The Beginners Guide to Video Encoding, Decoding, and Transcoding

03-12-2020 9:41:29 PM Comment(s)
Are you new to the world of video streaming or broadcast? With so much terminology, it’s easy for beginners to get confused and overwhelmed. That’s why we started the video encoding basics series of blog posts to explain in simple terms, the basic principles that underlie what we do here at Haivision.

Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. So, in this post, we’re going back to basics with an answer to a commonly asked question: what are the differences between video encoding, decoding, and transcoding?

What is Video Encoding?

Hardware encoders are turnkey devices with dedicated processing power for low latency encoding of video streams whereas software encoders have to share CPU and other hardware resources. Hardware video encoders like the Haivision Makito X series are used by a wide range of industries for delivering flawless quality, low latency video in many different applications including:
  • Broadcast – for backhaul, live remote interviews, return feeds, and remote production
  • Enterprise – for internet streaming of your all-hands meetings, remote contribution, as IPTV, and digital signage
  • Defense – for mission critical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) applications

Software encoders can be installed on standard off the shelf hardware or as virtual machines (VM) in data centers or cloud platforms. Although software can be a great option for file-based encoding of video content, they don’t offer ultra low latency levels comparable to dedicated hardware encoders and therefore not suitable for most live broadcast contribution applications.

What is Video Decoding?

Essentially the opposite of live encoding, video decoding is the process of decoding or uncompressing encoded video in real-time. A video decoder converts an encoded video stream to HDMI for display on a screen or to SDI for connected to broadcast production systems including video production switchers. Video decoders can also decode embedded audio tracks for sound production as well as metadata for information on video formatting, time codes, subtitles, and closed captioning. For non-broadcast applications such as ISR, metadata may also include vital KLV information.

Some video decoders are able to support multiple incoming streams and include the ability to resync them prior to decoding to SDI.

Watch the video for more about decoding:

What is Video Transcoding?

Explore the Basics and Beyond of Video Encoding

The Essential Guide to Low Latency Video Streaming is a comprehensive resource, exploring the fundamentals of video encoding, latency, protocols, and more.