If you’re using Google Photos or Flickr to host videos, your videos have already been re-encoded to an MP4 format for use across pretty much all devices. But if your video is on Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive, you are in charge of making sure your video is compatible with your playback device.
MP4 files support a variety of resolutions, frame rates, codecs, and encoding levels. Your device needs to support these in order to natively decode the video.
If you’re trying to play the video on a Fire TV, the list of supported formats by the decoder is at https://developer.amazon.com/docs/fire-tv/device-specifications-fire-tv-streaming-media-player.html
For example, the 2014 Fire TV does not support decoding h.265 encoded videos and only supports h.264 encoded videos at 1080p and 30 fps. If you try to decode an h.265 or 4k video, it will fail. The device doesn’t understand these encodings.
In general, you’re going to experience problems decoding and rendering 4K videos on 1080p devices. These videos are best re-encoded to a resolution and bandwidth that aligns with the device’s native resolution.
Likewise, playing modern iPhone videos on older Android devices is going to be a problem, especially if you’re recording 4K or do not have “Most Compatible” checked in the camera settings. The iPhone likes to push the limits using HEVC formats and older Android decoders typically can’t handle them.
What can you do then?
- If you’re using an iPhone, ensure you’ve selected “Most Compatible” under Formats in the Camera settings. This will write a larger, but more compatible file for everything under 4K@60fps.
- If the video format is incompatible with your decoder, you can install VLC and then tell the app to use it as your video player. It likely won’t make a difference, but it provides a second opinion and has a better software decoder to fallback on. Just tell the app to use it in the app settings, Display, Use VLC setting.
- You can re-encode the videos into a more compatible MP4 format. Typically h.264 is well supported. Even if you do not own a Fire TV, you can use its support levels per model year to guess what support levels your device might have.
- You can copy the videos to a service like Flickr or Google Photos which will re-encode them into a compatible format. You can then use my corresponding app for playback.