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I've been looking for info about "MPEG vs MP4" and I've heard of movie files called both. I'm pretty sure they're the same thing, so I was just looking for some confirmation. If not, what is the difference between MP4 and MPEG4? And, the box of my device which I want to buy says it supports mpeg4 files. Does that mean it shall run mp4 files too? Thanks in advance.

Is a MPEG4 video the same as a MP4 video? What are the differences between MPEG4 format and MP4 format? If you have the same doubt about MPEG4 and MP4, scroll down to figure out.

MPEG-4 vs MP4: Definition

MP4 can be a video file extension (.mp4), a container format used to store both video and audio data, as well as a video format.

MPEG-4 (video codec) refers to a well known compression method of the MPEG group, especially designed for low-bandwidth (less than 1.5MBit/sec bitrate) video/audio encoding purposes.

Container Formats for MPEG-4: Except for MP4, there are some other media container formats that can be used for videos encoded in MPEG-4, including AVI, Matroska, MXF, Ogg and QuickTime.

Knowning the definition of MPEG4 and MP4 helps you get a basic understanding of these two video formats. From the simple describtion above, we know that MP4 is a video container format, while MPEG-4 is a video codec format.

Normally, when we say MP4 video, we're talking about a video ending in the file extension .mp4. MP4 can refer to a video file extension while MPEG4 cannot. Of course, there are some other differences between mp4 and mpeg4. To figure them out, you have to understand two basic terms first: media container and video codec. It is as simple as this formula:
Media Container = video format (video codec) + audio format (audio codec) + subtitle

Hot search: VVC H266 vs AV1, H.266 vs H.265

MPEG-4 vs MP4: Compatibility

Almost all media players support MP4 container/format (MPEG-4). A rare few like RealPlayer only supports partial MPEG-4. If you try to play an .mts (mpeg2) video in iPhone, which somehow shows you "Unknown Video File", what is the solution? Surely, iPhone only supports .mp4, .mov and .m4v videos. So you can re-encode your video accordingly, meaning converting MTS to video formats like MP4 (mpeg4), MOV (mpeg4) or M4V (mpeg4) with a MP4 MPEG4 video converter.

Most devices and programs supports MP4, which means MP4 container format is widely accepted, however, the MP4 video file compatility also depends on which codec it uses. Some codec formats such as HEVC, AV1, are not universally compatible.

MPEG-4 vs MP4: Formula

To make the difference of MP4 and MPEG4 much clearer, let's apply the formula to the "mpeg4 vs mp4":
MP4 (.mp4) = MP4 video format (.mpeg4/.h264 video codec) + audio format (mp3, aac, etc) + subtitle
AVI (.avi) = AVI video format (.mpeg4/.h264 video codec) + audio format (mp3, aac, etc) + subtitle, or other codec formats.
MKV (.mkv) = MKV video format (.mpeg4/.h264 video codec) + audio format (mp3, aac, etc) + subtitle, or other codec formats.

Common video container formats include MP4, AVI, MKV, WMV, MOV, FLV, to name a few. MPEG-4, MPEG-2, HEVC, Divx, VP8, VP9 are all video codec formats. Video container formats > video codec formats.

Related: check out MPEG-2 vs MPEG-4, which video codec format is better?

MPEG-4 vs MP4: Common Misunderstandings

To make you get clear on the difference between MPEG4 and MP4 as simply as I can, I will first adopt the method "proof by contradiction" as follows. Check if you make the same mistakes.

  1. MPEG4 file format equals to MP4; (Incorrect)
  2. MPEG-4 is just the long version of what is commonly called MP4; (Incorrect)
  3. MP4 is just audio and music. MPEG4 is video, used in movies and TV shows, etc; (Incorrect)
  4. MP4 is video files on or for mobile devices while mpeg4 is just regular video files; (Incorrect)
  5. MP4 is a container for mpeg-4 video. There are other containers, like MKV, which also can have mpeg-4 video files in them. When devices, like iPhone, do not support MKV (MPEG-4), you can convert MKV to MP4/mpeg4. (Correct)

External resources:

MPEG-4 Part 14(MP4) on Wikipedia, including format history, filename extensions, data streams, metadata, and more. Check out detailed introduction of MP4 format.

MPEG-4 on Wikipedia, including development background, profiles and levels overview, licenses patents, a full list of contents about MPEG-4 codec format.


author - Kistent Waung

Kistent Waung twitter icon

Graduated from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, she employs herself in IT related content creation (since 2013) and happens to perfectly combine her major (computer & science) and her gusto (writing). She's seasoned at offering video audio conversion workarounds and always passionate about new trends, from hot HEVC, 4K to the new AV1 codec.

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