The most popular video file formats for your Mac

Olga Weis
Codecs and Containers

Codecs and Containers

There is a lot to learn about multimedia formats, and sometimes it might be confusing, but there are some basics that once you understand you can navigate in this field better. Make sure to understand that the file extension that you see is not always the file format, there is more to it. An extension is not just a video, it can be a container format, a codec, or a container and codec.

Video files are usually compressed, this way they take up less space on a computer. The data is compressed and decompressed with a codec.

The term container is used for a bundle of media files and consists of a video and audio codec and can contain subtitle information. Containers allow selecting one codec for your video and one for the audio.

List of the best video formats that are most popular among users:

Best video file format for many - AVI is the long running digital format from Microsoft. AVI is less compressed meaning that an AVI file will be larger than the same file in other more compressed formats, thus the format's popularity is a bit weakened. It also does not allow selecting aspect ratios manually, which sometimes is essential for some.

Apps for opening AVI videos:

  • Windows: Microsoft Windows Media Player, Xilisoft Video Converter Ultimate.
  • Mac: Elmedia Player.
  • Linux: Kodi, VideoLAN VLC media player.
  • iOS: Olimsoft OPlayer.
  • Android: Videolabs VLC for Android, BIT LABS Simple MP4 Video Player.

Another creation of Microsoft, this container usually contains files compressed with WMA (Windows Media Audio) and WMV codecs. The files will not have the ASF suffix though, you'll see the WMV or WMA extension instead. A copy protection goes with this format through Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Apps for opening ASF files:

  • Windows: CyberLink PowerProducer 6, Microsoft Windows Media Player.
  • Mac: Elmedia Player.
  • Linux: VideoLAN VLC media player.
  • iOS: PentaLoop PlayerXtreme Media Player.

The Apple QuickTime Movie popular video file types support a wide range of codecs. The QT files are cross-platform and work on both Mac and Windows systems, MOV files save video files. Mostly these two file extensions are saved together.

Apps for opening MOV files:

  • Windows: Microsoft Windows Media Player, Xilisoft Video Converter Ultimate.
  • Mac: Elmedia Player.
  • Linux: VLC media player.
  • iOS: Olimsoft OPlayer, Google Drive.
  • Android: Google Drive, J2 Interactive MX Player.

This video file format for digital camcorders is a result of Sony and Panasonic collaboration. AVCHD video files are common for data compressed with the H.264 codec. This format can be played and stored on various devices and supports standard and high definitions. The latest version 2.0 includes stereoscopic 3D video.

Apps for opening AVCHD videos:

  • Windows: VLC media player
  • Mac: Elmedia Player
  • Linux: VLC media player

These types of video have been around for quite some time. Older flash videos were using Sorenson codec, while new type of Flash videos is using H.264 codec. This file format is rather popular for online streaming, but unfortunately is not supported by iOS devices.

Apps for opening FLV and SWF files:

  • Windows: Adobe Flash Player, GRETECH GOM Player
  • Mac: Elmedia Player
  • Linux: Web browser with Flash plugin, Adobe Flash Player

MPG has two types of files MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 that serve as container files for audio and video data to ensure the two portions are in sync. MPEG-1 is almost exclusively used for VCDs (Video Compact Disks ) that are not popular in the US, but are in wide use in other countries. MPEG-2 (also known as H.262) is used for DVDs and broadcast HDTV.

Apps for opening MPG files:

  • Windows: Windows Media Player, Nullsoft Winamp
  • Mac: Elmedia Player
  • Android: BIT LABS Simple MP4 Video Player

MPEG-4 is one of the latest (audio and video) compression methods developed specifically for low-bandwidth video and audio encoding purposes. Video and audio tracks are compressed separately: the video file with MPEG-4 encoding and audio - with AAC compression, the same compression type as in AAC files.

Apps for opening MP4 files:

  • Windows: VLC, Wondershare Filmora 6
  • Mac: QuickTime Player, Elmedia Player
  • Linux:VLC media player, MPlayer
  • Android: Google Drive, VLC media player

The WMV codec is used for streaming audio or video with the first part of a file loading and beginning to play while the full download continues in the background. WMV supports HD 720p and 1080p resolutions. files with the WMV suffix are usually stored in the ASF container.

Apps for opening WMV files:

  • Windows: Microsoft Windows Media Player, CyberLink PowerDVD 16
  • Mac: QuickTime Player, Elmedia Player
  • Android: J2 Interactive MX Player

This codec is a go-to video compression standard for high definition digital video. H.264 is probably best known as one of the video encoding standards for Blu-ray Discs. It is also popular among streaming Internet sources, like Vimeo, YouTube, and the iTunes Store. Also it is used with digital video cameras and camcorders and it uses the AVCHD container.

Apps for opening H.264 files:

  • Windows: VLC media player, QuickTime Player
  • Mac: iTunes, Elmedia Player
  • Linux: VLC media player

DivX is a type of video codec that is known for its ability to compress large video segments into significantly small sizes while keeping a great visual quality. It supports resolutions of up to 1080HD.

Apps for opening DivX files:

  • Windows: VLC media player, QuickTime Player, DivX 7 for Windows
  • Mac: Elmedia Player
  • Linux: VLC media player

The Matroska Multimedia Container is an open standard, free container format that allows just one file to contain unlimited photos, videos, audio and subtitle tracks. It was designed as a universal container format for common multimedia content, such as movies and TV shows. The file extensions for this format are MKV for video (with subtitles and audio), MK3D for stereoscopic 3D video, MKA for audio, and MKS for subtitle files.

Apps for opening Matroska files:

  • Windows: VLC media player, KMPlayer, Media Player Classic
  • Mac: Elmedia Player
  • Linux:VLC media player, MPlayer

Elmedia Player is a great solution that helps manage media content and supports all popular common video formats. This app comes with a native web browser for browsing the web for new videos and watching online content directly in the app. With Open Online Video you can open online media without the built-in ads you'd have to watch in a regular web browser. Elmedia Player PRO (paid version) offers a vast set of the features that can greatly enhance your viewing experience: video aspect ratio adjustment to fit image to screen, customizable playback speed, 10-band equalizer, video tuner, putting any desired segment of a video on constant repeat. You can make precise screenshots of any moments of the movie or convert the whole video into the series of images.

Elmedia Player
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Elmedia Player for Mac

Requirements: OS X 10.7+ , 36.64MB free space
Version 6.9(1118) () Release notes