This article has been just updated: February 24, 2020
In this article, we will talk about some of the various technical details of video files and codecs and take a look at a number of tools that can be used to convert, compress, and edit video files.
If you have ever watched a video or movie on your computer you have been exposed to the world of video codecs. Perhaps it was an unpleasant meeting when you received a ‘missing codec’ message that made it impossible to view your content. So what was that message all about? Let’s find out.
What is a Video Codec?
A codec is an algorithm that is used to encode data like a video clip. It must be decoded when played back, and the word codec is a contraction of the words ”coder/decoder”. Most codecs also compress the data resulting in smaller files which can be downloaded quickly and take up less disk space. You would then need the same codec to uncompress the file in order to watch it.
Video codecs can be lossy or lossless based on their impact on the quality of the original video file. This distinction also affects how much compression can be accomplished by using a particular type of codec.
There are many different codecs available to be used in processing video files. Some are designed to be employed in very specific usage scenarios and most computer users will never see them in action. Others are more general purpose and frequently process the videos that the average user watches on their machines.
Top 3 Best Video Codecs
The wide variety of codecs would make an exhaustive list impossible, but we will take a look at three different ones to give you a flavor of what is available.
- HEVC/H.265 – High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is a video compression standard developed by the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC). It was designed to provide twice the compression of the previous standard, H.264/AVC. This new codec affords users the benefit of file sizes that are 50% of those generated by AVC while delivering the same video quality. The codec also allows for compression to the same file size as AVC, but supplies much higher quality video than its predecessor.
- Xvid – Xvid is an open-source codec that provides high performance and is compatible with many video players and operating systems. It offers strong compression capabilities and though it is a lossy codec, the developers have attempted to minimize video quality degradation by limiting the degree of image removal performed by the software. While maintaining video quality the codec still can compress your videos at ratios of 200:1.
- Huffyuv – This lossless codec has ceased development but that doesn’t affect its utility for Windows users. It is available in 32 and 64-bit versions. It is recommended for users with older operating systems and provides high-speed compression with no loss of video quality.
All About MPEG
MPEG is an acronym for the Moving Pictures Expert Group. They are an organization that develops standards which are applied to the encoding of digital video and audio files. MPEG compression is instrumental in allowing multimedia files to be significantly reduced in size. This enables them to be transferred over the Internet more efficiently.
Without file compression, it would take an inordinate amount of time to download video and audio files. The name MPEG has become more closely associated with files saved in the MPEG format instead of the organization responsible for the standards. Since it was founded in 1998, the group has come up with several digital media standards including:
So as you can see, MPEG is not a single monolithic standard, but instead is an organization that is responsible for developing a number of standards. MPEG-4 is simply one part of the overall MPEG standards.
Differences exist between the standards as we shall illustrate by looking at the original MPEG-1 standard versus the MPEG-4 variation. MPEG-1 was used to compress files for use on CDs whereas the improved compression capabilities of MPEG-4 allow it to be used on DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The major difference in the two standards is the degree of compression applied to the multimedia files. MPEG-4 compression is critical in the age of mobile devices where storage space is always at a premium.
The Problem of Interlacing Video
Video interlacing is a technique that was originally employed to allow the transmission of video content through the limited available bandwidth. It breaks up an image into even and odd scan lines., and displays them sequentially on the display device.
This is in contrast to a progressive video which displays all scan lines at the same time. You can tell if a video source is progressive or interlaced by the letter following the video definition that denotes the number of scan lines per image. So a source listed as 480p is progressive and one at 1080i is interlaced.
When you run into issues with interlaced video you will need to convert it to progressive mode. This can be accomplished with many video converters such as the ones we will be discussing shortly.
Reducing Video File Size With Compression
Video files can take up a considerable amount of space on your storage device. When a video is compressed, it is encoded in a manner that consumes less storage space than the original file. This enables the file to be more easily transferred over a network or the Internet.
Compression is accomplished through the use of a codec and usually involves the removal of repetitive images and sounds from a video. The compressed video is in a new format that needs to be supported by the video player. Uncompressing the file to restore its original format is another option once a file has been transferred.
If you collect video files you will definitely appreciate the need to save storage space. Compressing your files can resolve that issue. Here are three of the top tools for compressing video files.
Top 3 Tools to Reduce Video File size
Handbrake is an open-source video converter that is an excellent tool for compressing video files. You can obtain a live preview of the compression with this freeware which has versions available for the Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms.
Free and paid versions of this video conversion software are available for both Windows and macOS computers. It’s packed with features including the ability to compress video files from any format.
This commercial software product offers lightning fast file conversion for those in need of speed. You can run it on Mac or Windows machines and it includes a host of advanced features including the ability to save your files for use on any mobile device.
