Video Codecs and Containers Pt. 1

Video Codecs and Containers Pt. 1

Codecs and containers are vital to understand, but can be utterly frustrating. In Video Production, a Container, better known as a Format, is simply the file-type of your video. (mov. Avi. Mp4. Etx.). Codec is typically an abbreviation for Code/Decode, though can also be an abbreviation for Compress/Decompress. Both mean generally the same thing, but neither is better than the other. In fact, it’s almost better to see Codec as Compress/Decode. Here’s why:


In digital video editing, a Codec is what you choose after choosing your container, when converting a video. So if your container is mov, you will have a list of mov codecs to choose from. What a codec does is Compresses or Codes your video into your container. Along with that code is its ability to be viewed or decoded. The reason I find it easier to understand Codec as Compress/Decode, is because the term Compress is used very often in the video world, and is almost always used when referring to the quality of a video. When a videographer says, “that codec compresses too much,” that videographer is referring to how the quality of the video is too poor. So a codec that compresses too much, is generally not liked. However, some codecs do not compress very much at all, in which case, videos that have these codecs are considered to be “uncompressed,” which can be confused with “decompress.” The decode part comes in when you need to view or playback the video on a computer or other device. The file is currently just that; a file, and therefore needs your computer to decode it for viewing.


So a codec aims to compresses your video into the desired file size whilst maintaining a certain amount of quality and have the ability to be viewed or decoded on multiple devices; Compress/Decode.


As you might be thinking already, this process is complicated and can be exhausting. There are many Containers floating around the video world and even more codecs. Luckily, many programs make this process easier and easier, but understanding it and finding the right ones to use, is still no walk in the park.

By: Adam Baxter

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