Codecs – pulling the strings of your video files

September 14, 2022 Aus Von Anna Katherina Ibeling
Videocodecs beeinflussen die Performance Ihrer Dateien
Codecs can make your videos run or stop!

Have you ever wondered what happens “behind the scenes” of your video files while creating and playing them? Then let’s talk about video codecs, the “puppeteers” pulling the programming strings of each video. Generally, one can distinguish audio codecs from video codecs as both tracks are already divided and separately adapted while cutting and composing a video. In fact, our digital cameras record digital and visual elements in different recording units from the beginning. Codecs thus are automatized and standardized categories in which our recording hardware saves its content.


Codecs - showmakers or showstoppers?

Whenever you need to create, refine or repair a video file, codecs can be both your best friend and your worst enemy because they either make your video run smoothly or become a “showstopper” while being in disorder. On a technical level, codecs are so-called “container formats”, which means that they encode and decode video and audio data. Thus, they sort of function as a “translating unit”. Next, you can check out which codecs exist and how they can influence your videos’ performance. For now, we’re going to concentrate on video codecs only and come back to audio codecs in another article.

Videocodecs sind wie Kisten!
Codecs and what they have in common with packed boxes

A matter of compression – different types of video codecs

In order to understand compression in container formats in general, you only need to imagine real, physical containers aka closed boxes and the stuff you want to fill them with. The containers you use always vary in their size and in the way you pack them. “Lossless” and “lossy” compression in virtual container formats is organized in the same way. Both options of “video data packing” have “good” and “bad” aspects, depending on your file und and user requirements.

Imagine you put a lot of stuff into one box and thus create a high compression. Then you save space wherever you want to store the box and you save boxes, too. But naturally, some things within the box can get damaged or very difficult to find when you look for them. The single items can also come out with a wear-and-tear effect. Compared to video codecs, this example stands for a lossy compression. You can play your files everywhere, even on mobile phones, but you might accept a limited outcome quality when It comes to colours, sharpness or brightness. In a nutshell, lossy compression also means a certiain loss of quality concerning the single data elements.

Lossless compression - big files!

Now imagine the same physical box and only pack it with only some items without compressing them. We all know: None of the items within the box will be damaged or worn-out then. The other side of “lossless” box packing is that you’ll need bigger or several boxes to store your stuff. In consequence, you won’t save any space with this method.

For video codecs, we’re talking about “lossless compression” at this point. On the one hand, your single data elements will keep their original size and quality, This guarantees a high-class video result. On the other hand, your video files will be very “massive”. Thus, they probably won’t run easily on every device, in every media player or on common video platforms. Plus, some lossless formats are proprietary ones and not compatible with every common video player. Talking about compression, there will not be a complete “copy and paste list” within this article. But you can naturally check all common formats here:

Compressed or not – which container formats work best?

Actually, it depends on your own goals and target channels whether you choose a “lossless” or “lossy” container format with all its codecs. Most end-user cameras in B2C trade automatically compress video and audio data while recording. However, most “private” users do not need any lossless compression as their files. Usually, they do not produce any pictures and videos for the big screen, e.g. in a photo studio or in a cinema. Furthermore, most B2C customers also do not own or use the necessary hardware to work with uncompressed files.

In contrast, for more “professional” media producers and camera users, it often makes sense to record and edit their video files in a lossless container format. Just think of all these Hollywood blockbusters, glamorous high-class adverts for beauty products on TV and high-resolving B2B image videos on trade shows. If you’re not sure about the purpose yet, probably it is a safe choice to produce a video in a less compressed format and compress it later, e.g. to used it for Youtube or on your website which both depends on a quick load time.  And if your video files start playing you tricks? Get some help and try to fix them automatically – for example with our Video Repair Tool!