Transcoding is something that touches all of our lives, but for the most part we don’t even notice how much it really affects us. The truth is that every video you’ve ever seen in your life has been through a transcoding process, sometimes multiple times. It’s strange that most people have never even heard of this process and don’t understand why it’s so important to the way they consume videos online.
Since the demand for video is growing rapidly, each year companies battle to release the next wave of video transcoding technology. The technology that gets adopted by the widest audience is the one that wins out in the end, often times creating a monopoly on video formats in a specific use case. Some of the most popular formats today include HLS (HTTP Live Streaming), MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) and MP4. In order to support the large range of devices available in today’s world, videos need to be transcoded into all of these formats to ensure maximum distribution. This is made even more complex by the wide range of codecs that can be used, like H.264, H.265, and VP9, which can be applied to any video format. There’s even a new codec called AV1 that is getting a lot of attention due to its promise of high efficiency and wide device support.
Companies use video transcoding to convert their original video files into the formats and resolution using the cloud. The files are processed using an API that can be programmed with functionality to perform a large amount of data very efficiently. After the transcoding is done, the files are written to a server (usually using the S3 protocol) and made available across all devices. In contrast, movie studios transcode their videos very differently. Since they deal with a massive file sizes and endless rolls of film, they need to convert these files into formats that are easy to edit. Often times they require even more processing power to transcode their videos than online video platforms that have large user bases.
Another consideration is bandwidth, since each user has different capabilities when it comes to internet usage. Users that have really low internet speeds will need files that are much smaller and easier to download. For this reason, many companies choose to transcode their video files into smaller resolutions while continuing to utilize all the latest formats and codecs that reduce file size. Some online platforms support formats as low as 240p and 120p to make sure everyone in the world has access to their videos. This can be especially useful in developing countries with limited access to powerful devices and internet speeds.
On the other hand, some companies have so many video files that transfering them over a regular internet connection would require too much time to be effective. These companies often use services like Aspera to transfer their files at lightning fast speeds to get their transcoding done in the cloud as quickly as possible. Since files can be as large as one terabyte, services like this are critical to allow companies that use on-premise solutions to make the transition to the cloud.
A good transcoding system can provide efficiency improvements to many other parts of your business as well. For example, smaller file sizes can equal large savings to your CDN and cloud storage costs. This also means customers can view files quickly and with little interruptions. The most important thing to consider while reducing file sizes is that the image quality continues to stay as visually lossless as possible. The tradeoff between quality and size is difficult to balance, but can be tuned to provide the perfect result for you and your clients. In order to fine tune your transcoding output, you will need to run several tests and analyze the results. This should be done by reviewing specification of the output file, as well as viewing the video several times to make sure you do not see any issues with picture quality or audio synchronization. This is a lot of information to consider, but having this knowledge at your disposal will allow you to build the very best solution for your specific business needs.