WMV – Definition

The Windows Media Video format, or WMV format, is a video compression format developed by Microsoft Corporation for handling video contents and Internet streaming applications on personal computers. This type of file allows large files to be compressed or reduced in size for a better support to use over the network while still protecting the quality. Originally, WMV is a non-standard version of MPEG-4 but after standardization by the SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineer), WMV is considered to be an open standard format now.

Filename Extension: WMV

Category: Video File

Popularity: Popular among Windows users

Developer: Microsoft Corporation

Facts about WMV

  • When WMV is packed into the ASF container format, the resulting files have the ASF file extension.
  • WMV files can also be put into the AVI and Matroska container format.
  • The WMV file which is protected by the standard Windows Media DRM system is unplayable on the Microsoft Zune.
  • The main competitors of WMV are RealVideo, AVS, MPEG-4 AVC and MPEG-4 ASP.
  • Previously, the Microsoft Silverlight platform only adopted WMV as its supported video format but the version 3 also supports H.264 format.
  • Catering for specialized content, Microsoft also developed WMV Screen and WMV Image.

Pros: WMV takes little disc memory to preserve the quality similar to the original. Therefore, WMV is a great way for web videos because the loading time won’t increase due to its small size.

Cons: As WMV is a Windows format, it is difficult to find Apple or Linux media players capable of playing WMV videos. Based on this reason, WMV has not been a standard streaming video format.

Comparison – WMV as a codec or a container format?

Typically, WMV can be referred to both a video codec and a container format. To make it more understandable, read the below illustration to figure out the differences.


As a codec

Raw video and audio data consume too much storage of space. Thus, the role of a codec is to compress the vast amounts of data. More specifically, a codec is a device or program used to compress or decompress the digital data, such as a video or song. The encoder compresses the data stream into a smaller file for transport and storage and the decoder decompresses them for viewing or transcoding. The WMV codec is a widely used video compression format. Pair the video data compressed with WMV codec with the audio data compressed with an audio codec and then put them into a container file, people will get a file labeled xxx.wmv. This file contains both WMV codec and WMV container file.


As a container

Once the media data is compressed into suitable formats and reasonable sizes, it needs to be packaged, transported and presented. And that is the mission of container formats. The most common container for a WMV file is an ASF container format ended with xxx.wmv or xxx.asf. When we see a single WMV file, there are actually three files in it: a video file, an audio file and the container file. The WMV file tells the video player what format of the video and audio are in and how to play both files synchronically so they will not sound in disorder.

What Programs Support WMV Format

Windows Media Player – Abbreviated WMP, Windows Media Player is developed by Microsoft for playing audio, video and viewing images on PC running Windows OS. Microsoft also released editions for Mac OS in 2003, but the further development for the software has been discontinued.

RealPlayer – Formerly named RealAudio Player, RealPlayer is a cross-platform media player designed by RealNetworks used for playback multimedia files. There are different versions for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Unix, Android, Symbian and Palm.

K-Multimedia Player – K-Multimedia Player is commonly known as KMPlayer which is a media player for Windows OS. It was acquired by Pandora TV, a Korean streaming video company in August, 2007.

MPlayer – Previously, MPlayer is called “The Movie Player for Linux”, which was shortened to “The Movie Player” later. This player is an open source media player developed by a Hungarian programmer Árpád Gereöffy for Linux. Now the software is available for multiple operating systems, including Windows OS, Mac OS, Linux, Unix, etc.

Media Player Classic – Media Player Classic is a compact media player for Windows OS. It was developed as a closed-source program at the very beginning but later licensed to be free software.

VideoLan VLC Media Player – VLC is an open-source media player running on cross platforms developed by VideoLan project. It supports almost all file formats and compression methods.

Flip4Mac – Flip4Mac is particularly known as a component for QuickTime Player. Microsoft distributed Flip4Mac instead of its own WMP for Mac OS to support playback of Windows Media Video on January 12, 2006.

Complete-set of Solutions for WMV file


Convert MOV to WMV – MOV is an MPEG-4 video container format often used in Apple’s QuickTime program for saving video files. Despite its compatibility with Microsoft Windows Media Player, this format cannot be supported on other Windows-based devices, like Microsoft Zune. If you want to directly view the MOV movies in such devices without installing third-party software, you’ll need to convert MOV movies into WMV movies.


Convert FLV to WMV – FLV is a flash video format for delivering video over the Internet. It usually uses Adobe Flash Player to broadcast the files. This file format is not supported on Windows based devices. If you want to directly view flash movies on this sort of gadgets, you’d better convert them to WMV files.


Convert MKV to WMV – MKV is famous for preserving high video quality but it also comes with big file size. If we tend to watch MKV videos on Windows-friendly devices or gadgets, converting it into WMV file format will be a good solution to acquire the best video enjoyment on devices with insufficient memory space.

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