Transcoding refers to the process of converting a digital audio or video file into a different file format. The goal is to make the file accessible to a wide range of devices and users. For example, the WMV video file format is mostly compatible with Windows applications only since Microsoft designed it. Converting or transcoding the file into MP4 format will make it accessible to more devices, applications, and even browsers.

Transcoding allows users with fast Internet connections to view high-quality videos while making the same video available to people with slower connections, albeit at a lower quality, too.

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what is transcoding

Aside from changing the audio or video file format, transcoding also allows users to make other changes. For instance, you may want to reduce the file’s bitrate or the speed at which bits of data are transmitted to save on storage space. The higher the bitrate, the better the quality, but the larger the file size would be. This process of reducing the bitrate is called “transrating” and is also under the general umbrella of transcoding.

Transcoding also includes transsizing, the process of resizing the video frame. A high frame rate, such as 1080p, results in a high-quality video. However, it could also consume more bandwidth when played back. If you want to change the video resolution from 1080p to 720p, the video would need to undergo transcoding.

How Does Transcoding Work?

Now that you have an idea of what is transcoding, it may seem that the process requires a lot of work. However, you’d be surprised to know that it could involve a few mouse clicks on a video editing software, such as iMovie and Lightworks. If you want to upload a video to Facebook, but it’s in an unsupported format, you can use any video editing software to change the format. That is already transcoding made more manageable by software use.

Transcoding is also doable within applications like VLC Media Player. Watch the tutorial below to see how a video file can be converted to MP4 using VLC.

Video streamers also can employ a transcoding software or service to make their videos accessible to viewers, regardless of network access quality.

To Transcode or Not: Is Transcoding Necessary?

To reiterate, transcoding is an essential process for video creators, as it ensures that their videos are consumable on different devices, regardless of the speed of users’ Internet connection.

The process is especially crucial when broadcasting live videos. For instance, streaming a video at 1080p could take too much bandwidth. And so, it may not be accessible to users who don’t have enough capacity. If you also use an old encoding format, chances are that newer applications and devices no longer support it. The FLV file format, for example, is not supported by iOS devices, and so videos in this format must be transcoded.

Using a transcoding service will help get rid of these obstacles, enabling you to reach more audiences.

Does Transcoding Reduce Quality?

The short answer is yes. Transcoding reduces the video or audio quality. When you finish recording and editing a video, the final or master file is at its best quality. Versions created when a file is transcoded are usually of lower resolution and bitrate.

However, it doesn’t mean that all viewers will see the version with the lower quality. Remember that transcoding is done to deliver a video across different platforms and network access quality. As such, users with faster Internet connections will see high-quality videos, while those with slow access can still play the video at a lower quality.


Without transcoding, video consumption may not be the same as we enjoy today. People with low bandwidth and slow Internet connection may not be able to see some videos at all. Transcoding allows video creators to create multiple versions in different formats and sizes. That way, people can play the video regardless of device or application.