MP4 - Video container format for large media files

The container and file format MP4 is used on digital devices such as computers and smartphones as well as in networks such as the World Wide Web as a way of displaying videos. Several video and audio tracks can be used, but also graphics in 2D and 3D and, last but not least, subtitles. The video container format MP4 was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), among others, was used for the first time in 2001 and is based on the QuickTimeformat (QuickTime Movie or MOV). In the audio area of ​​the container, in addition to MP3, MP2 and MP1, you can also AAC occurrence. More details can be found in this post.

What is MP4 and what is the MPEG video container format? What are the similarities with MOV and what are the breakdowns to other file formats? Here you get answers to these questions.
What is MP4 and what is the MPEG video container format? What are the similarities with MOV and what are the breakdowns to other file formats? Here you get answers to these questions.

MP4 – container for audio, video and text

The container and the MP4 format are an extension of the QuickTime MOV format. It was standardized for the first time in 2001 for video content of the MPEG standard MPEG-4. The contained media content is organized hierarchically and sequentially as data units. The type of arrangement and the naming of the individual data are the same for MOV and MP4. Both are suitable for local video files as well as videos in networks (they are also accepted as source files by YouTube). Various video tracks, audio tracks and subtitles can be integrated so that they can be called up individually (like with a DVD or a streamed film). 

File formats in MP4 container 

The MP4 container format for video content can hold multiple content and play it individually and simultaneously. However, the individual data for video, audio, images and text are limited in their basic formats. The Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) established these standards:

  • Video: MPEG-H Part 2 (HEVC/H.265), MPEG-4 Part 10 (AVC/H.264), MPEG-4 Part 2, MPEG-2 Video and MPEG-1 Video
  • Audio: MPEG-4 Part 3, AAC, MP3, MP2, MP1
  • Images: JPEG, PNG
  • Graphics and text: BIFS

File extensions that give more information about the content

Last but not least, when the MP4 format emerged, Apple demanded a better breakdown of the content ultimately stored in the container. Because without video content, MP4 can also be considered an audio file. Without audio content, you could also replace short MP4 files with a GIF. In order to clearly recognize what a file contains, these file extensions were introduced:

  • m4v / mp4v – video
  • m4a - Audio
  • m4b – audio books
  • m4p - DRM-protected AAC
  • m4r – iPhone ringtones

Further information and sources

You can read what AAC audio compression and the corresponding file format is all about here. The relevant source served as the main source for this article entry in Wikipedia. You can also find more explanations on other containers and file formats, along with current information on developments in the field of digital video display, on the Website of the Moving Picture Experts Group. There is also an overview of the standards that are still being developed (AVC, HEVC, MP3 and some more) as well as details on the MPEG meetings. Do you have any comments on the topic? Then please leave a comment!

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