The easy answer to the question, “just how many video formats are there, anyway,” is a glib: “Probably more than either of us realize!”

However, that’s not exactly helpful to those new to video marketing and video making. It was not too long ago that you heard that you HAVE to have a picture of you on your website or blog because people are much more apt to contact you if they saw what you actually looked like. But now I hear you HAVE to have a video on that same website because then you’ll appear more than one-dimensional. I’m not so sure I buy into that because not everyone is cut out for video…

But if it’s something you want to try, or if you are a virtual assistant who is thinking about offering video marketing expertise to your clients, then here is some general information about YouTube compatible formats – with some clues to the differences between them…

.WMV

“WMV” stands for “Windows Media Format,” and is Microsoft’s standard video file format. It is highly versatile with its main advantage lying in its video compression abilities, which allows it to function at varying bandwidths. If you use Windows Movie Maker, you can easily output your files as WMV files. (Notice, however, that among all the file types that YouTube accepts, the standard Windows Movie Maker .MSWMM file format is not one of those “on the list”).

.MOV

The MAC version of .WMV. Works best with QuickTime, if you’re going to download and play. You’ll find many .MOV files on YouTube.

MPEG 4 (MP4)

The advantages of the .MP4 file format lies in the way it discards any non-essential information, reducing file size to the minimum.

MP4 format is most often used with PSPs and iPods.

.3GP

Yes, Virginia – you can upload this popular mobile phone format! But be aware that you can lose quality when transferring .3GP files to YouTube.

.FLV

Adobe Flash format. Flash movies work well on YouTube – but to play .FLV files, you’ll need a Flash Player such as Adobe or Applian installed on your computer. (Run your spyware program after downloading the latest Adobe Flash Player. The last two times I’ve upgraded, I’ve immediately been hit by an Adobe spyware program, according to my anti-virus.)

.MKV

Written in open-format Extensible Binary Meta Language, Matroska is quick to point out it is XML-based and not a video compression codec. Free to use, it aims to become “the open source alternative to existing containers such as AVI, ASF, MOV, RM, MP4, MPG.”

You will need to be familiar with all these types of video file extensions in order to make the most of your video marketing – but mercifully, of course, you don’t need to know how to use them all. Just knowing what they are can make a difference to how you choose your hardware and software or how you can guide your clients. They will love you for being their Google on the subject.