What is Transcoding and Why is it Important for Video Streaming? [Updated]

Blog 1 min read | Aug 22, 2023 | JW Player


Have you ever tried watching a video that was choppy, pixelated, or just didn’t even play at all?

If so, there’s a good chance the maker(s) of the video didn’t transcode it properly or maybe didn’t do it at all. They probably encoded it once and then distributed it without transcoding it to suit other devices or software.

It’s like trying to watch a DVD on your computer. The DVD is in a format that’s not compatible with your computer, so you have to use a special program or software to convert the DVD into a format that your computer can understand.

That’s where transcoding comes in. We’ll explain it in more detail below.

What is transcoding?

Transcoding is the process of converting one type of digital media into another so your audience can play it in almost whatever format they want.

In the context of video streaming, this process ensures you’re able to deliver your videos in a format that’s compatible with the viewer’s device and internet connection.

So they don’t keep seeing error alerts when they try to watch your video, experience laggy playback — or have to stop and start the video to let it load smoothly and progressively.

Without proper transcoding, your viewers are likely to experience poor-quality videos that can be difficult to watch or won’t even play at all.

6 reasons you need transcoding for live streaming and broadcasting

Here are six major reasons you need to use transcoding when live streaming or broadcasting video:

Allow viewers choose a video quality level

Transcoding helps you to offer various bitrates and resolutions for the same live stream or video on demand (VOD).

Viewers can then choose the quality that best fits their connection speed and viewing device. This results in a better viewing experience overall, as viewers are not stuck with a low-quality stream that is constantly buffering.

For instance, you could offer a high-quality 1080p stream, a standard 720p stream, and a lower-quality 480p stream of one video.

This way, viewers with slower internet speeds can still watch your content without constant buffering issues. And you’re able to maintain a consistent quality of the video for them, no matter their internet connection speed.

Reduce buffering and video latency

Transcoding helps you significantly reduce video latency by helping you change the bitrate and resolution or pixels of your live video feed.

For example, if you have a lot of viewers with slow internet speed, you can lower the bitrate and resolution of your live stream, preventing them from experiencing buffering issues.

On the other hand, if you have viewers with fast internet speed, you can increase the lower bitrate and resolution of your live stream — giving them a better viewing experience.

And this is super important because, if your online video buffers for more than two seconds, you risk having significantly high video streaming abandonment rates. That means viewers don’t want to see this buffer signal for too long:

Bottom line: transcoding allows you to optimize your live stream for all viewers, ensuring that your viewers always have a smooth and fast viewing experience — regardless of whether they have fast or slow internet speed.

Reach a wider audience

Since transcoding helps you distribute your content in multiple video formats or renditions, it helps you reach a wider audience.

There are many devices and platforms available for viewing video content, each with its own file format requirements — and transcoding allows you to make your content available to as many people as possible, regardless of the device they’re using.

For instance, you could encode your video once and then use a transcoding service like JWP to generate versions of that video in different resolutions, bitrates, and file formats. This allows you to reach viewers on different devices and bandwidths without creating separate videos for each.

Not only does this save you time and effort, but it also ensures that all your viewers can enjoy your content regardless of their individual circumstances.

In a nutshell, transcoding is a crucial part of making your video content accessible to as many people as possible.

Reduce expenses on video streaming production

Transcoding helps you reduce expenses since you only need to encode once and decode multiple times — without having to spend extra funds on extra re-encoding costs.

This is particularly useful when you have an audience that uses a mix of different devices to play your content. For instance, your viewers might want to watch your content on their TV, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

By transcoding your video once, you can create multiple versions that your viewers can play on each type of device.

It also comes in handy if you have viewers in different countries or regions who have different internet speeds. Transcoding can help you create versions of your video that are optimized for the internet speed of each region.

In short, transcoding can help you save money by allowing you to encode once and decode multiple times — without having to pay for extra encoding costs.

Transcoding can also help you save money on storage space and bandwidth costs since it helps you create smaller, more compressed versions of your video.

So if you’re looking to save money and still deliver high-quality video content to your viewers, transcoding is the way to go.

Improve your production workflow


Transcoding helps you to improve your workflow by automating the repetitive tasks in the file conversion process while also freeing up your time to focus on other important aspects of your project or production.

And when you add the number of videos that you probably have to process and convert on a regular basis, it’s easy to see how transcoding can help to make your life a lot easier.

Offer more features to viewers


With transcoding, you get to offer more features to your viewers.

And that’s something they appreciate; 63% of viewers would pay more to stream live sports if platforms provided a more personalized user experience — according to a study by Verizon.

