Video Transcoding: Why is it Important in Livestreaming?

7 min read
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Plenty of advanced technologies are used in the video streaming industry. Video transcoding is one of the cores of them. The technologies related to video streaming are very advanced, complex, and hard to understand for streamers. But when streaming with Castr and engaging with our blog, we make the complex processes easy in simple terms.

Today’s blog will simplify video transcoding, how it works, its necessities, and how you can easily encode your video files. So let’s dive into an in-depth understanding of the video transcoding process and its importance in the video streaming industry.

What is Video Transcoding?

Video transcoding is the process of converting video content from one format to another to extend device compatibility. Video streamers transcode videos from one format to another to ensure the best streaming experience. This video conversion technology reduces the size of video files without sacrificing quality. During the editing process, an encoded video is edited and converted to another format to make it more compatible with different devices.

Transcoding vs. Encoding

Regarding video streaming, the terms transcoding and encoding confuse many streamers. Simply, video encoding is a compression process. On the other hand, video transcoding is a conversion process. The video encoding process reduces the size of video and audio files without sacrificing quality and stores the video in a digital file format. On the other hand, video transcoding is a process that converts the video format from one to another.

Another way to distinguish transcoding and encoding is that encoding takes an analog file and converts it to a digital format. Meanwhile, transcoding converts a digital file (or an already encoded file) into another digital format, from a Flash file to an MP4.

  • Transcoding: Compress analog file to a digital file
  • Encoding: Uncompress digital file to another digital file

How Video Transcoding Works

The process of video transcoding has several stages. These stages can be divided into two major parts- first, the source video must be encoded and then transcoded. The whole process of transcoding is divided into the following steps:

Input Video File:

The first step in every converting or compression process is to upload the raw video file. For transcoding a video, it needs to upload on a video transcoding software that will process your content. Later, you can choose the output options according to your requirements.


Before transcoding, the video needs to be encoded first. The transcoding process converts one digital encoding format to another. Through encoding, videos are highly compressed and optimized for streaming, thus providing a smaller file size for smoother live streaming.


Once the video is converted into encoded data, it’s ready for transcoding. The process of transcoding converts the source video from one format to another. This step helps you to reach a bigger audience by ensuring device compatibility. After transcoding, the video is ready for streaming.

For example, if you have an HD video that you want to stream, it’s necessary to convert that video into SD format to optimize the video for streaming.

File Types Used in Video Transcoding

Understanding different types of media files are essential when transcoding. You may often see terms like file formats, file types, and codecs.

File formats refer to how an audio or video file is stored on a computer system. A video file consists of a container containing details like synchronization information, metadata, and subtitles.

A codec (a portmanteau of coder/encoder) refers to a device or software program that encodes or decodes a digital data stream. In transcoding, video and audio codecs are used for data transmission, storage, encryption, and playback or editing.

Here is a list of the popular video file formats:

  • MP4 (MPEG-4)
  • MOV
  • FLV
  • AVI
  • WMV
  • WMA
  • WAV
  • QuickTime
  • 3GP
  • OGG
  • WEBM
  • HDV
  • MXF
  • LXF, GXF
  • VOB

Examples of video codecs:

  • H.263
  • H.264
  • MPEG4
  • Theora
  • 3GP
  • HEVC
  • Windows Media 8
  • Quicktime
  • MPEG-4
  • MPEG1
  • MPEG2

Why is Video Transcoding Important for Streaming?

Video transcoding is essential to streaming video content. It plays a significant role in delivering a high-quality viewing experience. The transcoding process involves converting a video file from its original format into another format compatible with different devices and streaming platforms. This ensures the video can be played back smoothly and efficiently. Moreover, a transcoded video ensures an excellent experience with slower internet connections and lower processing power of devices.

