.MP4 File Extension

MPEG-4 Video

Developer Moving Picture Experts Group
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What is an MP4 file?

An MP4 file stores a video in the widely used MPEG-4 Part 14 (MP4) multimedia container format. It typically contains video and audio data (and related metadata) but may also store subtitles and still images. Since MP4 is a standard format, you can open MP4 files with most media players, including Microsoft Media Player and Apple QuickTime Player.

More Information

Screenshot of a .mp4 file in Microsoft Media Player 11
MP4 file open in Microsoft Media Player 11

In the late 1990s, the ISO and IEC organizations commissioned the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) to develop an international standard for audio and video coding formats. This initiative resulted in the formation of the MP4 format, which MPEG released in 2001 and subsequently updated in 2003 with version 2 of the format.

Since its release, MP4 has become one of the most common formats for storing and sharing video. The format's popularity is partially due to its ability to save videos at smaller file sizes than most other formats without much loss in quality. This advantage made MP4 an excellent option for exporting videos and sharing them online.

MP4 Format

The MP4 format is an extension of the QuickTime File Format (QTFF), used in .MOV and .QT video files. It is a container format that supports different data streams, including video, audio, subtitles, and metadata, with each stream encoded by different codecs, as detailed below:

  • Video data - May be encoded using various codecs, such as MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264/AVC), MPEG-H Part 2 (H.265/HEVC), or MPEG-4 Part 2
  • Audio data - Primarily compressed with AAC compression, which is the same audio compression used by .AAC files ​
  • Subtitle data - Typically saved in the MPEG-4 Streaming text format, which is also known as MPEG-4 Part 17 and MPEG-4 Timed Text (MP4TT)
  • Metadata - May be formatted using various standards, including the Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) format

Furthermore, the MP4 container supports both lossless and lossy codecs. For example, MP4 supports the lossless MPEG-4 SLS and lossy AAC audio codecs.

However, MP4 only supports lossy video codecs, which compress video data at varying levels. For example, the popular H.264 video codec featured in many MP4 files uses lossy compression to significantly reduce video data stream sizes, which is helpful when sharing MP4 files online (e.g., uploading videos to YouTube and Vimeo).

NOTE: MP4 files that store only audio data typically use the .m4a extension (.M4A files).

How to open an MP4 file

You can open and play an MP4 file with most media players. For example, you can open an MP4 file in Windows with the bundled Microsoft Movies & TV and Media Player apps. On a Mac, you can open an MP4 file with the bundled Apple QuickTime Player. You can also play MP4 files with the cross-platform VLC media player or in a web browser, such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

Additionally, you can double-tap MP4 files on iOS and Android devices to play them with their platforms' default media players. However, if you are looking for more advanced playback options, you can open MP4 files with VLC for iOS or VLC for Android.

How to edit an MP4 file

MP4 file open in Adobe Premiere Pro 2023
MP4 file open in Adobe Premiere Pro 2023

Many video editors allow you to import and edit MP4 videos. Some options include:

How to convert an MP4 file

Many media players and video editors, including VLC media player, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve, and Handbrake, allow you to convert MP4 files to other formats.

For example, VLC media player can convert MP4 files to the following formats:

  • .WEBM - WebM Video
  • .TS - Video Transport Stream
  • .ASF - Advanced Systems Format
  • .OGG - Ogg Vorbis Audio
  • .MP3 - MP3 Audio

You can also convert MP4 files to .GIF animations with Adobe Express Convert to GIF, a free online program.

Programs that open MP4 files

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