Video encoding demystified

What is an encoder?

When you want to put a video on a web page, the video must be in a particular format. The procedure to get the video in that format is called encoding. This article will examine the main video formats and encoders used to create those formats. The article will also discuss live video encoding. Finally, we’ll look at a couple of free services on the web that will code both on demand and live.

flash video

One of the most popular formats on the web today is Flash video. The .FLV file extension is associated with Flash video. Most cameras, camcorders, and video editing suites do not natively generate .FLV files. When choosing to use an encoding software package, consider what you get for the price. Adobe includes Flash Video Encoder with CS3/CS4, it’s essentially free. It does a good job, but you have limited options when using that encoder. Consider some other commercial software encoders. Check out Sorenson Squeeze, On2Flix Pro, and for the true pro, try Rhozet Carbon Coder). All of these packages offer greater flexibility and control of your media. The above mentioned packages also support the output of many other formats like AVI, MOV, WMV and others. There are also countless free, standalone, shareware services available for encoding video. These products will be fine for low-resolution, low-bitrate video, but will have many limitations. For commercial websites, I would not recommend using any of these simple products.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use encryption solution, that won’t break the bank, try “Encrypt dot com”. I have spoken with the CTO of this company. He tells me that this service uses different back-end technologies to handle different types of coding jobs. So, depending on the formats, you will have access to high-end encoding technology. The service is easy to use. You can upload your video to them or they can come to you to get it. Either way, you get a quality product without having to shell out a lot of startup capital.

H.264

H.264 is a codec, not exactly a format. It’s basically MPEG-4. So you will find many different formats that have H.264 encoding. You’ll find H.264 wrapped around .MOV, F4V, and even MP4 files. H.264 is a compression method that typically produces higher quality video at lower bit rates. Most people today associate H.264 with HD video. This is for good reason, as I can get better looking videos in a smaller file. H.264 has its drawbacks; it requires more computing power to encode and decode and may not be as compatible as other formats. However, I wouldn’t let that stop you from experimenting with it.

Windows Media Video

WMV has been around for a while. Some argue that it is a superior format to Flash. About a year ago, I would have agreed. WMV was more stable and could give you excellent image quality. Microsoft supports the VC-1 codec in WMV. VC-1 was the codec used in the HD-DVD format, so you can expect great things from VC-1 encoded WMV. WMV’s biggest disadvantage over Flash is compatibility. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a MAC or Linux box out of the box that supports WMV video. Additionally, Flash allows you to create custom players to present your video, and WMV uses Windows Media Player.

To combat these shortcomings, Microsoft has developed Silverlight. Silverlight is a platform-independent product that allows you to create custom player applications. It also runs on MAC and Linux and will support playing WMV files on those operating systems. See http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight, Microsoft may soon support H.264 encoded video in a Silverlight environment.

MS Expression Encoder

Just for your peace of mind, the 2008 Olympics were delivered in Silverlight. Visit www.nbcolympics.com Many will agree that the 2008 Games ran smoothly. You can see that although Silverlight is a newer format, it has been tested by over 70 million streams!

hardware encoding

The software is good, the hardware is GREAT! When you want the best possible encoding with the least amount of hassle, consider a hardware encoding device. These devices are critical when it comes to live encoding.

See these companies:
Vbrick, Digital Rapids, Newtek, Viewcast, Ripcode

All of these compete in roughly the same space. You should compare features and prices. I can tell you that Digital Rapids is very prominent in space. They provide encryption hardware for some of the biggest names in media and have powered some of the biggest online events in history. The RipCode device is unique in that it will perform encryption on the fly. So your video can change bitrates, deminsions or formats as needed. You would only need to have 1 master file and let the RipCode device change it as needed.

live coding

Rapids Touch Stream Digital Device

If you plan to deliver live video to more than a few viewers at a time, you should consider using a CDN. Think of your Internet connection in your office or study. If you have a 3 Mbps upstream stream and encode at about 500 Kbps, then you will only be able to support about 6 concurrent viewers. Not exactly a record! Most CDNs that support live streaming can support hundreds to thousands of concurrent viewers. President Obama’s inauguration in 2009 drew between 6 and 9 million viewers online. The networks that transmitted those flows used a CDN.

For Flash Live Encoding, you can use Adobe’s Flash Live Encoder and a high-end computer. This product is fine for most consumer applications. You are really limited to the power of your computer. There is no Mac version available, so you need to be on a Windows machine. A better option for Flash Live encoding is On2Flix Live encoding software or the Sorenson Squeeze Live product. Both will offer higher quality video and more flexibility. You are still at the mercy of your computer. So I suggest you get the biggest baddest computer you can when using a software live encoder. Throw away as much CPU, RAM, and video memory as possible. Use a SATA or Firewire hard drive that runs at least 7200RMP.

You also need to consider how you connect your camera’s source to the computer. Do not use a simple commercial webcam or an analog to USB device. These are fine for home movies, but for professional videos, you should look at a Prosumer HD video camera or a high-end encoding capture card like Viewcast cards.

copy code encoder
For a hardware live encoding solution, check out Digital Rapids, Vbrick, or Newtek products. Digital Rapids has a cool new product called the TouchStream Appliance. It is a portable standalone hardware encoder perfect for field productions.

free coding
There are several services that will convert videos for free. Do a Google search for “Free encoding” or “convert to FLV” or “convert to WMV”. You can also download Microsoft video encoder and convert to WMV by yourself. Most video editing packages will export to WMV, MOV, and MPG formats.

free live coding

For live coding there are only a few free options.

  • Flash Media Live Encoder
  • Windows Media Encoder
  • For Silverlight encoding, try the Windows Media encoder replacement is Expression

try it yourself

If you want to do a live webcast, try these free services. They allow you to create your own channel, store and play on-demand and live videos. They are really cool!

  • mogulo
  • U current

Viddyoze Video Software

Check out more video soft Here

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