The different types of media players available today all have their own distinct set of requirements in terms of the type and quality of video and audio files. Similarly, different devices like laptops, mobile phones, and tablets also have their own formats of file support. To ensure compatibility with different platforms and devices, video transcoding is a must. Additionally, transcoding serves as a crucial tool when it comes to optimizing media content for streaming purposes. Adopting the resolution, bitrate, frame rate, and other aspects of a video file makes it possible to deliver a smooth viewing experience.

Research and statistical data show that viewers leave streaming when it buffers multiple times. These video compression and conversion technologies, like encoding and transcoding, help to minimize buffering time. It is necessary to compress and transcode video for time-aligned video streams, as it has to travel through multiple devices with limited bandwidth.

Why Do You Need to Transcode a Video?

Imagine you have a media file of a two-hour movie size 8 terabytes. Delivering such a large file on a website, let alone streaming to multiple devices and platforms, may cost you a lot of resources and time. However, transcoding to a format with better compression can reduce costs and difficulties when delivering video content to a broad audience.

Here are three main reasons why transcoding is critical in video streaming and delivery:

  • Your device or software doesn’t support the native format of your footage. If your video editing software or target device does not support your original file format, you’ll need to transcode it.
  • The native footage takes up too much of your system resources. When your device does not have enough capacity to work on the original file, you’ll have to transcode the file to a lighter format. For example, you’re on a mobile device and want to watch an enormous 4K video.
  • You have a file format obsolete or no longer supported by most modern media streaming devices (for example, HD DVD). To be able to play or work on those videos again, you’ll need to transcode that media file to a newer form of media.

Why is Video Transcoding Recommended?

Depending on the goals and the scale of the streaming project, a streamer needs to accomplish several digital media tasks before starting streaming. Transcoding a video is one of them. It usually depends on the following factors:

Internet Speeds:

Several factors determine the quality of the video stream. Internet speed is one of them. Video streaming with slower data speeds needs to be compressed and transcoded. A transcoded media file ensures lower buffering times and minimizes the latency of the video stream.

File Size Reduction:

A high-quality video often has a large file size, which causes longer loading times and results in buffering. Since there are several adaptive streaming formats, it is necessary to transcode a video to reduce the file size. It will help to stream videos online without any interruptions. Besides this, different streaming platforms and devices also require different formats of media files. It is essential to convert a video file into multiple compatible formats to ensure compatibility with all the streaming platforms.

Device compatibility:

Video transcoding is laboriously linked to device compatibility. For a video file to play on a particular device or platform, it needs to be converted from its original format into one that the device can recognize and support. This is achieved using different codecs during the transcoding process, along with specific settings. These settings and parameters control aspects like resolution and video playback. As such, the video transcoding process helps ensure that users can access videos in their preferred format and resolution, regardless of their device or platform.

Improved playback performance:

Video transcoding can significantly improve the playback performance of a video. By optimizing the file size, resolution, and bitrate during the transcoding process, users may be able to access smoother and more consistent streaming. This is especially beneficial for mobile devices with limited processing power. Furthermore, transcoded video can help reduce bandwidth costs while delivering excellent audio and video quality.

Adaptive Bitrate Transcoding with Castr

Adaptive bitrate (ABR) is a critical technology of modern media streaming. ABR is a video streaming technique that detects the viewers’ bandwidth and device type, then dynamically adjusts the bitrates and resolutions of the video in real-time. Adaptive streaming formats allow all users to watch the same video file with reduced buffering, regardless of their network bandwidth or playback device.

In ABR, videos are stored on a server and transcoded at multiple rates. Rather than having one single bitrate for a stream, ABR transcodes a file to various versions. Some tools specifically provide this technology. But some streaming software programs like Castr livestreaming have the built-in adaptive bitrate feature that transcodes your media file to multiple formats as you stream, with zero setups needed.

Castr is an all-in-one streaming solution that provides users with smooth, high-quality streaming experiences. It has advanced streaming technologies like hardware acceleration, ABR streaming, and cloud transcoding. Castr’s adaptive bitrate technology ensures content delivery in ultra-low latency or buffering.

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