What’s Transcoding?

Transcoding is the process of changing an audio or video file from one encoding format to another in order to improve the number of suitable goal units a media file can be performed on.


Encoding and transcoding are typically used interchangeably, however the processes, though closely associated, are certainly different.

Encoding is the process of compressing video and audio files to be appropriate with a single goal device. Transcoding, on the other hand, permits for already encoded data to be converted to a different encoding format. This process is particularly helpful when customers use a number of goal gadgets, resembling different mobile phones and web browsers, that don’t all support the identical native formats or have limited storage capacity.

Encoding is a naturally lossy process, that means that it causes a specific amount of data to be discarded and in the end decreases audio and video quality. Encoding can use lossless compression, however it results in decreased compression rates and increased media file sizes.

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

Lossy-to-lossy: This is the least ideally suited 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 make use of this type of transcoding is to decrease the bitrate and save storage space on portable players.

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

Lossless-to-lossy: This transcoding technique causes less quality loss than lossy-to-lossy and produces file sizes sufficiently small for portable devices. You have to preserve 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 lost through the encoding or transcoding process they cannot be regained.

How Transcoding Works

Transcoding and encoding should not be confused with transmuxing which only converts the container format resembling MP4 and FLV (Flash). On the other hand, video and audio files are compressed by codecs such as VP6 and H.264. Nonetheless, just like transmuxing, transcoding can be finished utilizing FFmpeg, a well-liked open source software designed to handle all video and audio formats.

Examples of Transcoding

Transcoding is a robust process that’s leveraged by major streaming organizations reminiscent of Twitch, which actually makes use of both FFmpeg and its own TwitchTranscoder to stream video and audio on its platform.

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

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