What’s Transcoding?

Transcoding is the process of converting an audio or video file from one encoding format to another as a way to enhance the number of appropriate target units a media file might be played on.


Encoding and transcoding are typically used interchangeably, however the processes, although carefully associated, are certainly different.

Encoding is the process of compressing video and audio files to be compatible with a single target device. Transcoding, on the other hand, allows for already encoded data to be converted to another encoding format. This process is especially useful when users use multiple goal devices, reminiscent of different mobile phones and web browsers, that don’t all support the same native formats or have limited storage capacity.

Encoding is a naturally lossy process, which means that it causes a specific amount 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 elevated media file sizes.

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

Lossy-to-lossy: This is the least ideal 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 decrease the bitrate and save storage space on portable players.

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

Lossless-to-lossy: This transcoding methodology causes less quality loss than lossy-to-lossy and produces file sizes sufficiently small for portable devices. You could maintain archives of losslessly compressed files to really leverage this transcoding method.

There is no such thing as lossy-to-lossless transcoding. As soon as data and quality have been lost during 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 reminiscent of MP4 and FLV (Flash). On the other hand, video and audio files are compressed by codecs resembling VP6 and H.264. However, much like transmuxing, transcoding will be accomplished using FFmpeg, a well-liked open supply software designed to handle all video and audio formats.

Examples of Transcoding

Transcoding is a strong process that’s leveraged by main streaming organizations akin to Twitch, which truly makes use of both FFmpeg and its own TwitchTranscoder to stream video and audio on its platform.

The world’s largest provider of consumer-generated movies, YouTube, receives over 300 hours of uploads every minute—and it uses transcoding to make those movies available in 5+ totally different qualities and 5+ completely different formats. This means the unique uploaded content may 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 often only available in low-resolution till the higher-res movies are transcoded

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