MPEG-4 stands for “Moving Pictures Expert Group 4,” a standard for audio and video coding compression. The method reduces the size of an audio or a video file while retaining its fidelity or quality.

MPEG-4 is commonly shortened to “MP4.” MP4 files can be read by computer applications such as QuickTime and VLC. It is also widely used on Blu-ray discs and DVDs.

Think of MPEG-4 as a user manual that tells audio and video recorders and editors how to compress files without making their quality suffer for faster online streaming or CD distribution.

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MPEG-4 is a pretty popular format for video files distributed on the Internet. These files undergo compression to make streaming and downloading much more manageable compared with other video formats.

What Is the Difference between MPEG-4 and MP4?

While MPEG-4 is often abbreviated as “MP4,” the two are different file formats that serve different purposes.

MPEG-4 is the standard of compressing audio and visual data, whereas MP4 is the shortened form for “MPEG-4 Part 14” specifically. It is the MP4 format based on Apple’s MOV file. As such, MP4 is the method of storing audio and video data to make it ready for online streaming.

While MPEG-4 is a video encoding algorithm used to compress and convert images into data, MP4 is a container format. The latter does not follow any standardized method of coding. Instead, it uses codecs that prescribe how the file should be coded. As such, MP4 files are compressed using different standards, including those that used MPEG-4 compression.

How Does MPEG-4 Compression Work?

In general, MPEG-4 uses various strategies to achieve high-quality compression rates. The idea is to compress the file without throwing away much of its information and maintaining an optimal viewing experience for the user.

To achieve this optimal compression, it takes into account two redundancies—temporal and spatial.

Temporal Redundancy

This strategy assumes successive frames of a video sequence to be highly similar. As such, instead of encoding each frame per second, MPEG-4 will only encode identified differences between frames through motion estimation.

Spatial Redundancy

In MPEG-4 compression, spatial redundancy takes advantage of adjacent images to use low-frequency color spreads over images. That means adjacent pixels would have the same color. Spatial redundancy thus allows users to compress images by doing away with high-frequency details without altering the outcome much.

How Can I Open MPEG-4 Files?

In general, all MPEG video files are widely compatible with many different programs like VLC Media Player, iTunes, Windows Media Player, and QuickTime. In most modern applications, opening MPEG files can be done by double-clicking the file and allowing the operating system (OS) to choose the best program to run it.

An OS that does not have a default program can automatically change to QuickTime for macOS or Windows Media Player for Windows. Sometimes, installing a new application can also immediately set associations with MPEG files. In some cases, it is best to download a third-party app like VLC Media Player that can open any kind of file, including MPEG.

MPEG files, like MPEG-4, provide users with high-definition audio and video quality from files with sizes that are compatible with even mobile networks.