By Abe Abbie

Trying to figure out the best format to encode videos isn’t easy. Not only are there lots of formats, but sifting through them to figure out which formats are compatible with various devices and how well they can compress your videos is time-consuming.

The good news is that there is a much faster way to identify the format that you should be using to encode your videos: Select it based on how the video is going to be used.

To be more specific, you should base it on the following ways that your video may be used:

  • Upload to online platforms or social media

If you’re going to upload and share your videos on online platforms, you should follow their recommended format and settings. That way you can avoid the video being unnecessarily transcoded multiple times, and preserve its quality better.

In most cases, the current recommended format for online platforms is MP4 with H.264, such as in YouTube’s Guidlines

  • Distribute to various users

In the event that you’re going to be distributing your video far and wide, the main factor to consider is compatibility. The format that you choose should be one that is the most widely-compatible – which right now is MP4 with H.264.

  • Burn onto a video DVD

To create a video DVD from your video file you will need it to be encoded in MPEG-2 as that is the format that most DVD players are able to read. Some newer players may support other formats, but the majority do not.

  • Store as raw footage before editing

Professional video productions would normally store raw footage with ‘lossless’ formats prior to editing, but most consumer video cameras will already compress them after they’re recorded. In such cases, it is best to just leave the video as is, until it is edited.

If you encode the video in a format at this stage it is likely going to be re-encoded in later after it is edited, and that could affect its quality.

  • Store on specific devices with limited storage

In the event that you want to store your video on a known device that has limited storage, you can explore other compression options. Nowadays the best step up is HEVC (H.265) as it can reduce the file size of H.264 videos by up to 50%.

Additionally, it is starting to be more widely supported, but you should still check that your device supports it – preferably with hardware acceleration.

Keep in mind that although it is best to encode the video in the right format from the get-go, you can always transcode it later with a video converter if need be. For example, you could use Movavi Video Converter ( to switch the format later on.

If you do transcode your video at any point, always try to keep the original version. That way if you ever need to transcode it yet again, you can use the original rather than the transcoded version – and prevent the quality from deteriorating over time.

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