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Difference Between MPEG4 and MP4

MPEG4 vs MP4

MPEG4 and MP4 are very easy to confuse with each other, not just because they differ by a letter, but also because they are very closely intermingled in media files like movies and music. The main difference between an MPEG4 and an MP4 is their function. MPEG4 is a video encoding algorithm that is actually responsible for how the images are compressed and converted into data. In comparison, an MP4 is just a media container that was developed to hold the data that is encoded by an MPEG4. It does not deal with the actual video, thus it does not affect the resulting quality. What an MP4 is concerned with is how the data for video and audio are stored within the file as well as other relevant information like subtitles, chapters, and the like.

Because MP4 was developed for MPEG4 encoded media, it can also be found within the MPEG4 specification; to be more specific, as part 14. It is not the only container format under MPEG4 as it is a derivative of the more general MPEG4 Part 12 specification for storing MPEG4 files.

An MPEG4 encoded video stored in an MP4 file could have been encoded by any of the various codecs; DivX, Xvid, Quicktime, and x264 just to name a few. In order to play that MP4 file, you need to have the right codecs installed on your computer.

Adding to the confusion with the terminologies is the appearance of MP4 media players. These generic media players appeared as an upgrade to old MP3 players that were only capable of playing audio files. Although the use of the term “MP4” might lead you believe that these devices are capable of decoding MPEG4 videos, most of them only have rudimentary video capabilities and are only capable of playing AVI files. Only a handful has the ability to actually play back MPEG4 files; probably because of the relatively high processing power needed to decode them, especially H.264.


1.MPEG4 is a video encoding algorithm while an MP4 is a media container.
2.MP4 is defined under Part 14 of the MPEG4 specification.
3.An MP4 file can have an MPEG4 video that is encoded by various codecs.

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  1. Hello,

    Helpful article, but there is one thing I am confused about…

    If mp4 is the container, then surely MPEG-4 is the codec? Various softwares like MPEG STREAMCLIP give this impression as it gives the option of having MPEG-4 as a codec when transcoding footage…

    However you state in the article that MPEG-4 can be “encoded by any of the various codecs DivX, Xvid, Quicktime, and x264…”

    Could you please elaborate on this?


    • Oscar, the mpeg-4 standard defines the features of mpeg-4 and how they function. It is up to the codec developers to implement those features. The different codecs listed are different implementations of the mpeg-4 codec (although x-264 is actually an implementation of H-264, which is a more advanced version of mpeg-4)

  2. Bravo!
    thank for your information. It’s more clear than the info you can find on wikpedia.org.
    Very helpull.
    Good work!

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