Video file formats

The video file format, also known as the container format, tells how video data is stored in the file . As video compression is still being developed at an amazing rate most video formats today are just container formats that provide data that is then later used by video compression/decompression. The compression/decompression component is called a codec and there are different codecs for both sound and audio. Some formats, like mpeg, require another component called a splitter to be able to separate the video from the audio.

Video compression - codecs

Video codecs is the actual code for the video compression/decompression. There are different codecs available for compression and for decompression. Typically developers of codecs charge money for using the compression codecs but allow sharing of the decompression codecs. In other words, they want money from the one who create the video not everyone who watches it.

Popular video formats

There are a number of popular video formats available. Here is a quick overview of the most common ones.


AVI is perhaps the most common video container format introduced by Microsoft. DirectShow has native support for the AVI container format.


WMW is the new and more recent video format from Microsoft. The big difference compared to the AVI format is that it has support for DRM and can be streamed over the internet. DirectShow has native support for the WMW container format.


Mpeg is available in several versions and is a standard for video. The mpeg standard includes both the format of the video and the audio and how they are compressed. MPEG1 was designed for videos on CDs, Mpeg2 for videos on DVD. The latest mpeg version for video is mpeg4. More about mpeg video file format

Real video

The real video format is also a container format with compression. There are several versions of the real video compression. The real format was originally designed for streaming video over low-bandwidth internet connections. More about real media

Flash video

Flash video is the video format supported by the flash player. Since almost all users have the flash player installed it is very popular for publishing videos on internet. Using flash saves you the issue with having to make sure users have the right codec or plugin installed. You can almost rely on users having the flash player. More about Flash video

Theora video

The world wide web consortion that decides on internet standards are hard at work adding a new video tag to the next html standard. When this eventually happens, all browsers will support video natively just as they support images. Theora has been suggested as the new native video format by w3c for use in the video tag. Currently the Theora format is not very common. More about Theora


Quicktime is Apples format for video. It is a container format as well as compression algorithms. Quicktime is most popular with Mac users as it is installed with all Apple computers. More about quicktime

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