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MOV vs MP4 in Terms of File Size, Quality, Compatibility, and More

MOV or MP4? Which is better for shooting on iPhone, DJI drone, etc.? Which offers better video output in terms of quality and file size? Should you choose MOV or MP4 for editing or uploading to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram? Many users are confused with the differences between MOV and MP4 formats. Given that, read the MOV and MP4 introduction and comparison to make sure the video is produced in the best file type, quality, and size for your purpose.

Convert Videos to/from MOV and MP4 (HEVC, H.264, MPEG-4, VP9, etc.)

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Part 1. Definition of MP4 and MOV File Formats

Both MOV and MP4 are container formats for audio, video, and text. They can all store commonly used video and audio codecs, including H.264, H.265, MPEG-4. Here are the exact definition of MP4 and MOV.

What is MOV?

MOV format was initially developed by Apple, meant for holding video files together with other data like file information, chapters and more. It is also known as QuickTime File Format (short for QTFF), and works mostly in the Apple ecosystem. Compared with MP4, most MOV files contain high bitrate video files with less compression, and most cameras and drones adopt MP4 as the recording format. However, since the compression in MOV is little to no, it is relatively good for editing compared with MP4, though it leads to substantial file size.

  • Extension: .mov, .qt (Quicktime)
  • Developed by: Apple Inc.
  • Type of format: Media container
  • Container for: Audio, video, text
  • Support video codec: H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, MPEG-1, etc.
  • Support audio codec: MP3, AAC, AC-3, and others.
  • Advantages: Work well in Apple environment.
  • Disadvantages: Not highly compressible and file size is larger than that of MP4.

What is MP4?

MP4 format supports more video/audio coding format and subtitle/caption formats than MOV does, such as VP8, VP9, AV1, FLAC, DTS, along with others. It is a universal file format that is widely used on the internet and playable on almost all media players and mobile devices. Check the basic information of MP4 video format below:

  • Extension: .mp4
  • Developed by: International Organization for Standardization
  • Type of format: Media container
  • Container for: Audio, video, text
  • Support video codec: H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, MPEG-1, VP9, VP8, etc.
  • Support audio codec: MP3, AAC, AC-3, DTS, Opus, FLAC, etc.
  • Advantages: Open on any media player, PC, Mac, or mobile device.
  • Disadvantages: Not so great for editing.

Part 2. MP4 vs MOV: Compatibility

When it comes to compatibility, MP4 wins. MOV designed by Apple is highly compatible with the Apple ecosystem, e.g. Mac computers, iPhone, iPad, QuickTime Player, Final Cut Pro, iMovie, and so on. Now, many media players, video editors, and video sharing sites accept MOV file type. But you may still run into trouble when playing MOV video on Windows though MOV is claimed to be suitable for Windows Media Player 12, and Windows operating system. Compared with MOV, MP4 is universally accepted. MOV and MP4 are friendly with the following mainstream players, editors, and video sharing sites.

  • Media players: VLC, Windows Media Player, QuickTime Player, 5KPlayer, Potplayer, KMPlayer.
  • Video editors: Adobe Premiere Pro/Rush/Elements, Lightworks, DaVinci Resolve, Sony Vegas Pro, Final Cut Pro X, Hitfilm Express, Shotcut.
  • Video sharing sites: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Dailymotion, Twitter.

However, you need to know that both MOV and MP4 are just container formats, whether they are supporteo depend on the video and audio codec formats they hold. Speaking of codec format, things become more complicated. Normally, you won't go wrong with MP4 with H.264 format and AAC audio. That's why many users choose to convert MOV to MP4 format. Twitter mobile app prefers MP4 and MOV formats, on the web, only MP4 video with H.264 and AAC codec formats are accepted. So, MP4 with H.264 video codec format has widespread support.

Part 3. MP4 vs MOV: Quality

Technically, there's no difference between MP4 and MOV format in terms of quality. In fact, quality is determined by resolution, bit rate, and compression algorithm (codec). Many users on the DJI forum ask which format delivers better quality for shooting on the Mavic/Phantom drone series. As we mentioned above, MP4 and MOV are just containers that don't affect the quality of the encoded videos.

MOV and MP4 video playback quality is the same if they use the same compression standard and recording settings. If you notice that MOV delivers better image quality visually, this is because it generally holds high bitrate data file compared with MP4. MP4 or MOV, it depends on what platform you are processing your content. That is to say, when choosing MP4 or MOV, compatibility is the factor you have to consider.

Part 4. MP4 vs MOV: File Size

Which file format is smaller? MOV or MP4? In fact, MOV and MP4 are just wrappers where the data is stored. They have nothing to do with file size. The only factors affecting video size are video length and bitrate. The size is the duration times the bitrate. It's inexact to say MOV files are bigger than MP4 and change MOV to MP4 for smaller file size. In fact, different wrappers support different codecs and compression standards, the settings you use when encoding video have a great influence on file size, and most MOV file contain less compressed video file with high bitrate data, so the file size is bigger than MP4. Learn the right way to compress large MOV files.

FAQ: are mp4 and mov the same

1. Which format is better for YouTube

According to YouTube, it prefers MP4 file encoded in H.264 codec. Audio should be encoded in AAC. So it’s recommend to use MP4 rather than MOV if you want to upload to YouTube.

2. Which format is better for editing?

MOV files are better for video editing on a mac, since they’re specifically designed for QuickTime. While at the same time, most cameras or camcorders shoot MOV video in Prores, a more friendly codec using intraframe compression for editing compared with the non-linear LCM HEVC or H.264 that is born for video content deliver. While MP4 file is commonly encoded in HEVC or H.264 that adopts Long GOP inter-frame compression, which is more friendly for content delivery.

3. Which format is better for playing?

MP4. As it is mentioned above, MP4 has better compatibility than MOV. If you want to have your video playable on PC, Mac, TV, mobile device, gaming systems or so, make sure to change MOV to MP4 format.

Sum up

To sum it up, both MOV and MP4 containers don't have an effect on the quality and file size of the final encoded videos. Choosing MOV or MP4 format depends on what you want to do with your videos. If you play or edit the video on the Mac community, the MOV format is suitable. If you are going to put the resulting video on Windows computer, Android mobile devices, or share with other people, you are safe with MP4 H.264 format that has universal playback support.

Learn More: How to Convert MOV to MP4 in 3 Steps without Losing Quality

References:

QuickTime File Format (QTFF) from Wikipedia.
MPEG-4 Part 14 or MP4 from Wikipedia.
Comparison of video container formats, video/audio/caption formats support.
Video file formats, codecs, and containers explained.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author - Kaley Torres

Kaley Torres twitter icon

Kaley Torres is a self-motivated, creative editor with eight years of marketing and SEO experience, specializing in writing on DVD, video, audio, images, new digital contents etc. With a partiality DVD collection, Kaley also enjoys digitizing DVD and is keen to share her DVD video conversion solutions as well as video sharing tips on social media.

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