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What Is Video Encoding — The Ins and Outs of Video Encoding

what is video encoding

Video technology has developed immensely over the past few years — from the introduction of Blu-ray discs, new video formats, and 4k resolution to the development of virtual and augmented reality, we have it all. Alongside that technological progress also came an increased demand for video content. But with the ever-growing size of digital video files, getting videos out there became much more challenging. Well, that is where video encoding proved to be an invaluable solution. But what is video encoding? That, among other things, is what we’re going to find out!

The Definition of Video Encoding

In essence, video encoding is the process of video file compression so that the end product is a running video and not a set of individual images. The best way to visualize how videos work is by imagining a flipbook — many consecutive images change so quickly that they simulate motion. Well, the job of encoding is to make that motion as fluid as possible.

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Since the early days of video technology, 30 FPS (frames per second) was the standard for all video content. But what does that mean? Well, it means that every second of video consisted of 30 photos. However, large video file sizes were the consequence of that. So how does one deal with that? 

Video Compression and Encoding

That’s right — by compressing your video files, you can reduce their size significantly. But how does video compression even work? The gist of it is that, by compressing your raw video files before uploading, you can leave out any unnecessary frames, which can then be substituted with references to previous ones. That way, you can maximize your content’s quality and minimize storage requirements

But what about encoding? Didn’t we say that it, by definition, does the same thing? Well, yes, it does. Namely, encoding is just a specific type of video compression, and different compression standards dictate the process.

What Are Video Codecs?

When talking about different compression standards encoding follows, we must mention codecs. They dictate the encoding process, and they are a program or device that encodes or decodes a particular data signal or stream. Mostly, codecs are software that does all the dirty work in the compression process. They consist of two components:

  1. Encoder — deals with compression
  2. Decoder — recreates the final video form for playback

There are many different video and audio codecs out there, but here, we’re interested in the former. So take a look at a few examples of the most common and advanced video codecs:

  • H.264/AVC
  • H.265/HEVC
  • AV1
  • MPEG-2
  • VP9
  • RV40

Out of all these, perhaps the most commonly used codec in online videos is H.264. It is well-known for its excellent quality, compression efficiency, and encoding speed. This codec even supports 4k streaming, which is quite impressive for a codec that appeared on the market in 2003. However, all of the other entries are also used, some less than others.

One last thing — it’s imperative not to mix codecs up with different video file types (MOV, MKV, AVI, etc.). These files (or containers) only store data provided by the codecs in a manner that makes them compatible with different devices or apps. They in no way dictate how a video was encoded or decoded.

Why Encode Videos?

There are two primary reasons you want to encode your videos:

  1. Video encoding is what makes online video viewing possible — without compressing your videos, you’d never be able to stream them over the internet from your home. The same applies to live video streaming — encoding reduces the bandwidth requirements for live streams, so without it, video streaming would be impossible.
  2. Video encoding allows for compatibility between different devices — encoding does not only reduce video file sizes, but it also allows you to change video file types to fit different kinds of devices (transcoding). That way, you can ensure your content will be compatible with computers, tablets, mobile devices, etc. 

These reasons make it clear what the primary goal of encoding is — to provide the best quality and performance for the broadest audience and variety of devices possible

Now that you know why you should encode your videos, we must address the transcoding process as well. After all, there is a specific distinction between the two.

Encoding vs. Transcoding — How They Differ

People often use these terms interchangeably, but wrongfully so; there is a minor difference between them. In contrast to encoding, the transcoding process is that of decompressing (or decoding) one codec and compressing it into another. In layman’s terms, it entails the process of converting from one codec format to another. The reason you’d want to do that is to make your video viewable on multiple different platforms.

In reality, encoding occurs only during the initial process of recording when the video is converted into digital form for the first time and is still uncompressed. All other changes are just switching formats through transcoding.

Here are a few reasons you’d want to transcode your videos:

  • Change video’s resolution or aspect ratio
  • Convert old or unused formats into more modern ones
  • Make your clips compatible with various devices
  • Change audio or video format or quality

Anyway, since the difference between the two is so minor, it won’t matter much if you use them interchangeably in the grand scheme of things. But still, it’s useful to know the difference!

Let’s Recap!

OK, that was quite a handful of information, wasn’t it? We hope we didn’t give you a headache. Now, let’s make a quick recap of what we’ve covered.

Video encoding entails compressing your digital video files to maximize their quality and minimize storage usage. This technology is what enables videos and live streams to be shared and watched online. You can encode your videos using codecs — software or devices that handle the process — and there are many different types out there to choose from. Finally, if you need to convert from one codec to another to suit a wider variety of devices (due to different codec compatibilities), you can do so through transcoding. 

Ultimately, encoding has become an integral part of all video-making nowadays. Luckily, the process has mostly been automated as of late, so you will rarely have to worry about it. 

Encoding and Transcoding at Brid.TV

Our Brid.TV platform would be a fantastic example of the previously mentioned automation. We take care of all of our customers’ encoding and transcoding needs and offer many different options, such as:

All of our encoding is done on remote cloud servers, which allows us to quickly and efficiently encode large files that would otherwise consume a considerable amount of processing power. That is something in-house setups can hardly manage. So instead of spending a small fortune on setting up an in-house video encoding system, it’s much more cost-effective to let a third-party handle all your encoding needs. After all, our encoding services are free for all our premium users, and you won’t have to cover any extra maintenance fees or hire any additional staff.

Feel free to contact us if you wish to get started!

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