If you believe technology has made things simpler, you obviously haven’t uploaded a video on the Internet. Here is a glossary to help you understand the different video formats and how you can convert one to the other.
Audio Video Interleave stores data that can be encoded in various codecs (Codec is a program that compresses/decompresses digital data as per the file format). It uses less compression than similar formats like MPEG and MOV. AVI files mostly contain M-JPEG or DivX codecs.
Used in: Camcorder recordings
What if you need to convert, say, a .mov file to a .3gp? Go online and hunt for free tools that convert just about any video format. We like Prism’s Video Converter and FormatFactory, but you might find others that suit your needs better.
Windows Media Video has been developed by Microsoft and is a compressed video file format for several proprietary codecs. The original codec was designed as a competitor to RealVideo for Internet streaming applications.
Used in: Physical delivery formats such as HD DVD and Blu-ray disc
This common video format was standardised by MPEG (Moving Pictures Experts Group). It incorporates MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 audio and video compression. It was an early standard for lossy compression of video and audio without excessive quality loss. This helped make video CDs, digital cable, satellite TV and digital audio broadcasting possible.
Used in: Video CDs and satellite TV
MPEG-4 is the expanded version of MPEG-1. It helped support video and audio data, 3-D content, low bit rate encoding and Digital Rights Management. Today MP4 is one of the most commonly used formats for sharing video files on the Internet.
Used in: Online streaming and cell phones
This is a common multimedia format used for saving movies and other video files. It uses a proprietary compression algorithm developed by Apple Computer and is compatible with both Macintosh and Windows platforms.
Used in: Instant on-streaming playback
Developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), this is a simplified version of the MP4 file format. It was designed as a multimedia format for transmitting audio and video files between cell phones and the Internet.
Used in: Mobile phones that support video capture
RealMedia is a multimedia file format created by RealNetworks and may contain audio or video data, or both. It can be a downloaded file or a streaming media file, which is played back as it is downloaded.
Used in: Streaming media files over the Internet
Advanced Systems Format is a subset of the WMV format developed by Microsoft. It is especially meant for streaming media and is used to support playback from digital media and HTTP servers. The most common files types that are contained in an ASF file are Windows Media Audio and Windows Media Video.
Used in: Streaming media over the Internet
Shockwave Flash, a partially open repository for multimedia and animated vector graphics. It can include text as well as raster graphics. If you want to play this in Web browsers, you will need to install the Flash plug-in.
Used in: Animated vector graphics on the Web
Video Object is a file format that contains a majority of the data stored on the disc, including video, audio and subtitles. It is usually formated as an MPEG-2 system stream.
Used in: Video DVDs