Popular Digital Video File Formats

videoWhether you are getting started with video editing, or simply getting curious about the different video file formats that are out there, the following is a list of the most popular digital video file types, from the book YouTube for Business, by Michael Miller.
Before getting into the list of digital file types, let’s review three terms to gain a better understanding of the video file characteristics.
Compression: Video files are inherently very large. In order to make digital video files smaller, the information within the files is compressed to save space on computers. One of the ways video files are made smaller is by removing redundant information. For example, the color of a wall doesn’t change much, frame to frame, in most videos. By removing a quantity of information related to the wall, the file size is reduced. Instead, the computer then reinterprets the wall mathematically, which generates similar video quality, without requiring the original information.
Encoding: Encoding is the process of converting and preparing video files for delivery in a particular medium. It is the process of compressing raw video so that it contains significantly less data, for purposes of video transmission or storage.
Codec: Each different method of encoding compression is a codec, which is a device or computer program that compresses a large amount of digital video information into a smaller file size.  Codec is short for compression/decompression.   A codec includes specific instructions for converting the video to a smaller size for storage or transporting (compression) and then making it appear larger again (decompression) to be viewed as a video.
In fact, users can even make choices to optimize the encoding of their respective codecs to present as high a quality video as possible, for the medium in which the video will be presented.

Extension File Name Characteristics
.avi Audio Video Interleave Container format that can store data encoded in a variety of codecs.
.divx DivX High-quality codec with equally high compression; popular for Internet use.
.dv Digital Video (DV) Format used in many consumer video cameras.
.flv Flash Video Format used by YouTube to serve videos on its site.
.mpg, .mp4 H.264 A type of encoding used in some MPEG-4 files; more efficient than normal MPEG-4 codec; used in all iTunes video downloads.
.mpg MPEG-1 Commonly used in digital video cameras
.mpg MPEG-2 Used in broadcast-quality television and some digital satellite services.
.mpg, .mp4 MPEG-4 Most recent version of the JPEG format, optimized for both high definition and Internet video.
.mov, .qt QuickTime Apple’s proprietary audio/video format.
.rm, .rv RealVideo Media file format used by RealPlayer; the RealMedia format (RM) can contain either audio or video files.
.wmv Windows Media Video Microsoft’s proprietary digital video file format.
.xvid Xvid Similar to the competing DivX codec; a subset of the MPEG-4 file format.
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