Personalization you could offer to viewers includes transcoding your videos to:

  • Mobile phones (or devices) so viewers can watch on the go
  • Multiple bitrates so viewers with different bandwidths can watch without buffering
  • Different resolutions so viewers can choose the quality they want to watch at
  • Multiple languages so viewers can watch in their preferred language

Not only does this improve the viewer experience, but it also improves customer satisfaction, and that improves your revenue because satisfied customers are more likely to continue paying for your service.

Transcoding vs. encoding

Transcoding and encoding are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Here are five key differences between the two processes:

Different use cases

Encoding in live streaming is the process of converting a large, raw video file into a smaller video file that’s readable for playback on a variety of devices.

Transcoding is a more general term that encompasses encoding, but also includes other forms of file conversion, such as converting a video file from one format to another, from one bitrate to another, from one resolution to another, or from one frame rate to another, or from one video codec to another.

Lossy vs. lossless processes

Transcoding is often a lossy process since it may result in a lower-quality video than the original.

Encoding, on the other hand, is a lossless process — unless you deliberately want to make it a lossy one.

Transcoding can change the aspect ratio of a video; encoding can’t

This means that transcoding can make a video fit better on a different screen, or even make it playable on a target device that couldn’t play the original file.

Encoding can only help you compress or decompress a video — it can’t change its aspect ratio, resolution, or frame rate. So if you want to change any of those things, you need to use a transcoding tool.

Real-time vs. offline processes

You can use transcoding to change the bitrate, resolution, or codec of a video stream to package it into a compatible format for delivery to various devices.

And you can do this on the fly, which, again, is perfect for adapting to changing conditions or providing different options to viewers.

But encoding, on the other hand, is a process that happens before a video is ever published.

You use encoding to compress and package your uncompressed video into a file format that’s compatible with your desired delivery method, whether that’s progressive download, HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), or MPEG-DASH. (Note: DASH is a streaming method, and is an acronym for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP).

So you can think of transcoding as kind of like on-the-fly packaging, while encoding is more like creating the packaged file ahead of time. While both processes involve changing the format of a video stream, they serve different purposes.

How JWP helps your transcoding process

The process of transcoding can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, which is why it’s important to use a quality video transcoding software product like JWP.

JWP’s built-in transcoding capabilities also make it easy to convert your video files into output formats that are compatible with popular streaming platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.

This means you can quickly and easily share your videos with your target audience without having to worry about media file compatibility issues or any other technical obstacles.

Major JWP features that improve your transcoding process

Here are some of the key features that make JWP an ideal solution for your video transcoding needs:

  • Ingest from anywhere: Ingest video files from any location, whether it’s on your local computer or a remote server. This makes it easy to start transcoding your video files without having to first download them to your local machine.
  • Transcode at scale: Easily transcode multiple videos at the same time. This is thanks to our built-in transcoding engine, which makes it easy to process large batches of videos quickly and efficiently.
  • Add and edit video metadata: As we’ve mentioned before, transcoding isn’t just about converting your video files into different formats. With JWP, you can also add or edit metadata such as titles, descriptions, and tags. And this is super helpful if you need to make sure your videos are properly indexed and searchable on popular streaming platforms.
  • Asset management: JWP’s asset management capabilities make it easy to keep track of all your video files, both before and after transcoding. This includes features like file tagging, category management, and more.
  • Packaging: Once your videos are transcoded, JWP packages them into popular streaming formats like HLS and DASH. This makes it easy to deliver your videos to your viewers, regardless of which streaming platform they’re using.
  • Global content delivery: With JWP, you can easily deliver your videos to viewers around the world. This is thanks to our built-in CDN support, which makes it easy to deliver your videos quickly and efficiently.
  • Analytics: JWP comes with built-in analytics capabilities, so you can track how your videos are performing. This includes things like video views, completion rate, engagement time, and more.

So if you’re looking for a quality video transcoding solution, JWP is a perfect choice. Contact us today to learn more about our product and how it can help you improve your transcoding process.

Transcoding is key to creating a great viewing experience

At the end of the day, your viewers just want to be able to watch your content without any issues. Transcoding is key to ensuring a great viewing experience for your audience.

They don’t want to have to deal with issues like:

  • Video buffering
  • Poor video quality
  • Audio/video sync issues
  • Compatibility issues

By transcoding your video files, you can avoid all these potential problems and give your viewers the best possible experience. JWP can help you achieve this by offering high-quality transcoding capabilities that are easy to use. Feel free to contact our team and see how they can help you improve your video streaming workflow.