What is Transcoding?

Transcoding is the process of converting an audio or video file from one encoding format to a different in order to improve the number of compatible target units a media file can be played on.


Encoding and transcoding are generally used interchangeably, however the processes, though closely related, are indeed different.

Encoding is the process of compressing video and audio files to be compatible with a single goal device. Transcoding, however, allows for already encoded data to be transformed to another encoding format. This process is especially helpful when customers use multiple target units, comparable to different mobile phones and web browsers, that don’t all help the identical native formats or have limited storage capacity.

Encoding is a naturally lossy process, meaning that it causes a certain quantity of data to be discarded and in the end decreases audio and video quality. Encoding can use lossless compression, however it ends in decreased compression rates and elevated media file sizes.

With that in mind, there are three types of transcoding:

Lossy-to-lossy: This is the least splendid form of transcoding. It means you already have a file with decreased quality and transcoding causes the quality to degrade even further. The only reason to use this form of transcoding is to lower the bitrate and save space for storing on portable players.

Lossless-to-lossless: By taking advantage of better compression and hardware assist a file will be losslessly compressed. This type of transcoding is useful for converting to new formats without losing quality, but the resulting files are often too large to send to portable devices.

Lossless-to-lossy: This transcoding technique causes less quality loss than lossy-to-lossy and produces file sizes small enough for portable devices. You should keep archives of losslessly compressed files to actually leverage this transcoding method.

There isn’t a such thing as lossy-to-lossless transcoding. Once data and quality have been misplaced in the course of the encoding or transcoding process they can’t be regained.

How Transcoding Works

Transcoding and encoding should not be confused with transmuxing which only converts the container format comparable to MP4 and FLV (Flash). However, video and audio files are compressed by codecs corresponding to VP6 and H.264. However, much like transmuxing, transcoding could be finished using FFmpeg, a well-liked open source software designed to deal with all video and audio formats.

Examples of Transcoding

Transcoding is a robust process that’s leveraged by major streaming organizations corresponding to Twitch, which truly uses each FFmpeg and its own TwitchTranscoder to stream video and audio on its platform.

The world’s largest provider of person-generated videos, YouTube, receives over 300 hours of uploads each minute—and it makes use of transcoding to make these movies available in 5+ different qualities and 5+ completely different formats. This means the unique uploaded content material could be transcoded into over 20 versions. YouTube kicks off the encoding and transcoding process as quickly as the unique upload is complete, which is why new movies are sometimes only available in low-resolution until the higher-res movies are transcoded

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