August 12, 2014

Here's What You Need to Know About Video Compression

As filmmakers, most of us consider ourselves to be creative people. Having a creative intuition and knowing how to use it is incredibly important in this field, but many of us -- especially folks like me who are scientifically and mathematically inept -- tend to overlook many of the technical and scientific aspects of modern digital filmmaking. As boring and convoluted as some of it might seem, having a working knowledge of the various engineering concepts that are used in the digital image creation process can make us better filmmakers, because that knowledge can inform the creative decisions that we make. Luckily, there's no need to go to engineering school for that knowledge, as most of it can be found on YouTube in some form or another. For instance, here's most everything you need to know about video compression.

This first video comes to us courtesy of the Techquickie, a YouTube channel that focuses on getting you up to date on modern technology in just a few minutes.

If there's nothing else you take away from this video, it should be that bitrates are the single most important factor when it comes to the visual quality of your compressed video. The higher the bitrate, the better the quality. Pretty easy to understand, right? With that said, there's far more to video compression than bitrate. Luckily, Larry Jordan has us covered with the rest of what filmmakers need to know about compression.

In the modern video technology landscape, we're fairly spoiled with the types of cameras and codecs that we have access to in that we can achieve extremely high image quality with relatively little compression compared to the cameras and codecs of years past. With that said, data storage is a massive issue, especially when you have to duplicate or triplicate your video files in order to safeguard a production from losing data. As inexpensive as storage has become over the past few years, it's not inexpensive enough to accommodate the massive amount of data that filmmakers can produce shooting RAW files and other high-quality capture formats. For that reason, video compression is still a vitally important concept for filmmakers to understand and utilize.

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21 Comments

Just glancing at the YT preview, I already see an issue: please refrain from ever calling a codec short for "compressor-decompressor." A better definition is coder-decoder. Why? Not all codecs actually compress a file compared to its source. When you transcode a file, you're not necessarily compressing that either.

Bit rate is very important, but it's not the be all end all of all compression matters. GOP settings, keyframe intervals, quantization tables, et al. also have a major influence on how a final video looks.

August 12, 2014 at 7:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Anon

Nerdy comment is nerdy. ;)

August 12, 2014 at 7:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Your Friendly N...

Anon's right though. A 2015 camera can probably squeeze in a triple bit rate equivalent into the same nominal codec by simply doing more calculations than a 2012 camera.

August 12, 2014 at 8:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Thanks for digging deepter, differentiating; appreciate it.

August 14, 2014 at 6:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Yeah and 25Mbps of h.264 is better than having 25Mbps of mpeg2 - so bitrate only really helps when comparing like codecs.

August 12, 2014 at 8:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nathanael

Ohh, Thats very interes.... Zzzzzzzzz ;)

August 13, 2014 at 8:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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MrL

MrL Stop it! We know is boring but it is also important thatZzzzzzzzzz.....

August 13, 2014 at 12:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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edgar

Your eight Im sorry, knowing the difference of a codec and a container is impor.....Zzzzzzzzzz

August 13, 2014 at 2:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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MrL

You people are ridiculzzzzzzzzZZZzz

August 14, 2014 at 3:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Alex

Zzzzzzztop it

August 14, 2014 at 5:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Agustín Lorenzo

To wake the sleepers up: H.265 is coming. It has twice the data compression but generates the same quality as H.264, or better. You will want it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Video_Coding

August 13, 2014 at 1:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Erwin

Now thats some greate news that will make my filmmakingZzzzzzzzzzz.......

August 13, 2014 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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MrL

nooooo h265 is well and truly here, I use it. And it's more than twice the compression of h265 afaik

August 14, 2014 at 8:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Reggie

reggie has just posed a logical paradox, and idea looping upon itself for infinitzzzzzzzZZZzzzz

August 14, 2014 at 3:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Alex

thank you :)

August 17, 2014 at 1:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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akshay

This is definitely useful information especially that upload a lot my my work on thezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

August 18, 2014 at 12:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Oji

I m going to shoot my first short film soon.... can anybody pls tell me about the best codec to use- with regards to image quality and compression? thanks

August 20, 2014 at 4:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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hmd

You'll have to be more specific. Are you talking acquisition codec, or delivery codec? Or do you need an intermediary/offline codec? Which camera are you using? Which NLE are you using? What's your final delivery requirements, etc. etc.

August 20, 2014 at 11:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I am going to use canon eos 60d... thts all I hv. dont hv any idea abt d codecs you mentioned. pls shed some light. I ll be grateful.
the film is intended to be uploaded on YouTube. thanks

August 22, 2014 at 2:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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hmd

Thanks for finally talking about >Here's What You Need to Know About Video Compression <Liked it!

August 26, 2014 at 4:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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August 26, 2014 at 4:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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