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The Need for Speed: Why Cloud Transcoding Services Focus on Speed in Video Encoding

Cloud transcoding services have emerged as a popular choice. These services offer the ability to encode videos quickly, enabling seamless streaming experiences for viewers. However, you may wonder why these services emphasize speed over quality, especially when better video encoding often requires more time and resources. In this article, we'll delve into the reasons behind this focus on speed and explore the tradeoffs involved in video encoding.

Understanding Video Encoding and Transcoding

Let's clarify the difference between encoding and transcoding. Encoding involves compressing video files, while transcoding refers to the process of decoding from one codec and then re-encoding it into another. While both terms are used interchangeably, video transcoding is more commonly used in practice.

The Importance of Video Encoding

Video encoding is essential for making video files smaller and more manageable for distribution over the web. Uncompressed video files are massive, making it impractical to store or stream them. Encoding compresses the video data, reducing its size while maintaining an acceptable level of visual quality. This compression allows videos to be streamed smoothly even over low-bandwidth connections.

The Role of Adaptive Bitrate encoding

To deliver a seamless viewing experience across various internet connections, adaptive bitrate encoding (ABR) is employed. ABR involves encoding the input video into multiple output files with different resolutions and compression rates. This approach ensures that viewers with different internet speeds and devices can access the video at the optimal quality.

Understanding Video Encoding Process

Video encoding is comparable to compressing a file into a zip archive. By identifying patterns within the video, the encoding algorithm replaces repetitive elements with references, reducing the file size. However, unlike lossless compression used in zip files, video encoding utilizes lossy compression. This means that some details are discarded to maximize compression, resulting in a slight loss of data. Balancing compression and maintaining video quality is the key challenge in the encoding process.

The Time Factor in Video Encoding

In most cases, encoding is the most time-consuming part of video processing. The duration of encoding depends on several factors, such as video length, file size, and the complexity of the chosen codec.

Speed vs. Quality: The Resource Dilemma

Cloud transcoding services predominantly focus on speed due to the inherent tradeoff between encoding time and resource costs. Efficient video encoding requires more computational power and time, which translates to increased resource utilization and higher costs for service providers. To cater to high volumes and subsequent invoicing, these services prioritize faster encoding, which allows them to process a large number of videos in a shorter timeframe.

Advancements in Encoding Quality

While speed takes precedence, encoding services continue to evolve, introducing innovations to optimize video quality. Per-title encoding is one such advancement where each video receives a customized adaptive bitrate ladder based on its complexity. This process can be automated using machine learning algorithms, ensuring the most optimized quality for every video. Several cloud transcoding services, such as Mux, offer per-title encoding as a part of their service offerings.

Choosing an Encoding Service

Using an encoding service becomes crucial when dealing with a significant number of videos. For scenarios like user-generated content platforms, manual encoding becomes impractical and inefficient. Cloud transcoding services streamline the process, enabling efficient handling of large-scale video encoding requirements.

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