Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Video Encoding Guide: Codecs, Formats, Containers And Settings Explained

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Video encoding is the science of codifying the bits of data that make up a digital video recording into a unified whole according to a set of specific standards and parameters. If it sounds techy, it should. In simpler words, video encoding is the process of taking your original movie, as recorded by your camcorder, mobile phone or webcam, and preparing it for delivery in a digital format according to specific technical standards. This MasterNewMedia guide brings you everything you need to know about the key differences between major video file formats / containers and codecs.
Photo credit: Canon

From .WMV to .MOV and from .AVI to .FLV, this guide presents the best information available online on what you need to know about the use and characteristics of the major video file formats, containers and relative codecs.

When you video encode a clip, you are saving your video into a specific "format" much like you can do with a Word document or a digital image. A Word document can be encoded in .RTF or in .TXT, just like an image can be encoded in .JPG or .BMP formats.

Obviously, different types of encodings are good for different applications and devices.

Broadcasting, live streaming, burning to DVD and archiving all require different video encoding parameters while your computer browser, an iPhone and your gaming console have all different expectations when it comes to playing back video files. And this is why knowing a bit about video encoding, video file formats and containers is quite important if you intend to publish and distribute digital video.
In the video universe it is easy to get lost, as the formats, codecs and file containers generate a universe of possibilities and variables that are initially not easy to understand.

If you want to upload and publish a video on YouTube, for instance, you would have to choose specific encoding settings and file formats, whereas your choice would be different if your video clips are to burned on a DVD.

As an online publisher you may already be familiar with some of these issues, but as new technologies like HTML5 and WebM are starting to make inroads, you are going to need to better understand the key differences and the pros and cons that such different formats entail for you.

To help you achieve this goal, the MasterNewMedia research team has prepared a comprehensive guide to bring together all of the "fundamentals" you need to master to fully understand the basics of video encoding, specifically:

  • What is video encoding
  • Video file formats and containers
  • Comparison of video codecs
  • Encoding settings for Internet video publishing
  • Video publishing settings for YouTube

Here is the MasterNewMedia Video Encoding Guide in detail:


1. What Is Video Encoding?

Introduction To Web Video Encoding


How do you encode a video for the web? Which are the best video codecs available to publish your video clips online? What is a video container? Inside this book you can find a comprehensive overview of the world of video encoding.

by Mark Pilgrim - Dive Into HTML5


How To Compress Video For The Web


If you have a huge video file and you want to compress it, there are several options and settings you must evaluate first. Which video compression settings is best for your specific need? In this article you can find the best recommendations to compress your videos.

by LongTail Video Editors - LongTail Video


Internet Video File Formats and Containers


What are the options at stake when publishing videos on the web? Is it best to use a standard file format or go for a video container? Learn to know and understand what video option is right for you and why in this in-depth article from ReelSEO.

by ReelSEO Editors - ReelSEO


Video Encoding: How To Do It Right


The best file format for encoding your videos depends very much on your video source. This article highlights the importance of understanding and analyzing the source file you have and use the proper settings to have smooth playback and better video performance when encoding.

by Digital FAQ Editors - Digital FAQ


Video Encoding From A To Z


What are the most lossy video codecs and audio codecs? Do you want to insert captions inside your video? Here is a set of selected resources to help you with video encoding.

by Mark Pilgrim - Dive Into HTML5


2. What Video Codecs To Use?

Video Codecs Comparison


A comprehensive comparison table on Wikipedia that highlights the differences between each video file format. Check license rights, compression formats, compression methods and benefits of all options you have when it comes to choose the best video codec for you.

by Wikipedia Editors - Wikipedia


Video Codecs: What To Look For


An efficient way to compare video codecs is to balance quality and file size. Depending on your needs, you might go for a bigger file that provides crystal-clear quality or a low-resolution but snappier file that ensures smoother playback. See for yourself how to make this choice.

by 100fps Editors - 100fps


H.264 Versus MPEG-4


What are the pros and cons of using the H.264 encoding video format against MPEG-4? In this in-depth ReelSEO article you will find all about the comparison between H.264 and the MPEG-4 so that you consciously choose the best alternative for your clips.

by Mark R. Robertson - ReelSEO


Google's New WebM Video Format


WebM is a new open-source video format developed by Google that promises to revolutionize the world of Internet video. In this article you will learn how WebM is different from other video encoding solutions and when WebM could be a valuable alternative to use instead of other established video file formats.

by ReelSEO Editors - ReelSEO


Best Selected Resources On Video Encoding

K-Lite Codec Pack


The K-Lite Codec Pack is a free collection of video codecs and tools that you can download on your computer to play all popular movie formats and even less-known video file formats that your standard video player refuses to start playing.