Top 3 Best Online Video Convertors
If you’re a fan of online videos then you are sure to have some favorites. Maybe you have bookmarked them or just find them by searching when you need to view them. Another way to have your favorite videos easily accessible is to convert them to files that you can save and view at your leisure. Here are three great free online video converters that can turn online videos to downloadable files on your computer.
You have to appreciate a software package whose name describes its functionality. OnlineVideoConverter is aptly named and offers a free video conversion tool that can be used to convert videos into a number of formats including .mp4, .avi, .mpg, and .mov. No registration is required to use this utility and there is no limit to the number of files you can convert.
Simply paste a video link from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or any of the other supported video sites and select the format you wish to use for the conversion. Speed may be affected during busy times when the free service’s servers are taxed, but in general, you will enjoy timely file conversions with this online tool.
Here is another free online tool that can be used with no registration. You place a link to your video from a source like YouTube and click on the “Start” button. The program retrieves the video and then presents you with options where you can select the video and audio format you will use. Advanced options let you cut or resize the video and you can even choose the codec that will be used for the conversion.
This online utility is designed specifically to convert YouTube videos to .mp3 or .mp4 formats. Just paste the YouTube link and the tool offers you options to choose a format or change the file name or ID3 tag. Click on “Convert” and let the program do its job. When finished you can download the converted file to the location of your choice.
Top 3 Best Video Editing Programs for Mac
Here are three great video editors that will let you turn your video clips into masterpieces on your Mac or iOS device.
Apple’s iMovie application is an excellent video editor that is easy to use and can be obtained for free for the macOS or iOS. It has a wealth of features that enable you to quickly add high-quality titles and special effects to your videos. Filters can be employed to give your video a distinctive look, and the filters can be applied to individual clips or the complete movie at one time.
With iMovie you can post your completed work to social media sites or publish directly to YouTube. Having iMovie installed on both your iOS device and Mac machine lets you cut back and forth, editing the same video from both devices. If you are new to video editing, you can’t go wrong with iMovie.
This software application is available with a free 7-day trial after which you can choose to register or upgrade to the Pro version. It features an intuitive user interface that makes it possible to access all of its advanced features with a reasonable learning curve.
Once you get used to the workflow design of adding clips to your project, you will be creating stunning videos by availing yourself of the professional-grade tools included in the package. This is an extremely powerful video editor that will serve novices and professionals alike.
Here is a free version of the professional DaVinci Resolve 15 Studio application that includes many features which will allow you to create great videos. To obtain all of the free features, you should download it from the link provided above rather than from the Apple App Store.
This product is designed for serious video editing and includes a digital audio workstation so you can get the sound just right without leaving the editor. Visual effects such as vector painting, rotoscoping, and 3D compositing are at your fingertips. The tool is designed to make multi-user collaboration possible and allows for simultaneous editing of videos by multiple parties.
3 Best Video Editing Applications for Windows
Adobe Premiere Pro is a subscription-based editor that provides Windows users with a powerful tool for collaborative video creation. You can try it for free with a 30-day trial, and Adobe makes regular updates that extend the functionality of the tool. It features a flexible interface which allows you to organize your project in the way that suits your working style.
You can treat your videos with effects such as color adjustment and transitions, add titles and captions, and perform precise audio editing. Collaboration is fostered by Adobe’s Creative Cloud Libraries and the ability to collaborate in real time. This cloud-centric approach allows a user to use any machine running the software to work on their project.
You can also use this application via a subscription or purchase the software outright. It is a powerful video editing tool that offers CyberLink Cloud storage as a way to safely store your settings and creations. This allows you to work on your projects from anywhere and the application provides 25GB of free storage with more available for purchase.
Features like one-click color correction, intelligent color matching, 360° editing, and frame-by-frame motion tracking give your videos a professional look. Many plug-ins and additions are available through premium creative design packs which enhance your ability to apply effects to your finished product.
This offering by MAGIX is a stand-alone video editor that you can test drive with a 30-day free trial before committing to purchasing the product. Features such as dynamic title animation, image stabilization, and 360° editing let you create professional looking videos.
The application includes over 1,500 effects that can be added to your video files. If the program is purchased through a Microsoft account, you can use the software on up to ten Windows 10 machines. A storyboard mode is available for fast editing and you can directly upload your completed projects to YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms.
There you have it. We hope that you have a better understanding of the intricacies of digital videos and how you can manipulate them to change formats, save space on your storage devices, and create professional-looking movies from clips taken on your mobile phone. Employing these tools will let you pour your creativity into creating videos with your imagination as the only limitation.