How to Choose the Best Video Format for a Device or Platform

Photo by Tomas Yates on Unsplash
Photo by Tomas Yates on Unsplash

Trying to figure out what the ‘best’ video format is for a device or platform can be difficult. The fact that they are so many formats and different devices and platforms support different formats will certainly complicate things.

Essentially the ‘best’ video format for a specific device or platform is a format that needs to fulfill several criteria:

  • It should be compatible with the device or platform (i.e. have hardware support).
  • It should compress the video file size efficiently while maintaining its quality.
  • It should support features that are in the video (i.e. chapters, subtitles, menus, etc.).

If you want you could go over a list of formats (both containers and codecs) to find a pairing that meets those criteria for the device or platform that you want the video to be played on. However, an easier method is to work backwards:

To upload the video to an online platform you should select the format that is recommended by that platform so that the video isn’t transcoded internally (which could affect its quality). Most platforms nowadays use MP4 with H.264, and for example you can look at YouTube’s guidelines.

To watch the video on a device with HEVC (H.265) support you should use MP4 with H.265. Newer devices nowadays tend to have HEVC support and it has excellent compression that can reduce the file size of H.264 videos by 50%.

To burn a video DVD that will be watched on a DVD player you should encode the video in MPEG-2. Of late newer DVD players have started to support other formats (such as H.264) but the majority still exclusively use MPEG-2, making it the safe option.

To watch on the majority of devices and to distribute the video the best format is MP4 with H.264. It has the most widespread support and is a good general format to use for videos nowadays. As a nice side-benefit it is also a format that will make distributing the video easy, seeing as you won’t need to worry much about whether it is compatible.

It should be noted that some of the formats mentioned above may eventually be supplanted. For example in the not-too-distant future it is likely that AV1 may start to gain widespread use – especially on online platforms.

Having a video converter that supports a wide range of formats will help if you ever need to convert your videos into the right format. For example you could try Movavi Video Converter as it can be used as a MP4 to AVI converter or to convert other formats as well.

All in all you should now be able to quickly choose the best format for any device or platform that you need to – either to encode or convert your videos. If you have any doubts you can always check for the compatibility of the format that you intend to use manually, but as mentioned previously that can be a time-consuming process.