Not every video format is created equal. Many factors play into making the right decisions as to which file format works best for you. Video file formats are more than an extension – they can contain complex data stored in codecs, containers, and more. Make sure to do your research to help choose which file format works best for your project, the production and the distribution of your video.
.MOV (Apple Quicktime Movie)
When Apple developed the .MOV file, its design was specifically made to support Quicktime Movie Player. If you have ever owned a MAC, you know that this is a default for playing most video files, and Apple products like iPads and iPhones record and save video in this file format. .MOV files store text, audio, and video on different tracks within the same file and when compressed, this format experiences a very minimal loss in quality.
Perfect for: High quality and large file sizes. MOV was designed to save feature-length film. The go-to for MAC users.
.MP4 (Moving Picture Expert Group 4)
.MP4 is one of the most widely used formats for video and is a production industry standard. These files act as “containers”, storing data rather than code and closely resemble the .MOV format. .MP4 compresses audio and video separately and can also be used for storing text, subtitles, and still images. .MP4 files are commonly used for file sharing online.
Perfect for: High quality video used on most any device, browser, or program.
.AVI (Audio Video Interleave)
.AVI is one of the oldest file formats for video developed by Microsoft for Windows and remains the standard for Windows applications. With .AVI, you can expect to get high quality files that take up more space on your computer because it produces less compression than competing file types. In fact, many files in .AVI formats don’t need to use compression at all.
Perfect for: Files that don't need higher compression such as short films and advertisements.
.FLV (Flash Video Format)
If you have ever streamed video on Youtube, Vimeo, Google, or Hulu, you have more than likely viewed a .FLV file. Although many websites have moved to HTML5, it used to be the standard for streaming video online. This container was made for Adobe Flashplayer by Adobe Systems.
Perfect for: Embedded files for sharing online.
.WMV (Windows Media Video)
.WMV was developed by Microsoft for web streaming. It is the smallest video file on the web because the video size will be reduced after compression by sacrificing the video quality. The .WMV video format can be used in email system (maybe the only video format). Since it is developed by Microsoft, you can play the .WMV format video with the Windows Media Player, but you can also play it on Mac computer by downloading .WMV players.
Perfect for: Files that are embedded and can't be played full-screen.
Keep in mind, when uploading your video to different sharing channels – such as Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, or even embedding on your website – there are different parameters for each one (resolution, file size, etc.).