Video has grown to dominate content marketing – and for good reason.
Simply put there is no other form of content that holds a candle to it in terms of attracting, retaining, and engaging viewers.
If you’re starting to create videos to include in your content marketing strategy then you’re obviously on the right track. But when you export the videos – what format should you use?
A Brief Introduction to Video Formats
Before you decide on which format you should use, you first need to know a bit about video formats.
In simple terms a video format is a type of file format that is used to store data. It consists of two parts: A container and a video codec.
The container is the part of the video format in which all the video’s data is stored.
It also stores other information such as the subtitles, menus, metadata, and so on. As such features that the video format supports are largely based on its container. Some of the more popular containers nowadays are MP4, MKV, AVI, and so on.
As you may have noticed the file extension of a video mirrors its container.
The video codec on the other hand is the manner in which data is represented and stored within the container. It determines the video compression that is used to store the data, and some of the more popular codecs include H.264, H.265, MPEG-4, and so on.
In other words when you choose a ‘video format’, what you’re really choosing is a pairing of a container and a codec. Not all codecs and containers can be paired together, which is why it is important you find a pairing based on your needs.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Format
To select the best format to export content marketing videos, you should consider a number of factors. Some of these factors may be more important than others, but you should consider each one and decide on a case by case basis:
Different devices and platforms support different ranges of formats, so your video should be stored in a format that is compatible with the devices or platforms that you want it to be played on.
In the case of content marketing it is likely that your video will be distributed quite widely. While there is no ‘universal’ format that you can use there are some formats that are more widely supported than others, and currently MP4 with H.264 is a good option.
2. File size and compression
As you’re aware the codec determines the compression that the video utilizes, and newer codecs tend to have better compression. That means that the same video stored in a newer codec could have a smaller file size.
The difference in compression rates between older and newer codecs can be significant. For example the new H.265 codec can compress the same video to half the size compared if it was stored in its predecessor, H.264.
As far as content marketing is concerned, the file size may be a factor. If you intend to transfer the file then larger files will take longer to transfer, and if you want to self-host the video on your website or provide it as a download then there is your web host’s bandwidth to consider as well.
3. Additional features
If are looking for your format’s container to support any additional features that may be a factor as well. Some of the features containers may or may not support include menus, chapters, metadata, 3D codecs, subtitles, and so on.
Typically this isn’t a major factor for content marketing because you will rarely require any additional features. Still if you do – you should carefully narrow your selection based on the containers that support it
Based on those factors you should be able to start to decide what formats you could consider using. Another option that may be easier however, is to work backwards based on how you want to use the video.
“What is the ‘Best’ Format To…”
Seeing as you’re going to be using the video for content marketing, you’re definitely going to want to publish and distribute it. The big question is: How do you intend to publish and distribute the video?
Based on how you’re going to publish or distribute your video, you should be able to pick out a format quite easily:
4. Upload and publish on social media or streaming platforms
Generally speaking online platforms such as social media or video streaming websites have certain formats that they prefer, and they normally disclose this as part of their recommended settings.
Considering that fact in this case the ‘best’ format to use is the format the platform you’re going to publish it on recommends.
Nowadays the majority of online platforms tend to favor MP4 with H.264. Many of the more popular platforms do support other formats as well, but the recommended format is MP4 with H.264.
For an example you could check out YouTube’s recommended settings as a place to start.
5. Self-host and publish videos on your own website
When you self-host videos, you have a number of different factors to consider in terms of the video format that is best. For starters if you’re using your own streaming video framework then the video needs to be compatible with it.
Apart from that the other major factor to consider is that the load the video will place on your website in terms of its bandwidth. With that in mind you may want to use a format with good compression, or reduce the bitrate to lower the video file size further.
6. Store and watch on specific devices
If you’re going to be storing the video and watching it only on your own (or other very specific) devices – your best bet is to choose a compatible format with the best compression. Assuming MKV with H.265 is an option then you could use that, or if not you could use MP4 with H.264.
7. Burn videos onto DVDs
Typically if you want to burn videos onto DVDs so that they can be watched on DVD players you need to export the video with a MPEG-2 (or H.262) codec. While some newer DVD players do support other codecs, the fact of the matter is that many still do not.
8. Send video files via email
It is worth noting that sending video files via email is notoriously tricky, as different mail servers have different attachment file size limitations.
That being said, if you do want to distribute your videos via email – the focus should be on ensuring the video file size is as small as possible.
In some cases, it may not be possible (read: worthwhile) to compress videos down to the file sizes required by mail servers as the quality will be abysmal.
Generally rather than sending videos via email you’d be better off uploading them to an online video platform or cloud server and emailing the link or embedded video instead.
9. Store videos as source material
Regardless of the format that you choose to export your videos in for delivery, you should keep the original copy as source material and not export it to a different format.
The reason for that is because the original and unaltered source material will be of a better quality, and you should always keep it in case you need to make changes to your content marketing video or re-use any of the footage.
That should cover more of the cases that you’re likely to encounter when you use videos for content marketing – along with some that are really quite rare. In any case, you should now be fully aware how to choose the best format to export your videos.
As you have probably noticed, right now the ‘safest’ format to export your videos in is MP4 with H.264. It enjoys widespread support from most devices and platforms, and has a decent compression rate.
That being said if MKV with H.265 is an option then it is worth picking it due to the superior compression that it can provide.
It should be noted that the exact formats that are popular at any given point in time are subject to change and both MP4 with H.264 and MKV with H.265 could very well be supplanted by other formats.
In fact other formats may prove useful right now as well on a case by case basis – but the two mentioned above are definitely the more popular modern formats.
If at any point you decide you need a copy of your video in a different format, you could use a video converter to convert it – such as with Movavi Video Converter for example.
By understanding video formats and the situations in which certain formats are better than others, even if the exact formats that are in use do change – you should still be able to figure out which one is ‘best’ for you to export your content marketing videos.