By Mahendra Bajiya

People tend to not know very much about video formats aside from the fact that they exist, and the file extension has something to do with them. Some may even be of the opinion that the file extension is the video format – which is not true. If you want to understand video formats and what they do a whole lot better, there are 5 facts specifically that you need to know:

Video formats consist of at least two parts. What is referred to as a video format actually consists of at least two parts: A container and video codec.

The video codec is responsible for encoding the data by compressing it so that it can be stored. The container on the other hand holds all the information together, including the video codec, video data, audio codec, audio data, and possibly more. It is only the container that determines the file extension – which is why the file extension alone does not really reflect the video format.

Most common video formats use lossy compression

The compression used by the video codec can either be lossless or lossy. If it is lossless no data is discarded when the video is decoded, and the original video data can be restored fully.

However losslessly compressed videos can still be very large, which is why most of the day-to-day video formats that you encounter will undoubtedly be using lossy compression. It does discard some data that is considered redundant, but can produce significantly smaller files.

A video decoder is required to playback videos that are encoded

Once a video is encoded and stored in a video format, it needs to be decoded and decompressed in order to be played. That requires a video decoder, and if one is not present the data cannot be decoded – meaning the video cannot be viewed.

That is why at times you may encounter videos in formats that are ‘unsupported’. It basically just means that there is no video decoder present to decompress the video data for playback.

Both hardware and software decoders exist

In general there are two types of decoders: Hardware and software. A software decoder will decode the video using software alone, and requires a lot of processing power. On the other hand a hardware decoder utilizes a separate chip or Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) in order to decode videos, making it more efficient.

In some cases the difference may not be that observable if the processor is powerful enough. However on devices with slower processors or that run on a battery – hardware decoding is often preferred.

Different video codecs provide different compression rates

Over time newer codecs have been developed that can compress videos more efficiently, resulting in videos with smaller file sizes but similar quality. The improved compression rate is why they are sometimes preferred.However it does take time before newer codecs are supported by older devices. Hardware decoding of formats with newer codecs is only available on new devices.

At this point you should understand what makes up a video format, how it affects the video, and why some formats are supported. If you need to convert videos between formats, you can use Movavi Video Converter . It is a user-friendly video converter that supports most formats, and has other features to compress, edit, and prepare videos in various ways. The fact that you understand video formats better should make it easier to decide what format to use for your videos. More importantly if you ever encounter a video format that you have difficulty playing – you now know what to do.