September 8, 2014

Confused About Codecs? This Video Tutorial Will Teach You What You Need to Know

Codecs Explained
Codecs are complicated. They're also an extremely important aspect of image quality, so having a basic understanding of how they work can be beneficial.

Unfortunately, for young and old filmmakers alike, trying to unravel and decipher some of the engineering concepts behind how video encoding actually works can be a bit like trying to paint a barn with a toothbrush. Complex questions abound. What is a codec – and how does it differ from a container? Bit depth: what does it mean, how does it differ from bit rate, and why is it so important? What on earth are chroma subsampling, spatial compression, and temporal compression? If you're like me, trying to wrap your head around these broad concepts, let alone figuring out the answers to the above questions, is enough to make you want to pull some hair out.

Luckily, David Kong has new video tutorial that will explain all of these things and then some (courtesy of Philip Bloom):

So there you have it, an in-depth look at how codecs work and at the inner workings of video compression. Armed with this knowledge, you can make more informed choices about not only the cameras and settings that you shoot with, but also the post-production workflows and encode settings that will give you the image quality that you're after.     

Your Comment

18 Comments

I saw this video a couple days ago. It's so good, and I've bookmarked it so that I can send to clients or anyone I work with that needs to learn how to understand what I talk about when I talk codecs with them.

September 8, 2014 at 9:08PM

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Tim Buttner
Multi-Media Expert (writer, director, producer, D.O.P., etc)
414

This kind of a must watch, I learned quite a bit from this. In the future I'll be more aware of the codecs I use. Part 2 probably be the most important part for most as it will go through some exporting processes, which all of us will eventually have to do.

September 8, 2014 at 9:33PM

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Gvickie Xiong
Editor/Cinematographer/Director
768

Do you know where I can find part two?

September 10, 2014 at 5:30PM

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David kong, always providing a wealth of knowledge. I think it could have been a bit condensed, but even so. Love it.

September 8, 2014 at 9:53PM

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Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1427

Highly recommended, especially for those who believe spacial resolution (4K) defines what creates a superior image.

September 9, 2014 at 1:33AM

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Tenolian
236

David is a really nice guy. I randomly met him a few years back on a music video shoot in a small town and he helped us out just for the sake of helping out.

Great video too.

September 9, 2014 at 2:58AM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2527

I learn a lot from it.

September 9, 2014 at 12:29PM

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Mike Bishop
Learning Hobby
91

Thank you for sharing all this great knowledge, super useful and simple to understand.

September 9, 2014 at 3:49PM, Edited September 9, 3:49PM

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Carlos Vargas
Producer / Director / Cinematographer
90

This guy is a genius.

September 9, 2014 at 6:20PM, Edited September 9, 6:20PM

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Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor
1748

Thanks, Great Watch.

September 9, 2014 at 9:04PM

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Ryan Desjardins
Vidiot.
296

Thanks, Great video, very clear explanation that's easy to understand

September 10, 2014 at 6:54AM

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Van Aznavourian
DP/VFX Editor
90

This is great!

September 10, 2014 at 3:27PM

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Kevin Erhard
Content Strategy
234

changed my life....thank God for internet nerds.

September 11, 2014 at 6:15AM

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Riaan Myburgh
DP / COLORIST
365

Codec is an acronym for coder decoder and many codecs have nothing to do with encoding or decoding video data. Early text codecs survive as ZIP compression and files. There are lossless audio codecs that do not compress the bit rate (FLAC and Apple's ALAC used in Quicktime audio applications are fully lossless, while Vorbis is a slightly lossy audio codec and the container is called Ogg for Ogg Vorbis). Video data streams from modern digital cameras are pushing the rate at which the data can be recorded cost effectively with modern digital media in RAW format so compression is very desirable and the subject of active development by many companies. When the race to larger sensors ends, the digital media will catch up and lossless RAW data codecs will become the norm. That might take awhile and in the meantime understanding what is being thrown away by various compression algos is still a confusing and important subject.

September 12, 2014 at 5:39PM

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I have recently started working with video production and since I did not go to school for this amazing field everything I know I have learned in various internet pages and of course the amazing group of people I have the pleasure to work with... Saying that I am so happy to see this video is out there simply because codec has been the biggest challenge.. THANK YOU David Kong for this video and of course thank you Robert Hardy for making this note...

September 22, 2014 at 6:11PM

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Hafid Davila
Director of Photography and video editor / Producer assistan
161

I love this video but I have a doubt: Do you know how difference they are between RAW uncompress and RAW compress?
Someone help :S

Thanks.

September 23, 2014 at 7:38AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7122

So, my camera shoots 4K at 4:4:0 and HD at 4:2:2 - Does this mean I'm getting better color sampling from HD?

July 12, 2016 at 11:35AM, Edited July 12, 11:35AM

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Tommy Boy
Photographer
219

HOLY F'n GOD! Thank GOODNESS for YOU! I thought I was crazy and losing my mind hearing all the massive geeked out phrases, terms, acronyms, and abbreviations. Much more clear on whats going on still fuzzy Bit Rate's and Temporal Compression. But breathing much easier now. Look forward to next installment. Thanks! Where's the "tip jar"?

July 12, 2016 at 9:24PM

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Aaron Freeman
Photographer / Writer / Aspiring Filmmaker
6

Incredibly helpful, thank you. Was referred to your video by a tutor of mine, and I'm really glad he sent me to your page.

September 21, 2016 at 11:35AM

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