‘Video encoding’ is a phrase that is thrown around a lot in the media industry. It may seem like a daunting concept, but never fear, it’s a quick study to understand. We’ve collected (and answered!) some common FAQ’s regarding video encoding to help you get a better idea.
What is Video Encoding?
The first thing to know about video encoding is that it is also known as transcoding. This can throw people off when they are unfamiliar with the terms, but please rest assured that they mean the same thing.
The technical definition of video encoding is ‘the process of changing a digital video’s format from one standard into another, generally for the purpose of compatibility’. So, video encoding is basically the process of converting a digital file (a video) into another digital format.
In the transcoding process, the original video source is known as the ‘video input’. The new, converted video, is known as the ‘video output’.
Video encoding, technically speaking, changes the type of video, but it will not actually change the video content. For example, you will not transcode your video and suddenly have a chunk of footage missing. What it will change is the file size, and possibly the video quality. We will get more into this further into the article.
The short answer is this: different devices require different video formats. Yes, we know this is a huge inconvenience, and no, unfortunately, there is not a perfect ‘universal format’.
Some more background information: computers, cell phones, and tablets all require specific digital formats in order to play a video. Different television and cable channels will have different ‘tech specs’, or technical specifications, and will require video to be received in specific digital formats. But that’s not all—even different web browsers need specific video formats, in addition to all the different video softwares and players. When working with content that you want to spread as wide as possible, you will need to have your video in multiple formats.
Thus, it is important to be able to convert your video, or encode it, when required.
What are the Different Video Encoding Formats?
As outlined above, there are numerous types of devices, softwares, and channels that need different video formats. Each format comes with it’s own video codec. Don’t worry–we will explain what a codec is.
A codec, in layman terms, is a word used to describe your digital file. If you’re after a technical definition, here it is: a video codec is an algorithm that allows for compression or decompression of digital content. An easier way to explain this is to think of a codec as a digital file’s ‘type’. Let’s use JPEG as an example.
JPEG is a common codec used for photographs. (Surprise! You already knew one codec.) When you click into a digital picture’s information, you see this:
This tells you that your image is a JPEG, which is the codec for that particular picture.
There are dozens of codecs out there, and some don’t exist anymore, or are rarely used.
H.264 is the most common form of video codec. (It is also known as MPEG-4/AVC). It is compatible with a variety of platforms, including HDTV, Blu-Ray/DVD players, mobile devices, and portable gaming consoles. By converting digital video to the H.264 format, you can reduce file size by 80% while maintaining a high image quality. This is Bold Content’s go-to codec when exporting for a client.
How Do you Encode Your Video?
There are many different methods to encode your video. The most important thing to remember, that can save you a lot of time, is to simply capture your video in the desired format. This way, you can skip the encoding process altogether.
However, when video encoding is unavoidable, you do have a few options. There are post-production companies that offer transcoding services. You can also upload your video footage to a video encoding company ‘in the cloud’, that will take care of your transcoding for you. Of course, you can also do it yourself.
This being said, there are numerous softwares out there that can address your encoding needs. HandBrake is one option, as is Sorenson Squeeze. These softwares are very user friendly–you simply select the file you would like to convert, specify which type, and let the program do the rest.
Things to Watch Out For
The most crucial thing to remember when changing video format is always start at a high-quality source and reduce down. You can always take away pixels, but you cannot add pixels that don’t exist.
Additionally, once you transcode a video from one format to another, if you need an additional format, always transcode the original source. Ultimately, the more times you transcode a video, the lower the quality will get. See the comparison below:
There you have it. Video encoding is basically the process of converting one digital file with a specific format into another format. All of the different devices, tv/cable channels, and softwares require different formats, thus it’s important to know how to encode your video. A codecs is a file name used to describe a video’s format. There are numerous types of codecs you can convert your file into, and H.264 is the most common form. You can use online softwares to encode your video yourself, or send it off to a post-production company to have it done for you. Lastly, you should always start your transcoding with a high-quality source and ‘convert down’ to avoid ending up with a poor-quality video.