How much do you know about video formats? If you aren’t sure or feel that you don’t know that much, it is probably high time to fix that.
While you don’t need to know the technical aspects of video formats and how they work, it helps to understand a few basic facts about them:
File Extensions Are Not Indicative of the Video Format
One of the main misconceptions about video formats is that it is possible to identify them based on the file extension. That is not true, and the file extension of a video is really just indicative of one part of the video format: The video container.
Typically the video format will contain at least one other part: The video codec. For example, a video format uses an MP4 container and an H.264 codec.
Unfortunately, the video codec is not as easy to identify at a glance. It can be checked using specific tools such as MediaInfo that can extract media information, or with some media players.
Different Formats Use Different Compression
Part of the role of the video format is compressing the video data so that it can be stored more efficiently and takes up less space. That is done via the video codec – but different codecs use different types of compression, and their efficiency varies.
Broadly speaking video compression can either be lossless or lossy. Lossless compression does not discard any video data, whereas lossy compression discards data that is considered ‘redundant’.
Most video formats that you run into will probably use lossy compression, as the video file sizes are too large to be practical with lossless compression. On top of that, however, newer video codecs may use more efficient compression algorithms that allow them to compress videos more effectively.
For example, the newer HEVC (H.265) video codec can compress a video using H.264 to about 50% of its file size. Both codecs use lossy compression.
Video Files Need to Be Decoded to Be Viewed
Because video data is compressed via the video format, before the video can be viewed its data needs to first be decompressed – i.e. decoded.
For a video to be decoded the device that is playing it needs to have a software or hardware decoder for the video codec. If it does not the video will not be able to be viewed, and an error stating it is in an ‘unsupported format’ may show up.
Some devices can download software decoders, either in the form of video codec packs or within specialized media players. Hardware decoders require less processing power but need to be built-in when the chip is manufactured.
Video Formats Can Be Converted
One of the most useful facts about video formats is they can be converted – provided you have software that can encode videos. As you can imagine that will let you improve the compression or ensure the video is in a format that can be decoded.
Typically the easiest option is to use specific video converters, like UniConverter, that will let you convert to a wide range of video formats.
Overall these four facts should help you to improve your understanding of video formats and the role that they play. More importantly, they can help you to manage the formats that your video files use to avoid issues playing videos in specific formats – and gain other benefits.