What’s correlation between container formats like mp4/mkv/avi/rmvb and video coding like mpeg 4/H.264/H.265?

There are multiple video formats available, like MP4, RMVB, MKV, AVI and etc. Well, you might 

be curious about the relationship and connection between the video formats and MPEG-4, 

H.264 and H.265 these compressed-coding standards. It’s quite complicated, and let’s start with 

MPEG-4.


MPEG is known as Moving Pictures Experts Group, and MPEG-4 is a codec standard for a group 

of audio and video coding formats introduced in late 1998. MPEG-4 is widely used in the 

compression of audio & visual digital data, CD distribution, telephone, television, broadcast 

applications and much more. 

mpeg4 vs MP4.jpg

H.264 is the part 10 of MPEG-4, also known as the advanced video codec (MPEG-4 AVC). H.264 

is used for taking replace of MPEG-4 Part 2, since it offers higher compression rate than MPEG-4 

Part 2’s video codec. The most common encoders of MPEG-4 Part 2 are divx and xvid 

(open source), and the most common encode of AVC is x264 (open source).

H.264.jpg

H.265 is a new video codec standard after H.264. It is called as HEVC (High Effective Video Coding) 

by MPEG organization. H.265 is not belong to MPEG-4 standard, and it ensures higher and more 

effective compression rate than H.264.

H.265.jpg

Now, we come to discuss the container format. 

Popular video formats include MP4, RMVB, MKV, AVI and more. Formally, all of them are extension 

name of video files, and then they are packaging formats (container) of the video files as well. 

We take MP4 format as an example. MP4 (MPEG-4 Part 14) is a digital multimedia container format 

to store audio and video. What is container format? Container is a kind of standard that packages 

the multimedia content (video, audio, subtitle, chapter information and etc.) generated by encoder. 

It makes very easy to playback different types of multimedia content. 

container formats.gif

Another important role of container is to provide index for multimedia content. That is to say, without 

container, you are not able to fast forward or rewind when you watch a movie. Moreover, this movie 

would be no sound if you don’t load or add the audio file manually. 

Another example of container is AAC/M4A. M4A is an extension name and audio format developed 

by Apple, and it is based on AAC codec. In fact, M4A is packaged in the MPEG-4 Part 14 (MP4) 

container, since it has no original AAC data stream of the container. 


Different containers have different features. We still take the above mentioned formats: MP4, RMVB, 

MKV and AVI as example. 

MP4 is the container format designated officially, so it is supported by almost all platforms, systems 

and devices. RMVB is a closed standard container used to package realvideo encoded videos. MKV 

is an open container that has high compatibility; it can package almost all encoding formats. As for 

AVI, its old framework is no longer applicable to those new encoding formats.

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