What Is Transcoding? With Definition, Benefits, and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 6, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sharing audio and video files is an everyday activity for personal and professional uses. As media files grow more significant, sharing them with others through traditional ways, such as e-mail, becomes more important. Learning about transcoding can help you understand how to better store and share digital media files with others.

In this article, we discuss the definition and process of using a transcoder to send files, highlight the importance of file conversion for audio and video content, identify the three tasks of the process, and review examples of practical applications.

What is transcoding?

Transcoding is the technical process of converting audio and video files from one format to another. The process allows users to share files across various platforms, systems, and devices. As a result, using a transcoder provides easily shared content and seamless live streaming, reaching a large audience simultaneously without loss of quality or speed.

The process to transcode files

When you want to transcode an audio or video file, you typically use a software program to convert the compressed file into a different format or codec. The process involves taking an encoded or compressed digital media file and decompressing it. Then, the program alters the file and re-compresses it. Most audio and video content creators use a software program or transcoder service to complete this conversion. If you have advanced software programming knowledge, you can also create a data sequence to transcode a file within a specific program by altering the bitrate, resolution, and file size.

The two compression results when you transcode video files are known as lossy and lossless. Lossy compression refers to the loss of quality and data that occurs when compressing a video file. In contrast, lossless compression means that the quality remains consistent even though you compress the file. The three primary types of transcoder compression include:

  • Lossy-to-lossy: This format takes a low-quality video and converts it into an even lower-quality file. Lossy-to-lossy formatting helps save data storage space, as a lower quality file typically reduces the bitrate.

  • Lossless-to-lossless: This format ensures that the video file maintains consistent quality. A lossless-to-lossless conversion may be too large to send by e-mail, so you may require a cloud platform or file-sharing program to share and store these videos.

  • Lossless-to-lossy: This format takes a quality video and compresses it slightly, allowing you to share the file over portable devices, such as tablets or smartphones. As a result, the compressed video is of lower quality than the original.

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The importance of transcoded files

Several reasons using transcoded file formats can benefit digital media usage include:

Improved device accessibility

The conversion of digital media files produces formats that many devices can use. As a result, you can increase the accessibility of digital content to your audience. For example, this process helps live stream videos effectively to participants with different operating systems, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In addition, using transcoded formats allow you to minimize viewer frustration through incompatible platform support.

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Increased audience reach

Using transcoded files allows many users to access and view the digital media simultaneously. This is especially helpful for live streaming videos where an audience can be a considerable size. For example, suppose you're organizing a virtual conference for an international company. You want to ensure that all employees can view the live stream of the meeting in real time without connection or accessibility challenges. Using a transcoder during the conference event can help reach the largest audience possible.

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Adjustable quality

Converting digital media files through a transcoder allows you to adjust audio and video quality. While you improve the accessibility by offering various output formats, the conversion can vary the quality, helping viewers stream content simultaneously and at faster speeds. In addition, video resolution improves and provides better connectivity for the audience.

The 3 tasks of transcoder programs

Digital media creators often use transcoder programs to describe one of three specific tasks. When a creator transcodes an audio or video file, they are referring to any combination of the following:

1. Standard transcoded files

At the highest level, this term refers to taking an already compressed file and decompressing it. Once you decompress the file, you can alter it and then re-compress it. For example, suppose you're making a promotional video for a company. You film the video and then want to add a logo and watermark to the video. The process you use is a standard transcoder program. Another example is changing an audio format from an MPEG2 file to an ACC file, making the audio content more accessible for streaming services.

2. Transrating

Transrating is a specific transcode process that changes the bitrate of a file. The benefit of transrating is storing a file with less space or presenting an audio or video file while using less bandwidth. For example, you have a video file and want to maintain the content and format but alter the bitrate from 10Mbps to 5Mbps. Using the process of transrating allows you to make this change.

3. Transsizing

The process of transsizing relates specifically to the video frame size. You may also hear this process referred to as image scaling. It reduces the resolution of the video or image and, as a result, saves storage space. For example, your current video may be a resolution of 3840 x 2160, also known as 4K UHD. This large file size is difficult to watch on a smartphone, for example, and would quickly consume your available data. Instead, you can transsize the file from 4K to 1280 x 720, or 720p. As a result, the video can download quicker and take less storage space.

Examples of transcoding

Several popular websites and programs transcode audio and video files automatically without the platform user being aware. This allows content creators with minimal technical expertise to benefit from the transcoder process. In addition, many organizations use specific software or file-sharing program that transcode files automatically so employees can access audio or video resources. Below are various examples of when you may transcode files:

Video live streams

Video live streams allow numerous viewers to watch a live video broadcast. Livestreaming is beneficial for many applications, such as virtual conferences, customer seminars, remote meetings, or employee training in various locations. A transcoder permits the content creator or company to share a live or prerecorded video simultaneously in multiple locations. As a result, the audience can watch the broadcast, or live stream, on various devices without compromising quality or bandwidth.

IP streaming

IP streaming, also known as internet protocol streaming, uses satellite, cable, or other television structures to present audio and video content. For example, security systems that use multiple cameras that converge into a central location are an everyday use of IP streaming. Software transcodes the live security footage from the cameras to various outputs.

In this example, IP streaming provides the option for the security personnel to view the images on several computer monitors or in various locations simultaneously. The user may choose to transcode losslessly if they require a high level of detail in the video images. If users are more concerned with fast streaming, they can select lossy compression.

Audio and video uploading

When uploading multiple audio and video files simultaneously, using a transcoder can help maintain the video quality while completing the transfer efficiently. Many transcoder programs can produce the same audio or video file in multiple formats and various qualities. This can help users with different internet connections and bandwidth access the content they require, regardless of their device or system. You may notice that some transcoder programs provide lower-quality files first, allowing you to upload quickly to a shared network or website. The program then produces higher-quality versions as a secondary task.

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Edge computing

Edge computing uses the physical location of a network to increase file sharing speed. Instead of storing files on a local server or network close to the original user, the transcoder program stores the video files near the network's edges. As a result, you can share large volumes of digital media files in a short period. Edge computing is highly valuable for global organizations with multiple locations worldwide.

Locally transcoded files

Individuals may locally transcode files on a single server or device. Benefits of locally converting audio or video files include increased storage space and preparation of sharing files with others on a team. This is common among content creators and editors who may choose to transcode locally before sharing their files with others. For example, a video creator can adjust the resolution of the video frame, add a watermark, or make minor edits to increase the quality of a section of the film.

After completing their editing, they can transcode the video to offer various output formats for uploading to different social media platforms. Completing local transcoding of files is useful when working in a team before sharing or streaming video content.

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