video codec Online video is growing rapidly, with sites like YouTube getting 30 hours of video uploaded every minute. While online video is fun to watch and an important part of your inbound marketing content strategy, it does require some technical knowledge to execute well. 

When getting started with online video you might consider using an inexpensive video camera and doing some minor edits and posting  the video on your blog. As quality and production value becomes more important to your videos, it is critical to understand codecs.

Why Do Marketers Need Codecs?

Somewhere on your computer you have digital media files.  In your music collection you may have .mp3 files.  For video you might have .mov files.  Most people understand digital media by its file extension (.mov for example) also called a container .  But did you know there is a lot more to a digital media file than the container?  In this article we will cover the subject of audio and video codecs, what they are, different types, and how you can optimize your content.

What Is a Codec?

A codec is simply a program that can co mpress or dec ompress (co+dec=codec) a data stream.  Any file container may be compatible with a number of different codecs.  Codecs can be either proprietary, licensed by a particular program or open source, developed by a public group of programmers.  The biggest differences between codecs are their overall quality.  The quality of a media file is dictated by a number of factors, the most important being the bit rate .  Digital media file data streams are typically measured in kilobits per second ( kbps ).  

An important distinction between codecs is whether the codec uses lossless or lossy compression.  Media files using lossy compression are very common; an .mp3 is a great example of lossy compression as .mp3s can be compressed at a number of different bitrates depending on your desired file size.  Low quality/size .mp3s are typically compressed at 128kbps while a high quality/size .mp3s is compressed at 320kbps.  Lossless media files can either be compressed or uncompressed.  Lossless files maintain the bit rate of the original data stream creating a large, high quality file.  A .WAV file is an example of a lossless audio file that can either be compressed or uncompressed.  Lossless video is typically viewed in DVD and Blu-Ray formats as the high bit rate required for lossless video creates a large file.

Understanding Video Codecs

There are currently a wide variety of video codecs available to compress digital video.  The most common codec is the H.264 codec used by Vimeo, YouTube, and iTunes.  Most .mov or .mp4 files you encounter will use the H.264 codec.  H.264 is so popular because of the quality it can deliver while maintaining a reasonable file size.  For Windows-based computers video files with the container .avi are fairly common.  These files typically use Xvid or DIVX codecs.  VP8 is a codec developed by On2 technologies who are now owned by Google.  Google is currently developing VP8 for use in HTML 5 , you can see the codec at work in HD YouTube videos with a resolution of 720p or higher.

It can be sometimes difficult to manage all of the different audio/video codecs out there.  If you ever have trouble playing files that quicktime, iTunes, or windows media player won’t recognize, try using the open source VLC player , a powerful media player that can play nearly any file.  For transcoding media files from one format to another try Super Converter for Windows computers and ffmpegX for Macintosh computers, both programs are free and super powerful!

How do you plan on using video and audio in your inbound marketing in 2011?

Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo

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Originally published Feb 16, 2011 2:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016

Topics:

Video Marketing