Software Transcoding

2 minute read

Software transcoding is by far the most accessible solution for must users because it can run on whatever computer you already have. However, it is not without it’s “gotchas”.

Codecs, like music, can be licensed. If the codec is not freely useable by the public, then the manufacturer needs to license the codec for use by a software manufacturer. Such is the case with Apple’s ProRes codec. While the ProRes codec can be encoded and decoded on virtually any Apple computer, Apple has not issued a blanket license to Microsoft Windows. This means video software manufacturers need to request a license from Apple. Unfortunately, many software transcoders have incorporated unlicensed Apple ProRes encoders within their software. Unlicensed ProRes implementations have no quality control and may fail QC. For professional deliverables it is strongly recommended to use licensed ProRes implementations.

Many software transcoders will leverage your GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit (your graphics card) to speed up video transcoding. While the speed increase is a plus, performance (and quality!) can vary wildly between graphics cards and transcoding softwares. Always check to see if your transcoder will leverage your GPU.

Robust transcoders may also provide for distributed transcoding, that is, using network resources to split up your transcode task and leverage the speed of multiple computers connected to your network. These systems usually require a fair amount of setup to optimize, and often fail to transcode as quickly as anticipated. The process of splitting up a transcode into many smaller pieces, then recombining those pieces often yields diminishing returns. Distributed transcoding in bulk is traditionally more useful than accelerating a single file transcode.

Most basic transcoding tools require three things: a source file, the parameters for the transcode, and a destination location for the finished file. Some basic transcoding tools include: Apple’s Compressor, Adobe Media Encoder, and Handbrake.

Larger scale or enterprise transcoders have additional features which are useful when large amounts of transcodes are needed. These features may include: public and private watch folders, decision-based transcoding that is dependent on the audio, video, and metadata present in the file, embedding/de-embedding of closed caption files, automated QC, and our next topic: actual delivery of the files. Common tools include Telestream Vantage and Root6 Content Agent.

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