Video Encoding And Compression: Everything You Must Know


Before you dive into the world of videos and desire to expand your knowledge on the tricky subject of video encoding and compressions, it’s still not a field with a lot of information readily available to a beginner who wants to delve into digital video. 

In this article, I will look at what you need to know to choose the best video encoding software and how to use it, whether for video editing or simply playing or uploading video to the Internet.

video encoding and compression info

Every device or software that allows you to watch videos has an optimal encoding for each platform. It may take some time to get used to the technology and even longer before you can master it. So let’s understand it in detail with all the questions possible that prop in your mind.

What Are Video Encoding And Compression?

Before you dive into the world of videos and desire to expand your knowledge on the tricky subject of video encoding and compressions, it’s still not a field with a lot of information readily available to a beginner who wants to delve into digital video. 

In this article, I am going to look at what you need to know to choose the best video encoding software and how to use it, whether for video editing or simply playing or uploading video to the Internet.

Every device or software that allows you to watch videos has an optimal encoding for each platform. It may take some time to get used to the technology and even longer before you can master it. So let’s understand it in detail with all the questions possible that prop in your mind.

What Are Video Encoding And Compression?

Video encoding is the process of making video files from your raw data in a format that can be easily stored and played back. Ideally, these files should be smaller than the original file size at the same level of quality. The process of encoding also determines the quality and size of a file.

Even though there are many different ways to encode videos, today’s most common form is what we call H264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding).

Does Video Encoding And Compression Mean The Same?

No, they are two different concepts. Video encoding refers to the process of encoding a video from its raw data, while video compression is a form of file compression that makes your videos smaller to fit on your device or storage device.

What Is The Difference Between Video And Image Compression?

Video compression is a form of video encoding that allows you to reduce the size of your videos so they will take less space on your device. Whereas, in the case of image compression, it’s a form of data compression that reduces the size of images in an image file by using methods like filters to reduce color accuracy and frequency of shades. 

How Do Video Encoding And Compression Work?

In order to understand this, we need to look at the most common types of video files such as AVI and MPG. 

AVI files, or Audio Video Interleaved, are standard compressed MPEG-2 video files that use interleaved audio and video. These files are format for making MPEG-2 DVDs and CD-ROMs. You can encode your videos in AVI without any loss of quality. The most important thing about AVI (MPEG-2) is that it is an open format as it is based on the ISO base library.

Mpg files are the most commonly used video format. These files are used in almost every media player. The Mpg file consists of three parts:

Video File, Audio File, and Subtitle File. 

The compressed video file formats use the H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding) encoding for video encoding which is a standard successor of MPEG-2 and MPEG 4 standards.

What Is Video Transcoding?

Like Video encoding, transcoding is the process of transferring a video file to another format. It also refers to the conversion of a video file from one type of compression to another. 

This process can be done with or without changing the quality of the video. A transcoder takes videos in one format and converts them into a different format automatically, in real-time without any loss of data.

What Is The Difference Between Video Encoding And Video Transcoding?

Video encoding is the conversion of a  raw video or uncompressed file to another file that is compressed or smaller in size. Video transcoding is the conversion of a compressed video file from one format to another in real-time, without any loss of data. 

Why Do We Need Video Compression?

Movies are very large in size and need to be encoded in small sizes. However, an uncompressed video file is huge in size. So the compression is necessary to fit the video into smaller resources such as DVDs, mobile devices, and web pages.

The primary objective of video compression is to reduce the size of a video while retaining its quality. The average human vision can see details at around 8 pixels, so it’s adequate for normal home television sets.

Also, it is pretty helpful in editing your videos as compressions help in processing videos on the fly, and previewing the footage in real-time helps the editor to make better editing decisions. 

What Are The Types Of Video Encoding? 

The three most common types of encoding are lossy, lossless, and uncompressed (lossless is more popular but not as common). 

Lossy compression algorithms modify the content of the video data. A lossy algorithm might chop a section out of an object, and then recreate it later based on the highlights of the original. This is why a video encoded with lossy compression can look significantly different from the original video that was shot (due to editing).

 But, Lossy encoding may break up the images/colors of objects in a video and make them look blurry when watched on a device with low capabilities.

