iPad Supported Video Formats
H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats;
MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats;
Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in u-law, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format.
iPad Supported Audio Formats
HE-AAC (V1 and V2)
AAC (8 to 320 Kbps)
Protected AAC (from iTunes Store)
MP3 (8 to 320 Kbps)
MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX, and AAX+)
iPad Supported TV Formats
Up to 1080p with Apple Digital AV Adapter or Apple VGA Adapter (cables sold separately)
576p and 480p with Apple Component AV Cable
576i and 480i with Apple Composite AV Cable
Apple’s Choice of iPad Video Format
As you can see, the iPad will play back videos encoded using either the MPEG-4 or H.264 codecs. Apple’s likely reason for these particular choices of codec is that they are an open, established standard, and they both provide a very high level of video and audio quality for a given file size. MPEG-4 has historically been very good in this regard to begin with, and the H.264 codec has improved on the quality and file size efficiency. Further, this does not represent the video standard that is used by most video recording devices, TV recording devices, or commercial DVDs. The result is that finding video content from anywhere other than the iTunes Store that is already encoded in an Apple-ready format is going to be difficult, and much of this content will therefore need to be converted.