When you record, edit, or convert videos you may stop and think what format you should use. Needless to say you will undoubtedly want to select the ‘best’ video format – but may not know what that is.
The fact of the matter is that the ‘best’ video format to select hinges on how you intend the video to be used:
Distribute the Video File in General
If you’re going to distribute the video file in general and plan on numerous people viewing it – compatibility should be your priority. The format that you choose should be as widely-supported as possible on different devices and platforms.
As things stand the best format to fit that criteria is MP4 with H.264 as it is supported on most devices including PCs, mobile devices, browsers, and more.
Upload to Online Video Platforms or Social Media
Every online video and social media platform will generally have its own set of recommended upload settings that encompass the video format, resolution, frame rate, aspect ratio, bitrates, and other settings. Ideally you should use the format that is recommended to make sure you have no issues uploading the video.
On top of that if the platform internally converts the video to other format its quality is more likely to be preserved if you stuck to the recommended specifications.
Most platforms right now tend to prefer MP4 with H.264 and it is a safe choice in general. That said it may help to check this list of current video specifications.
Burn a DVD Video
Video DVDs have their own set of specifications and require the use of MPEG-2 in VOB containers as the format. Some newer DVD players may technically be able to play other formats, but many do not.
Compress the Video File Size
Video formats that use newer codecs are generally preferable for compressing the video file size, as they tend to provide better compression rates. For example the HEVC (H.265) video codec can compress H.264 by up to 50%, and the AV1 codec can compress HEVC by up to 30%.
The main issue however is that newer codecs are not as widely-supported and so there may be some difficulty viewing them. That is why the most practical approach is to check if HEVC is supported and use it if possible, or if not fall back to H.264.
Edit Videos or Store Them Prior to Post-Production
It is normally best to keep videos in a lossless format for editing purposes. However that may not always be practical due to the storage space that it requires and the fact that many consumer recording devices export videos using lossy compression.
If the video is already compressed the best thing you can do is to store it in that original form and only convert its format after post-production.
If you need to convert videos you can click here for more information. Based on the list above you should be able to easily determine the best format to use, and can convert your videos accordingly.
It should be noted that some of the specific formats listed are subject to change – as newer formats may eventually replace them. However that normally happens quite gradually, and so there is no immediate need to be concerned.