Lossless compression algorithms keep the video data completely intact and, unlike lossy compression, there is no degradation in the video quality as the original information is preserved. 

Lossless encoding is also known as reversible encoding. You can encode a video with lossless compression, which might reduce the file size of your videos by half or more than that of un-encoded files.

Uncompressed video is simply the raw video footage before compression. It’s mainly used for offline editing and not widely used in the online world, as it takes up a lot of storage space.

What Is The Best Video Compression?

The answer is it depends on the quality of your video, the device you are watching it on, and the method you are using for compression. Usually, the main purpose of video compression is to reduce file size. If you are editing your videos offline, you can use lossless or uncompressed videos. 

If you are uploading your videos online, we recommend that you decide what type of compression works best for your videos and audience. This will depend on the type of device it will be viewed on, the user’s bandwidth/connection speed, and the screen size/resolution. 

Why Do Videos Use Lossy Compression?

Lossy compression can result in lower file size and sometimes you will not see the obvious quality degradation. Lossy compression might slow down your video as well, but it depends on the type of media you are working with.

Any lossy codec is completely still reversible by simply re-encoding them; you can always choose to opt-out of any lossy compression. There are some lossless codecs that are less tolerant to compression artifacts such as JPG or GIF.

What Is The Most Popular Video Codec?

The most popular video codec you might come across on the internet is H264, which uses a combination of motion compensation and discrete cosine transform to perform video compression. These algorithms might differ in some ways, but they are basically the same (which means you can convert one type of file to another with similar quality).

What Defines A High Or Low Bitrate Of Encoding/Compression?

High or low bit rate is determined by the encoder and depends on the final balance of your video. The encoder will change the bitrate depending on the original video you are working with. So if you are editing a video that is very heavy on details, there is a high chance that the encoded or compressed version will look more flat than your original video.

Besides bitrate, another important factor here is resolution and frame rate, which are strongly dependent on encoding/compression type and format used for encoding/compression.

Why Do We Need Multiple Versions Of A Video File?

Due to the high variation of data, video files might lose a lot of its quality when compressed. So creating an optimized version of a file depends on the type of device, bandwidth/connection speed, and screen resolution. 

Videos are best viewed in their original form, but when they are compressed for uploading online or viewed on various devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers, you might see some loss in quality due to compression. To cater to all the media we need different compression formats.

What Type Of Files Can Be Encoded/Compressed Using The H264 Codec?

H264 codec is a popular choice when you are editing and encoding videos for the web. It is universally supported by almost all browsers, all devices such as high-end gaming consoles, PDAs, notebooks, and smartphones, as well as smartphones and a lot of other video devices.

H264 was designed specifically for the needs of videos consisting of both audio and visual information. It is also known as MPEG-4 Part 10 (MPEG-4 AVC) or x264 codec.

What Are The Latest Advances In Video Compression? 

Video compressions are fast evolving with new codecs being developed for faster-encoded and more efficient videos. 

266/VVC where VVC stands forVersatile Video Coding is the standard for high-definition video coding. H.266 succeeds the prevalent H.265 codec.

Which Codecs Are Good For Editing Videos?

H265 (HEVC) is the successor to H264, and it comes in two forms. There is a baseline version and a high-performance version called HEVC MP(Multiple Particles). It was designed to provide 10 times more efficiency at the same bit rate compared to H264, which resulted in smaller files.

Also, HEVC or H265 codec has a much faster encoding time as compared to H264 and supports resolutions of up to 8K (7680 x 4320) while still making it possible for you to view 4K content. 

What Is Video Scaling?

Video scaling means upscaling or downscaling videos. It is the process of increasing or decreasing the resolution of a video file or even aspect ratio of the video to obtain higher-quality video files.

Credit: AVPro Edge

Upscaling a video means increasing the resolution of a video file without changing the quality of the video. Downscaling a video means decreasing the resolution of a video file without changing its quality. 

Downscaling not only makes videos look like they are filmed at higher resolutions, but it also changes their aspect ratio and black bars appear around them.

What Are The Popular Different Video Formats That Are Available?

MP4 is a modern video format that is most popular to use. It’s the smallest file size and uses MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 encoding which results in a better quality video without losing too much of picture detail. You can use the default configuration if you want very high-quality videos.

