Video Formats, Differences Between MP4, MKV, and AVI – 2024 Review

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The times of analog and VHS videos are long gone and now recording and editing videos with acceptable quality is within everyone’s reach through mobile devices and digital cameras. The time has come to know what formats we can use and for what. If the objective of our video is to make a DVD, we cannot use the same format as if it is to upload it to YouTube.

Currently we find an infinity of video formats. Depending on the quality you are looking for, the video will be exported one way or another. You can find various formats for both web pages and videos on YouTube or Vimeo, as well as for projecting in cinema quality or for viewing on your mobile device or Tablet.

If there were no different video formats, we would be very limited when it comes to making any type of video production since they would occupy an infinity of megabytes, in addition they would all have an extreme quality which would thus make it difficult to carry out projects for an exclusive job. By the way, if you are looking for websites to download royalty-free videos for your projects, there are many pages of free videos in HD and 4K

It is not the same to export a video in quality for YouTube or any online platform than to export them for a mobile device or a cinematographic film. Each one has essential characteristics that make everything optimized to get the most out of your production.

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Many times the problem with all these options and formats is compatibility. Each device records in a different format and we can have problems when it comes to playing them, so it is very interesting to know what options there are and how to handle them to avoid headaches.

The fact is many people create video files in different formats, which are generally not supported. When trying to see them in different players we run into unavoidable conflicts and are forced to have to convert or re-encode them. This causes a lot of headaches due to the abundance of formats and codecs. The world of digital video is quite complicated, although we do not need to master it completely, just know which are the main formats, which are the most popular devices and how to convert between them.

In this article we try to share elementary information about three existing video formats, how they differ, their characteristics and the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

The formats used in digital video are more complex than those used in audio, which we will discuss in another article since logically it is about video plus audio and in some cases subtitles and images. Video file extensions indicate only the container used.

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For example, the file named: The Following S02E10 HDTV X264.mkv, indicates that it is a Matroska (MKV) container and that the video is MP4 (H.264), encoded with the x364 codec.

According to Ontiva, containers can contain multiple video, audio, image, or subtitle track files within a single file.

The objective of this article is to detail three video formats most used today, their characteristics and differences.

Guide yourself if you need to encode video that you have filmed with a camera and you want to reproduce it on a specific device. To find out in which format to convert videos so that they can be viewed on a cell phone, tablet, console, DVD player or other device. Also to convert any series or movie downloaded from the internet.

In all cases, two things are needed:

  • A video encoder or converter program.
  • Have the necessary video codecs installed on the computer.


MP4 is the most widely used of the video formats today in portable devices such as cell phones and tablets and of course they can also be played on the computer. That’s why mp4 converter is one of the most popular tools today.

It allows encoding the video in almost any resolution, from the smallest that an iPod allows, HD (high resolution), 2K, to the recent 4K with excellent quality and relatively small files. Uses the H.264 video codec and AAC audio. When encoding video in MP4 using an application that allows it, we must specify the necessary size for each device.


MKV is the acronym for Matroska, it is a modern multimedia container for any type of content, such as movies, 3D animation, video games, images, texts, books, etc. It is used in computers, although it is also reproduced by multimedia equipment such as televisions that read data formats via USB.

In MKV series and movies are mainly distributed in any definition, including 3D. It has become one of the most popular formats on the internet as it is completely free. It generally uses the H.264 video codec and for DTS, AC3 or AAC audio, although they may contain other formats such as WebM.


AVI is a video and audio container created by Microsoft for use on computers. It can contain one video stream and several audio streams using different codecs. They can be DivX, Xvid or Motion JPEG for video and AC3 or MP3 for audio. AVI files can be viewed in any player, but they depend on the codecs installed in Windows. DivX is the first video codec that was used to encode DVD video movies and reduce their size so that they could be burned onto a traditional CD.

Xvid is a free video codec created as an alternative to other proprietary codecs to encode movies and reduce their size, without losing quality. AVI has lost popularity due to other formats that support high resolutions and that are compatible with portable devices. We must encode in AVI only content to reproduce on computers.

In order to play any file that needs the previous codecs, in addition to being able to convert any video file to another format, it is necessary to have the appropriate codecs installed in the operating system. Windows includes some of them, but the rest need to be installed. It can be done in two ways: manually with each codec by accessing its developer’s site or by installing packages that include most of them.