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The Best Video Formats for Social Media

The Best Video Formats for Social Media

WRITTEN BY : Paul Keane

When you think that the hardest shooting and editing part is done, and you're almost ready to share your video with the world, then comes the question of how to encode it right.   



Today we'll dive into this issue. Here's the list of the most popular video formats and guidelines on how to edit and encode video for social networks in the best quality. But first, let's define what codecs are and what video formats exist. 



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What are Video Formats?


Even if you don’t professionally deal with the video, you probably know that there are plenty of video file formats. The basic feature that distinguishes one from another is the video codec used.


As a rule, a digital video file consists of two parts, a codec, and a container.


A codec is a program that encodes and compresses multimedia data, particularly video or royalty free music. A codec reduces the video size so it can be played and stored; uncompressed video weighs too much. The most prevalent video codec is H.264, but there are a lot of them, including DivX, MPEG, XviD, and others.


A container is like a box which contains various components of a video: images, audio, and other. We can see which container was used by the file extension, that’s why a container itself is usually associated with the file format.



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Different Types of Video Formats



1. AVI (Audio Video Interleave)


AVI is the oldest format designed by Microsoft for Windows. It has a small degree of video compression, which results in minimal loss of image quality. So the video file will be too large to share it on social media. AVI files are supported by most popular browsers, though this format is rarely used now, in contrast to the more popular MP4 format.



2. MOV (Apple Quicktime Format)


The format of the MOV file works with the file format of Apple QuickTime. This system works with both Windows and Mac OS. MOV format is commonly used on some websites but is never used in social platforms.


If you shoot video in MOV format, edit it in MOV format too. After you have finished editing, render the video with H.264 encoding in MP4 format. After that, it can be posted on social networks and other sites.



3. FLV (Flash Video Format)


You can also create videos based on Adobe Flash. The new Flash plugin uses the upgraded H.264 codec. This media container has its limitations:


   •  Flash format is not supported by iOS devices;


   •  The videos in the FLV format is not playable on such devices as iPads and iPhones.


Therefore, this format is not suitable for social networks as most viewers won’t be able to watch your video.



4. WMV (Windows Media Video)


WMV is a video compression format from Microsoft Windows, which is supported by Windows Media player.


WMV format maintains good quality with small file size. Actually, it’s the smallest video file on the Internet, and probably the only video format that can be used in email.


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5. MPG and MPEG


MPEG format is the most commonly used format for creating downloadable films and broadcasting television programs.



6. MP4 (Moving Pictures Expert Group 4)


The MP4 (MPEG-4) format is ideal for social media because it separately compresses audio and video files, so the video gets smaller while the quality remains high.


The video file uses the encoding of the MPEG-4 and audio is saved with AAC compression.


The multifunctional and easy-to-use MP4 format is getting more popular for sharing video in social media as it’s supported by both web and online browsers and is compatible with HTML5.



How to Choose the Best Format for Social Media Platform?


We have reviewed the most common video formats and codecs. They have many differences in file size, video resolution, subtitles support and so on. Let’s choose the best format to upload videos online.


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To upload a video to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s best to use the MP4 H.264 and AAC audio codecs.


Anyway, each platform has its own requirements for uploaded video content. We’ve put them all together in a cheat sheet.




•  Preferred format:   MOV, MPEG4, MP4, AVI, WMV, MPEGPS, FLV, 3GPP, and WebM

•  Video resolution:   up to 3840x2160

•  Frame Rate:   most frame rates are supported

•  Maximum size:   128GB or 12 hours, whichever is less

•  Maximum Length:   12 hours





•  Preferred format:   MOV or MP4 (with H.264 codec)

•  Video resolution:   1280x720

•  Frame Rate:   30 fps or below

•  Maximum size:   4GB

•  Maximum Length:   120 minutes

•  Audio:   AAC





•  Preferred format:   MP4 (with H.264 codec)

•  Video resolution:   max width 1080p

•  Frame Rate:   30 fps or below

•  Maximum size:   4GB

•  Maximum Length:   60 seconds

•  Audio:   AAC





•  Preferred format:   MP4 (with H.264 codec)

•  Video resolution:   up to 1280x1024

•  Frame Rate:   40 fps or below

•  Maximum size:   512MB

• Maximum Length:   140 seconds

•  Audio:   AAC Low Complexity


If you follow all these rules when converting and uploading videos, you will save a lot of time. If you want to create a one-size-fits-all video, then make it square 1080p with 30 fps frame rate. This format can be shared via major social media platforms without any issues.



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