video formats that can be considered as “own” and recently added H.264.

Do not confuse this “pack” with the Flash Player, Adobe video player that, in addition to supporting these formats can also manage the “pack” MPEG-4 we talk later: not that include the Flash format. mp4, is the Flash player which supports it.

The world MPEG-4. It has standard image but is proprietary. Supports only their own formats but has positioned itself as the future for your support in HTML5.

Despite not confuse names. Mp4 (container file format defined by the MPEG-4) MPEG-4 (video format defined in the MPEG-4). Nor should we forget that a. Mp4 can also contain H.264 video (also defined in the MPEG-4)

MPEG Format

(Players: Based HTML5 and Adobe Flash Player)

The world Google: Webm.

It is the newcomer. Defined by Google to compete with Adobe and MPEG (mainly Apple) and the strategic approach of Open Source. It’s just a sum of technologies that already exist, but they charge a special force Google’s bet.


The Open Source world. And finally, outside the world of business and the interests of business and the “purity” and the halo of free software have the “pack” of the Xiph.Org Foundation. For your own home is also limited to a minority use. You can see an example of its use in WikiMedia project

(Players: HTML5, non-standard and specific plugins)


The world offers us more combinations Flash format, but not work on Apple mobile is a serious handicap. But when Apple has declared war and has not included by default in the latest laptops.

The world HTML5 +. Mp4 seems the future, but at present the lack of support in Explorer and Firefox (+ 70% market share) it seriously limits.

On the other hand Google has decided that MPEG is a proprietary format (and that Google is not “the” owner) and has begun to suggest a boycott. From the outset, it appears that the only support Chrome HTML5 WebM (. Mkv + VP8). One hopes that this decision not to transfer to other “their world” (YouTube, Apps, GMail …)

The reality is that publishers, whether content or advertising are forced today to produce and distribute them in various formats depending on the platform and browser with which they are.

For the home user and SMEs, the most popular platforms (YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion …) solve this problem by transparently charge of generating as many versions as necessary to ensure universal distribution.

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