MP4 file format, also commonly known as MPEG-4 Part 14 or MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) is a multimedia file format used to digitally store audio and video files. MP4 file format is also used for video streaming over the internet. MP4 file format is basically a container which holds audio and video files that are digitally encoded. MP4 file format has only one official file extension i-e .mp4. There are two unofficial file extensions as well namely .m4A which is audio only and .m4p which stands for protected MP4 file format.
MP4 is a more specified version of a general purpose ISO media format based MPEG-4 Part 12 file format. MPEG-4 Part 12 is based on quick time audio/video file format. MPEG was developed in the year 1998 by Motion Picture Expert Group (MPEG) which is also credited with having set the standards for video and audio data encoding. The purpose of developing MP4 file format was to introduce a video and audio file container that could hold low data audio and video file used on internet for streaming. In the year 1998, when MP4 file format was introduced, World Wide Web was gaining popularity and an audio/video format consuming low bandwidth was required.
Compression algorithm for MP4 file format is somewhat similar to MP3 compression algorithm but MP4 compression is lossless and audio or video quality of the actual file is not decreased.
Video files using MP4 file container are compressed using H.264 or MPEG-4 compression techniques while audio files are compressed using AAC compression algorithm which is also used for .AAC extension file compressions.
- Suitable for video streaming over the internet.
- Less loss of quality with higher degree of compression.
- Can store data types other than video and audio, such as object descriptors, scene descriptors and other object oriented file structures and MPEG features.
- Separate hint track is used to encode streaming information.
- MP4 files can be run virtually on all the major media players and sound card drivers.
The only disadvantage of MP4 file format is from editing and movie making point of view. MP4 files are not easy to edit or update.
MP4 file format is used almost everywhere, being the standard video format. Several mobile platforms and handheld devices use MP4 file format as default file format. Smartphones, iPads and Tablets make wide use of MP4 file format in order to play audio and video files.