MPEG-2 is another common format for HD videos, but it comes with a heavy file size (around 10MB).

Quicktime MOV is also a very common file format.

AVI( Audio-Video Interleaved ) is the oldest file format that you might come across on the Internet.

Windows Media Video is a popular older video format for Windows users.

VobSub is another common file format used for DVD and Blu-ray discs. 

WebM is another video format that the internet has turned to lately, and it’s one of the first formats after H264 to offer support for advanced features like AACS MKB over IP, and VP8/10 profile-level support.

FLV (Flash Video) is a proprietary file format for Flash videos.

MKV (Matroska) is an open standard file format for DVDs and Blu-rays. 

AVS (Audio Video Slicer) is a digital audio and video container format for the Internet.

What Is A Video Converter?

Video converters are nothing but software for converting videos files to other formats. It is also possible to convert video files from one format or codec to another. This might be required if you want to play a video file in various devices like smartphones, tablets, and PCs supported by different operating systems.

So, for example, if you want to watch a video on YouTube on your Android smartphone, you can convert the original file using the converter and download it onto your smartphone.

Which Is The Best Video Converter?

Toptenreviews rates Wondershare UniConverter as the best one so far but Handbrake is also often recommended.

Why Is It Important To Have A Fast, Modern Computer For Encoding And Processing Videos?

Without a fast, modern computer for encoding videos, you might be unable to process very large files (such as those that are older than a few minutes), or your videos might take much longer to encode/compress.

A modern computer is required since the H.264 codec can only be used to their extreme limits if it is processed using one of the most modern processors and graphics cards.

How Long Does Encoding A Video Take?

A lot of variables such as the video length, video quality, codec used and the amount of RAM in your computer/device will determine how long it will take to encode a single video.

Usually it is like a real-time encoding but that needs a fast computer or device to offer best quality. So it is usually the upload time that is needed to encode. 

 It is noted that HandBrake takes around half an hour to encode for a 1.44 GB file with a crisp quality whereas on the slower side, it takes around 10 hours for a Raw 32 GB MKV conversion to a 2GB mp4 file.

Does Ram Affect Encoding Speed?

Yes. A good amount of RAM is required for video encoding. It needs to be powerful enough to encode the video and process it faster.

Most encoders are multi-threaded programs, which means that it creates several parallel processes and assigns tasks in these processes to separate CPU cores (or even different processors). This will speed up the whole process so having an extra fast CPU or even a multiple-core CPU is recommended.

How Can I Increase Video Encoding Speed?

  • Try encoding at a lower resolution for the same framerate (pay special attention to this in slower CPUs). 
  • Experiment with different video codecs 
  • Consider lowering the content bitrate- this will reduce file size without compromising quality too much. 
  • Consider encoding your videos into multiple resolutions and bitrates- for example, have one that’s low res/low bitrate for people on mobile devices, another that’s HD/high bit.
  • Try using x264opts to specify a set of encoding options.
  • Encode your videos at 24fps when possible, especially if you’re encoding in 720p or 1080p.
  • Try making your videos as small as you can without affecting quality too much.
  • Upgrade your hardware if possible.
  • Close other programs when you are running the encoding application.

How Can I Increase Video Encoding Quality?

  • Use the best settings you can with your current CPU (try x264opts) 
  • Encode at a higher resolution. 
  • Encode at a higher bit rate (if your CPU is fast enough). 
  • Use a slower GOP setting.
  • Try using x264Custom to encode your videos with the options you like.

What Audio Format Is Best For Video?

Wav and AIFF audio files are the best uncompressed files but bigger in size. There are really no universally accepted audio formats for video. The most widely accepted are AAC and MP3, but they are lossy compressed files and both have their own advantages and disadvantages. 

AAC is the file format for music, but it’s not so good for video (but works very well with x264). 

MP3 is the best format if it’s in a stereo track, and the default when using x264.

Final Words:

So, as you can see, there are so many variables to consider when encoding a video. It’s crucial that you keep these factors in mind: the length of the video, the quality of the video, and what format it’s in. 

If everything is handled correctly and carefully done then at the end your viewers will be able to enjoy your videos just like they were meant to be!

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