What’s the best video format?

Video is quickly becoming content marketing’s new darling. We just can’t get enough of it. Let’s run through some numbers.

These stats (and all the others) make a pretty compelling case for adding video to your content marketing strategy.

But making a video isn’t the same as writing a blog post. There’s a lot more tech involved. You’ve got to create, edit, and package it in a way that works across different platforms. Most Mac users have clicked away from a video at some point because it required an update to Flash Player. (No, Adobe. My Mac still won’t play with you.)

In this post, we’re going to take a look at a crucial part of the video creation process: choosing the right format. This can get pretty technical, so to avoid getting bogged down, we’re just going to scratch the surface and focus on formats that work well for videos designed to be streamed online.

What is video format?

Video format is made up two parts: a container and a codec.

The container comprises the ‘meat’ of the file — data like the video, audio, and metadata — and holds them all together.

The codec is software that compresses and decompresses the video, so it effects the final file size and video/audio quality. The current standard for the web is h.264.

Different containers work only with specific codecs and the other way around. Video formats can be identified by the file extension at the end of your filename (.mov, .avi, and .mp4).

Each video format (and there are a lot of them) is optimized for a specific use. That’s why certain formats like .mov or .mp4 are perfect for videos on the web, while others work really well for Blu-Ray videos or movies projected on a cinema screen.

Finding the best video format

So, what is the best video file format? That depends on what the video is for and how your audience will watch it. If we’re going to talk about formats, we need to talk about one other number. The humble bitrate.

So what is bit rate? One bit is the smallest unit of computer data. The bit rate is the number of bits displayed over a unit of time. In online streaming, we usually measure by millions of bits per second, so “1 mbps” is one million bits per second, but you can also measure by kbps (kilobytes per second — one thousand bits per second) or gbps (gigabytes per second — one billion bits per second).

As a rule of thumb, the higher the bit rate, the higher the quality of the video.

But you don’t want to pick the video with the highest bitrate! Why?

Formatting a video is a balancing act. You want to create something that streams immediately but looks great — this means balancing the compression and bit rate against watchability. High-powered internet connections and better software are making this a lot easier than it used to be, but it’s still an issue for video makers.

So, when choosing a format for online streaming, you need to pick something that works for the purpose with a bit rate that won’t break the internet.

The best format for online video

Time to choose!

Your format needs to be supported by major players. Your audience can’t really enjoy and share your content if it doesn’t work properly, right!? .mp4, .flv and .wmv are all supported by major platforms.

Looking to quickly check what formats are supported by the major social media platforms? We’ve got you. We’ve just included links here, because the info changes and it’s best to go to the source.

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