Transcoding is the process of converting an audio or video file from one encoding format to a different with a purpose to enhance the number of appropriate target gadgets a media file can be played on.


Encoding and transcoding are typically 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, alternatively, allows for already encoded data to be transformed to another encoding format. This process is especially helpful when users use multiple target units, resembling completely different mobile phones and web browsers, that don’t all support the identical native codecs or have limited storage capacity.

Encoding is a naturally lossy process, which means that it causes a certain amount of data to be discarded and in the end decreases audio and video quality. Encoding can use lossless compression, however it leads to 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 very best 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 form of transcoding is to decrease the bitrate and save cupboard space on portable players.

Lossless-to-lossless: By taking advantage of higher compression and hardware support a file might be losslessly compressed. This type of transcoding is beneficial for converting to new formats without dropping quality, however the ensuing files are often too giant to send to portable devices.

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

There is no such thing as a such thing as lossy-to-lossless transcoding. As soon as data and quality have been misplaced through 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). Then again, video and audio files are compressed by codecs such as VP6 and H.264. Nonetheless, similar to transmuxing, transcoding could be executed using FFmpeg, a popular open source software designed to handle all video and audio formats.

Examples of Transcoding

Transcoding is a strong process that’s leveraged by major streaming organizations such as Twitch, which really 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 uses transcoding to make these movies available in 5+ totally different qualities and 5+ totally 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 full, which is why new videos are often only available in low-resolution till the higher-res movies are transcoded

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