What Is the Difference Between MP4, AVI & MPEG?

By Deborah Lee Soltesz

Our modern computer age gives you the option to capture, create, edit and distribute your films completely using digital technologies. There are many video file formats you can choose from, each with different features and benefits. AVI, MP4 and MPEG are among the video file formats that stand out from the crowd in terms of sheer popularity.

Video Container Formats

MP4, AVI and MPEG are video file formats, also called "container formats." In the context of digital video, containers are a collections of files encompassing all the components of a video. The components of MP4, AVI, MPEG and other containers may include video, audio, subtitles and chapter information. Each container format supports different video and audio formats, compression types and other details, giving each format benefits and disadvantages over the others.


Microsoft's AVI format is an uncompressed video format. Video compression techniques are designed to reduce file size, but in doing so, they reduce the quality of the video. Video stored in AVI format retains its original quality. However, since there is no compression, the file size of an AVI video can be extremely large. AVI format supports a wide range of video and audio formats and variable frame and bit rates. It does not support menus or streaming. These features make AVI an excellent format for storing and editing video, but a poor format for distributing video via the Internet or physical media.


MP4, also known as MPEG-4, is one of the latest in a long line of MPEG video formats developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group. MP4 supports compression, subtitles, multiple data types and streaming. Due to the efficient trade-off between video quality and file size and streaming support, MP4 is commonly used to distribute video via the Internet. It is also commonly supported in video editors and allows the use of lossless compression codecs, enabling you to manage your entire workflow in MP4 format.


MPEG is an older, compressed video file format that uses MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 compression. It is commonly used to distribute video on the Internet and DVDs. It does not support lossless compression and does not feature some of the flexibilities of other formats, making it a poor format for editing video. MPEG has long been a standard, is well supported in most browsers and video players and supports streaming, making it a good choice for end product video distribution via the Internet and DVD.

Choosing a Video File Format

The ultimate consideration when choosing among AVI, MP4 and MPEG is how you plan to use the video file. As a filmmaker performing extensive video creation and editing, AVI or MP4 will serve your purpose well. MP4 or MPEG are both good formats for distributing your finished work on your website. MPEG is the popular choice for creating video archives of video converted from DVDs. Additional points to consider are your software tools, available file storage and required video features.