How to decide on the right format to encode videos

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After you record or edit a video you may find yourself staring at several options in terms of the format that you can encode it in. Assuming you aren’t that well-acquainted with video formats, you may not have any idea which one is the best choice.

Factors to Consider to Choose the ‘Right’ Format

The ‘right’ format of video to choose should be based on several factors, each of which will affect your video in different ways:

Compatibility and support

The video format that you select should be compatible and supported by the device or platform you’re using. If the video isn’t compatible it may not be able to be played on that device, or in the case of online platforms you may not be able to upload it.


Generally, the video formats that you can choose to encode your videos in will compress them – which is good because uncompressed video files are really, really large. The amount that the video can be compressed will vary based on a part of the format known as the video codec.

While you will normally want to use newer codecs that have better compression rates, it should be noted that they may not be as compatible or widely-supported as older codecs.

Additional features

If the video that you’re encoding has additional features such as chapters, menus, metadata, captions, and so on – the format that you choose needs to support them. That is features supported by video formats is determined by the container that it uses.

At the end of the day, you need to figure out a format that fits the video that you want to encode on all these fronts. That may seem tricky, but it is made easier by the fact that there are several common formats you can rely on.

Popular video formats to consider

While there are many video formats out there, some are much more widely-used and popular than others for good reason. As such, you should consider encoding your videos with them:

MP4 with H.264 is the most widely-supported format and is generally used for distributing videos. It is also the recommended format for YouTube, Facebook, and most other online platforms.

MKV or MP4 with H.265 is a format with a newer codec that has better compression than H.264 but is not as widely supported. It can be used if you’re sure the device or platform you play the video on supports H.265.

MPEG-2 is an older format but is used to encode video DVDs.

It should be noted that the formats that are popular will change over time as newer formats supplant older ones. That is why it helps to know the factors that you need to consider, just in case there are other options you want to weigh.

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