What’s Transcoding?

Transcoding is the process of converting an audio or video file from one encoding format to another with the intention to increase the number of appropriate goal units a media file could be played on.


Encoding and transcoding are generally used interchangeably, however the processes, though carefully associated, are indeed different.

Encoding is the process of compressing video and audio files to be suitable with a single goal device. Transcoding, then again, allows for already encoded data to be transformed to another encoding format. This process is particularly helpful when users use a number of goal units, comparable to completely different mobile phones and web browsers, that do not all help the identical native formats or have limited storage capacity.

Encoding is a naturally lossy process, which means that it causes a certain quantity of data to be discarded and finally decreases audio and video quality. Encoding can use lossless compression, but 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 best type 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 storage space on portable players.

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

Lossless-to-lossy: This transcoding methodology causes less quality loss than lossy-to-lossy and produces file sizes small enough for portable devices. It’s essential to keep archives of losslessly compressed files to really leverage this transcoding method.

There isn’t any such thing as lossy-to-lossless transcoding. Once data and quality have been misplaced throughout 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 such as MP4 and FLV (Flash). However, video and audio files are compressed by codecs such as VP6 and H.264. Nevertheless, similar to transmuxing, transcoding will be executed utilizing FFmpeg, a popular open supply software designed to deal with all video and audio formats.

Examples of Transcoding

Transcoding is a powerful process that’s leveraged by main streaming organizations resembling Twitch, which truly uses 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 each minute—and it uses transcoding to make those movies available in 5+ totally different qualities and 5+ different formats. This means the original uploaded content might 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 videos are sometimes only available in low-resolution until the higher-res videos are transcoded

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