How to Choose the Best Video File Format

How to Choose the Best Video File Format

With so many different video file formats out there - MP4, MOV and AVI to name just a few - it can be tricky knowing which one to choose for your clips. What's the difference between them? Is there a difference between them, in fact? What's the benefit of picking one over another?

Those are the questions on everyone's lips. And we're here to talk you through it all.

The best video file format for you will depend on a number of factors. Quality, file size, and your intended use are all points to take into consideration when choosing a video file format. Does the video need to be of the highest possible quality? Does it need to have a super-fast load time for quick and easy streaming? Do you need the file to be compatible with a wide range of computer systems, media players, and video-sharing platforms?

In this guide, we'll talk you through five of the most common video file formats, their pros and cons, and examples of when each one might be the best video file format for the job.

Video file formats explained


MP4 is the most common type of video file format. It's very versatile and compatible with most devices and platforms. MP4 compresses videos, making the file size much smaller but without significantly affecting the quality of the video. In short, it's a great all-rounder.


  • Compatible with most media players

  • Compatible with most video-sharing platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

  • Small file sizes without a huge loss of quality


  • Slightly lower definition than other formats

What it's best for

  • YouTube videos

  • Social media videos


M4V was produced by Apple, and it's very similar to MP4. The only differences are the file extension and the fact that M4V files are copy-protected by DRM (digital rights management) to prevent unauthorized reproduction of the video. While M4V isn't supported by all media players, it's easy to convert an M4V to MP4 by simply changing the file extension.


  • Copy-protected to prevent unauthorized reproduction

  • Small file size without a huge loss of quality


  • M4V files can only be accessed on Apple devices or certain media players

What it's best for

  • Protecting your videos against piracy (if you're not worried about limited access)


MOV was also developed by Apple, and it's one of the best video file formats for full-length movies. Since the videos are often long and the quality is high, these files tend to be large. MOV is compatible with a wide range of video-sharing platforms, and although it was developed by Apple, it works on Windows too, but only using QuickTime or VLC.


  • High quality

  • Widely supported by video-sharing platforms

  • Can store different multimedia elements (such as video, audio, or text) as separate tracks


  • Large file sizes

  • Poor compatibility with media players other than QuickTime or VLC

What it's best for

  • Full-length movies

  • TV


AVI was developed by Microsoft back in 1992. It's one of the most commonly used video file formats, particularly for TV, and it's compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as all major web browsers. AVI files are very high quality, but the file sizes are large, which means they take up a lot of storage space.


  • High video quality

  • Compatible with most systems, browsers, players, and platforms


  • Large file sizes require a lot of storage space

What it's best for

  • Short videos and adverts

  • TV


WebM is an open-source video format developed by Google for the purpose of sharing files online. WebM files are supported by all major browsers. File sizes are small, so they load very quickly and stream easily, making this the best video file format for live streaming and for embedding on your website without slowing down page load speed.


  • Small file sizes which load quickly

  • Good quality real-time video delivery

  • Compatible with major video-sharing platforms


  • Not the best compatibility with mobile devices

When to choose it

  • For embedding on your website

  • For live streaming

MP4 vs AVI

MP4 and AVI are both compatible with a wide range of systems, browsers, players, and platforms. MP4 is the better file format if you need the file size to be small and don't mind the quality being reduced slightly, while AVI is the better option if high quality is the priority.

MP4 vs MOV

While both MP4 and MOV are supported by most video-sharing platforms, MP4 is compatible with a wider range of media players. MP4 file sizes are smaller and better if you're creating shorter videos for social media, while MOV files are higher quality and better for full-length movies.


MOV and AVI are both brilliant file formats for full-length films. AVI has greater compatibility with media players, but MOV is better quality than AVI.

We hope you've enjoyed learning more about the best video file formats for different situations. When it comes to transcribing a video file, remember that Transcribe supports MP4, M4V, MOV, and AVI.

If you want to convert your video to an audio file for ease of use, then you might also find it useful to learn about the best audio file formats. And if you'd like to convert your video to MP3, use our MP3 converter.

Written By Katie Garrett

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