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Everything You Need to Know About Video Format

How often do you watch videos online? Daily? Multiple times a day? Several times an hour? Video content online is dominating our lives. The average American spends nearly six hours a day watching video across every platform. More than an hour of video watching occurs on a smartphone or other mobile device. But, videos are rendered useless if it isn’t formatted correctly.

Given the fact we (should) sleep for 8 hours and work for 8 hours, we’re certainly spending a great deal of our free time in front of screens. Now, there are all sorts of arguments for why this trend is bad… or good… but we’ll spare you the argument. People are watching videos now more than ever. Videos are the not-so-new frontier of promotional media, and marketers are clamoring to get in on the action.

Capturing this audience is one thing, but keeping them is another. You can have the most entertaining content on the planet, but if the presentation is technically difficult to watch because the video has been formatted incorrectly, you’ll quickly lose your hard-earned audience.

Components of Video Formatting

Video format is an important consideration that should be on every marketer’s mind. There are two parts of video file format, a container and a codec. And there are several other metrics, including bitrate and resolution to consider, as well.

Containers

Think of the container as an actual container. In this vessel are the video, audio, captions and all other main components of the file. The container holds everything together. You’re probably already familiar with this concept as containers as they are represented by common video format extensions like .MOV or .MP4.

Codecs

Codec has to do with the file size and determines the way the file is compressed or decompressed. The way codec is formatted will determine the video’s size and quality.

Every video is formatted with some combination of a container and codec. Some containers only work with certain codecs, and some codecs only work with certain containers. The combining of these two things results in what we know as the video file format.

H.264 is widely used as the best codec for digital videos that are meant to be uploaded and viewed online. While H.264 will work best for online sharing and uploading, if you want to keep a high quality master file of your video for archival purposes, we recommend using the AppleProRes 422 codec for this.

Bitrate

A bit is the smallest possible unit of computer data. The bit rate is how quickly the bits can be displayed and interpreted over a period of time, usually measured per second.

Online videos’ bitrates are typically measured in million bits per second (mbps). The higher the bit rate, the better quality your video will be. There is a point of diminishing returns with a file’s bitrate and too high of a bitrate can make for needlessly large file sizes. In general, HD videos won’t benefit much from bitrates exceeding 20 Mbps.

Resolution

Resolution simply deals with video size, measured in pixels. HD resolution is an important trend in video formatting and is classified as any video with a size of 1,920 X 1,080 pixels or greater. This pixel size ensures that there is no quality loss for a video when it is displayed on HD screens.

Balancing all these factors is no easy task. You’re trying to get just the right combination of container, codec, bitrate and resolution so your video looks great and streams quickly on every device. This is why understanding video formatting is so very important.

Types of Video Formats

Overview
Facebook
YouTube
Instagram
Twitter
Overview

There are numerous video formats, and each one has strengths and weaknesses optimizing them for certain uses. Because there are so many formats, picking the right one can be a challenge. For example, the best video format for Facebook isn’t the same as the best video format for YouTube. This table offers a quick look at the video formatting requirements for today’s most popular social networks.

Facebook

Preferred FormatAcceptable Format
.MP4

.MOV

.3g2

.3gp

.3gpp

.ASF

.AVI

.DAT

.DIVX

.DV

.F4V

.M2TS

.M4V

.MKV

.MOD

.MPE

.MPEG

.MPEG4

.MPG

.MTS

.NSV

.OGM

.OGV

.QT

.TOD

.TS

.VOB

.WMV

YouTube

Preferred FormatAcceptable Format
.MP4

.MOV

.MOV

.MPEG4

.MP4

.AVI

.WMV

.MPEGPS

.FLV

.3GPP

.WebM

.DNxHR

.ProRes

.CineForm

.HEVC (h265)

.OGM

.OGV

.QT

.TOD

.TS

.VOB

.WMV

Instagram

Preferred FormatAcceptable Format
.MP4

.MOV

.3g2

.3gp

.3gpp

.ASF

.AVI

.DAT

.DIVX

.DV

.F4V

.M2TS

.M4V

.MKV

.MOD

.MPE

.MPEG

.MPEG4

.MPG

.MTS

.NSV

.OGM

.OGV

.QT

.TOD

.TS

.VOB

.WMV

Twitter

Preferred FormatAcceptable Format
.MP4

.MOV

.MP4

.MOV

Here’s more in-depth information about each medium:

Facebook Formatting

Videos uploaded to Facebook should have a codec of H.264. Make sure the bitrate is no lower than 128 kilobits per second which is considered average quality. The resolution doesn’t have to be HD but should be no less than 1280 x 720 pixels.

For nearly every social site, Facebook included, your video format should either be square or portrait orientation so users can easily watch on their phones. If your video must be landscape orientation, make sure the aspect ratio is 16:9. Square videos should be 1:1 and vertical ones should be at 4:5.

YouTube Formatting

Make sure the codec for your YouTube video is H.264. YouTube prefers HD-level resolution (or greater) because playback quality is pretty uniform and HD resolution increases search engine results. These HD video formats should have a bitrate of 12 mbps and a minimum resolution of 1080p.

Most YouTube videos are uploaded in landscape orientation at a 16:9 aspect ratio. However, you can upload a portrait orientation video with an aspect ratio of 9:16.

Instagram Formatting

Instagram prefers its videos formatted with an H.264 codec which has been a consistent requirement across all platforms. Their minimum bitrate is 128 kbps, but you can upload videos with higher bitrates if desired.

They heavily favor square videos in the highest resolution possible without skewing their preferred 1:1 aspect ratio.

Twitter Formatting

The codec for videos uploaded to Twitter should be H.264. Twitter has a maximum bitrate of 25 mbps.

The minimum resolution for a Twitter video is 32 x 32 (a square) but can go as large as an HD video at 1920 x 1200 pixels. The aspect ratio for Twitter videos should be in the 1:2.39 to 2.39:1 range.

Changes in Video Format

Technology is constantly changing. The best practices in video formatting today aren’t the same as what they were even two years ago. Compression rates are improving, computers are getting faster, and the internet’s infrastructure grows by leaps and bounds every day.

Learning about video formats is important, but this isn’t a once-and-done education. Best practices in formatting can change as quickly as the weather, and if you find yourself using the same formatting guidance for years on end, your videos will probably appear antiquated.

To truly understand and appreciate the effect video format has on viewers, you should continue to educate yourself. Look into video formatting trends at least once a year to ensure you’re always using the best video format for your media.

When you aren’t sure about the correct video formatting, do your research, identify which video formats will meet your needs, and create your video accordingly. You’ll create a top-notch video anyone can watch and enjoy!

Let’s talk about what format would be best for your video! You can set up a meeting by selecting the contact us button below.


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