by Codec Guide


The WebM Project


What do you need to watch WebM videos on your computer? How do you publish WebM video content on the Internet? How do you integrate the WebM technology into your video encoding application? Find all the answers to these questions on the official website of the WebM Project.

by WebM Project


3. What Video Container To Use?

Video Container Formats: A Comparison


A comparison chart on Wikipedia of all the most popular video containers formats that highlights all their most important features like subtitle management, metadata, menu support on DVD discs, and more.

by Wikipedia Editors - Wikipedia


Video Encoders Compared


There are lots of software to encode videos, but which one is best? In this chart you can find a thorough comparison of three very popular video encoding software tools: Compressor, Handbrake and Avidemux2.

by Wikipedia Editors - Wikipedia


Best Video Codecs For RAW Video Data


RAW data are data which has not been subjected to processing or manipulation, like for example the footage you record using your camcorder. In this article you will find an overview of the best codecs to manage this type of data: MJPEG, DV and Huffyuv.

by ErMaC and AbsoluteDestiny - AnimeMusicVideos


Video Container Formats and Codecs


If you are new to video encoding methods and definitions, in this article you will find a non-technical explanation of what is a video encoding format, when to use video containers against standard video file formats and what is video compression.

by Mark R. Robertson - ReelSEO


iPhone and iPod Compatible Video Formats


Do you want your videos to play on the iPhone, iPod or iPad? In this article from iLounge you will be presented with the best video formats and settings for making high-quality videos that are fully compatible on Apple devices.

by Jesse David Hollington - iLounge


4. Best Video Encoding Settings When Publishing On The Web

Encoding Video For The Web - ReelSEO Webinar

Encoding Video for the Web - Duration: 85'

In this ReelSEO webinar and embedded presentation you will learn what are the best strategies to create high-quality videos using the H.264 codec which ensures optimal smoothness and performance when you publish your video on the Internet.

by Mark R. Robertson - ReelSEO


Encode For YouTube

How To Encode and Upload HD Videos


Do you want to upload your videos on YouTube with a top-notch quality? This article will help you understand the best encoding solutions to create an engaging experience for your users using HD videos.

by Cinetech - Squidoo


How To Optimize Your Video Uploads


Learn in this article what are the best audio and video specifications to encode gorgeous-looking HD widescreen videos for YouTube. Stand out from other video publishers like you by refining your video uploading and video encoding skills.

by YouTube Help Editors - YouTube Help


How To Make YouTube Videos Look Professional


This article shares the proper steps to take for optimizing your videos for YouTube and how to avoid the most common mistakes that video publishers make when putting their video clips on the web.

by Cinetech - Squidoo


5. Video Encoding Tools

Video Conversion and Encoding Tools and Services: A Mini-Guide


In this MasterNewMedia guide you can find a comprehensive overview of the best free, commercial and professional video conversion and encoding tools available on the market.

by Michael Pick - MasterNewMedia


Free Video Rippers, Encoders and Converters


If you want to produce gorgeous videos for the web but also stay within a budget, the founding editor of LifeHacker, Gina Trapani, prepared a showcase of the best free software tools to rip, encode and convert your video clips.

by Gina Trapani - Lifehacker


VP8 Encoding Tools For WebM


If you want to experiment and get your hands dirty with Google's new WebM encoding technology, what you will find in this article is a list of the best free and commercial VP8 WebM encoding tools available on the web.

by Christophor Rick - ReelSEO


HTML5 Video Encoding Tools


If you want to learn how to encode your videos to those formats that work with the new HTML5 video tag, inside this article you will find the best tools and services to work with Ogg Theora and H.264 MP4 video codecs.

by Christophor Rick - ReelSEO

Originally prepared by , Daniele Bazzano and Elia Lombardi for MasterNewMedia, and first published on August 16th, 2010 as "The Video Encoding Guide: Codecs, Formats, Containers And Settings Explained".

Photo credits:
How To Compress Video For The Web - superdumb
Internet Video File Formats and Containers - CEPro
Video Encoding: How To Do It Right - Squidoo
Video Encoding From A To Z - SSilver
Video Codecs Comparison - Phil Date
H.264 Versus MPEG-4 - Vinicius Tupinanda
Video Encoders Compared - ReelSEO
Best Video Codecs For RAW Video Data - Andrea Danti
Video Container Formats and Codecs - ReelSEO
How To Optimize Your Video Uploads - BoomTaaKTallaght Youth Band
Video Conversion and Encoding Tools and Services: A Mini-Guide - Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo
Free Video Rippers, Encoders and Converters - pmtavares
HTML5 Video Encoding Tools - WiseCodes

Robin Good, Daniele Bazzano and Elia Lombardi -
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posted by on Monday, August 16 2010, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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