A video comprises of large amounts of continuous images-the reason why it usually uses more storage space. It is a disadvantage if your goal is to reduce storage space or you are using a device that is running out of space. This is where video compression comes in. Video compression is the process where one makes video files smaller using a video data method known as video codec. There are many advantages that come with the compression of a file. First, it allows you to save more space and used it to store more data. Secondly, if you video is compressed it means you will use less bandwidth during transmission.
There are various video data compressing methods. All of them involve the omission of certain information from the video file (usually the omitted information doesn’t affect the viewing of the video). During the compression process, however, problems arise. One is that there is a risk of getting a video of low quality after the process. It is also important that the video codec you are using be of great encoding and decoding capabilities in order to produce the results you desire.
Video codec works in a complex manner such that only experts in the field can understand. This, however, doesn’t mean that you it is difficult to learn how it works. This article lays down all the complex processes involved in a simple language so that you can understand better.
Types of video codec
Just to reiterate, video codec is the method of encoding and decoding data. Codecs shouldn’t be confused with containers. The two are entirely different. The term codec is derived from the shortened version of the phrase compressor-decompressor, which clearly describes what this method achieves: compression of video files for the purpose of transport and storage and decompressing them to facilitate transcoding and viewing. On the other hand, container formats exist to hold or ‘contain’ the various media formats resulting from compression.
In today’s world, more people are interested in capturing and storing the most important moments in their lives. The best way to do this? Shooting videos. Devices such as mobile phones, digital cameras and camcorders are used for this purpose. This means that many people work with videos at some point in the lives be it in the creation, editing or even presenting them to the public. All this makes it necessary to learn how codecs work and to pick the best one for the task at hand.
All video codecs employ the same technology, they have different features and functions and are designed to perform specific tasks. It is common to come across people who work with videos having a debate on which is the best video codec to use. They all have their preferred video codec. The truth is, it depends on what you want to achieve. Some of the video codecs include: h.264, MPEG-1, MPEG-2. MPEG-4, h.265/hevc, xvid, divx,vp8, vp9, and Real video codec. I will mention some unique features of each of these codecs.
Codecs for video streaming
In order to deliver video through the internet, one has to contend with various compromises since internet service providers (ISPs) and the transmission methods vary. Many people have to do with poor image quality because of lower bit rates.
- MPEG-1 – this is one of the old methods of streaming videos on the internet. Streaming websites such as YouTube and Netflix do not use this codec. Only a few sites still use it to deliver videos on the web. If you’re planning to work with HD, this codec should be avoided.
- 264/MPEG-4 AVC – If you want t get high quality videos with lower bit rates, use h.264. It looks like this will become the most commonly used codec in future. Why is it so? This codec is supported by Apple devices, Adobe (in Flash), HTML Canvas and video sharing site YouTube is gradually adopting it.
- Windows Media Video(WMV) – this is another codec that was in use a few years ago. It is unpopular these days.
Codecs used in video capturing and archiving
Nowadays, most electronic devices such as digital cameras and phones capture content in the compressed format. Only professionals can capture video in the uncompressed, HD format. All this is because of storage. If we had enough storage in most of these consumer devices, we would be able to capture video in the uncompressed format because it guarantees the highest quality. Some of the codecs in this category include;
- MJPEG/Motion MJPEG – it is one of the oldest formats used to capture video by older devices and some digital cameras. As the names suggests, the manufacturer of this codec was JPEG (Joint Picture Experts Group).
- 264/MPEG-4 AVC – Most modern digital cameras and camcorders that save data as files such as hard drives and memory cards use this format.
- HDV and DV – A group of companies that make and sell camcorders developed DV. It is a tape-based standard that is usually used on camcorders. The only problem with this codec is that it can only work in standard definition, which is why HDV was developed.
Delivery formats that are disc-based
Video streaming is in vogue these days. This, however, doesn’t mean that people no longer store content in DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Most people still own DVD players at the homes. One advantage with this devices is that you do not require internet to play content. Once it s in a disc, you only need a player.
- MPEG-1 – the earliest video codec which was used for the VCD videos.
- MPEG-2 – this codec is also referred to as h.262. It is the compression standard for DVD videos and was used during the early days of Blu-ray discs. Note that Blu-ray movies stopped using this codec. It terms of video capability, it is more powerful than its predecessor, MPEG-1
- MPEG-4 AVC/h.264 – h.264 is part of MPEG-4 (MPEG-4 is more powerful than both MPEG-1 AND MPEG-2) though it is more powerful and advanced than the regular MPEG-4. Today, h.264 is the most widely used video codec in the market. It provides high quality videos at low bit rates. It also allows one to get good quality videos at high bit rates as well. This codec is commonly used with Blu-ray discs.
Other video codecs
- 265/hvec – thus codec is more advanced than h.264. It has higher encoding and decoding capabilities.
- Vp8 and Vp9 – these two royalty free video codecs are created and owned by Google. In terms of capability, Vp8 is nearly equal to h.264 while Vp9 is almost like h.265/hevc. The reason why they are not so popular is because there are fewer devices that support them. Most devices support h.264 and h.265/hvec.
- Xvid and Divx – these video codecs have the same compressing ability as regular MPEG-4 codecs. The only difference they have with MPEG-4 is the name because they were developed by different companies.
- RealVideo codec – developed by RealNetworks, its compressing power is similar to that of MPEG4. Although many organizations do not use this video codec anymore, it is supported by various video players.
Looking at the video codecs above, it is easy to pick one that suits your needs by looking at factors such as compressing power and encoding/decoding capability. While h.265/hvec is more powerful than h.264, most handheld devices cannot play video files compressed by it.
How to choose video codec during video conversion by video converter software
We’ve looked at all the video codecs you can use in this article. It’ time to find out which one best suits your needs. When picking the right codec to use, it is prudent to look at all the important factors. After comparing all the video codecs listed above, you probably have an idea on which one you will pick.
We recommend h.264 because it provides more advantages than any other video codec today. Why did we pick h.264 when h.265/hvec and Vp9 are developed with more advanced technology hence more powerful?
First, unlike h.265 and Vp9, h.264 is supported by most popular devices such as the iPhone and Android smartphones. This means they easily be used by the majority in the population. You will notice that most video player software do not support h.265 and Vp9. On the other hand, h.264 is supported by all the popular video player software. For those who still have their old devices, the best codec is MPEG-2. For DVD video compressing, it is the best method. Note that Blu-ray discs use h.264 codec.
The main reason why h.264 towers above its competitors is its flexibility and convenience. If you’re a first-timer on matters to do with video codecs, it is the best to pick.
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