What is Video Encoding: A Comprehensive Guide

With video consumption soaring, understanding video encoding’s technical aspects for workflow optimization is crucial. You might wonder how different encoding techniques affect the clarity, resolution, and file size of videos, or how they influence smooth playback, buffering, and adaptive streaming. 

So here, we’ll explain the intricate world of video encoding, transcoding, and optimization techniques, empowering you with the knowledge to create high-quality, seamless streaming content. 

hands editing video on a laptop

Video Encoding Basics 

What is Video Encoding? 

Video encoding is the process of converting raw video files into a compressed format using specific algorithms. This compression reduces the file size while maintaining acceptable visual and audio quality. Encoding ensures that videos can be efficiently stored, transmitted, and streamed over the internet or other platforms, serving as a crucial equilibrium between video quality and data efficiency. 

To comprehend the concept better, it’s important to distinguish between video encoding and transcoding. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have distinct roles in the streaming ecosystem. 

Video Encoding vs. Transcoding: Understanding the Difference 

While video encoding involves converting raw video files into compressed formats, transcoding involves converting an already compressed video from one format or quality to another. This is essential for adapting content to various devices, bandwidths, or quality preferences. Transcoding ensures optimal viewing experiences across different platforms without the need to re-encode the original video. In essence, encoding focuses on the initial compression of raw videos, while transcoding deals with adapting existing compressed videos to suit specific delivery requirements. 

Navigating Encoding Formats 

At the heart of video encoding lies the concept of encoding formats. These formats dictate how video data is organized and stored, directly impacting playback quality and compatibility. Popular formats include AVI, MP4, MKV, and more. Each format comes with its unique advantages and drawbacks, making the choice of format a critical decision in the encoding process. 

a man editing video on the desktop

Codecs in Video Encoding Process 

How are Codecs related to Video Encoding? 

Codecs, short for “coder-decoder,” are essential components of video encoding. They are algorithms used to compress and decompress video and audio data, determining how data is stored and transmitted. Video encoding involves selecting a specific codec that defines how the video will be compressed during the encoding process. Different codecs use various compression techniques, such as removing redundant information or optimizing color representation, to reduce file sizes while maintaining acceptable quality. 

When a video is encoded, the chosen codec analyzes the raw video data, applies compression algorithms, and generates a compressed video file. When this file is decoded for playback, the same codec is used to reverse the compression process and recreate the original video data. The choice of codec directly influences factors like file size, video quality, and compatibility with different devices and players. 

H.264: Advanced Video Coding 

One prominent codec in this array is H.264, also known as AVC (Advanced Video Coding). H.264 stands out as a widely adopted codec due to its ability to strike a balance between compression efficiency and video quality. At Dailymotion, H.264 / AVC (recommended) is the recommended codec as it efficiently reduces file sizes while maintaining a satisfactory level of visual clarity. This makes it an ideal choice for various applications, including streaming, video conferencing, and online video platforms.  

H.265: High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) 

As technology advances, so do codecs. H.265, also known as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), marks a significant step forward in video compression. It promises to deliver the same video quality as H.264 but at around half the bitrate. This leap in efficiency paves the way for smoother streaming experiences, especially in bandwidth-constrained scenarios. Dailymotion also allows H.265 / HEVC for your video coding.  

Difference Between H.264 and H.265 

H.264 and H.265 are both video codecs, but they have distinct differences: 

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Adaptive Bitrate Streaming (ABR) for Optimal Video Quality  

It’s essential to grasp the distinction between video quality and resolution, two elements that profoundly impact the viewer’s perception of the content. While resolution refers to the dimensions of the video, such as 720p or 1080p, quality encompasses various factors like color accuracy, sharpness, and lack of artifacts. 

For smoother playback and reduced interruptions, adapting the video quality to match the available bandwidth is essential.  

Bitrate: The Key to Balancing Quality and Size 

Bitrate serves as a critical parameter in video encoding, influencing both quality and file size. A higher bitrate allocates more data to each frame, enhancing clarity and detail, but also increasing the file size. Conversely, a lower bitrate reduces file size but might compromise on the overall visual experience. Finding the optimal bitrate for your content is a meticulous task that requires consideration of factors like genre, target audience, and available bandwidth. 

What is Adaptive Bitrate Streaming? 

The variability of network conditions across different devices and environments poses a challenge in delivering consistent video quality. Enter adaptive bitrate streaming, a video streaming technique that dynamically adjusts the quality of a video stream based on the viewer’s internet connection speed and device capabilities. It aims to provide the best possible viewing experience by continuously monitoring the viewer’s network conditions and adjusting the bitrate of the video stream accordingly. 

How Adaptive Streaming Works 

Adaptive streaming involves encoding a single video at multiple quality levels, each corresponding to a different bitrate. As the viewer’s network conditions change, the streaming player automatically switches between these quality levels. During periods of high bandwidth, the player delivers a higher quality stream. Conversely, in low-bandwidth scenarios, it seamlessly downshifts to a lower quality, preventing buffering and maintaining an uninterrupted viewing experience. 

Benefits of Adaptive Streaming 

Adaptive bitrate streaming is not just a technological marvel but a viewer-centric solution. By adapting to network fluctuations, it enhances user satisfaction by minimizing buffering and providing consistently high-quality content. Whether a viewer is on a bustling city network or a rural area with limited connectivity, adaptive streaming ensures that your content is accessible and enjoyable. 

laptop with a video

Mastering Multi-Bitrate Encoding: Best Practices 

Multi-bitrate encoding is essential for adaptive streaming. To give viewers more control over their data usage and ensure consistent quality for viewers, use multi-bitrate encoding technique and optimize video delivery.  

What is Multi-Bitrate Encoding? 

Multi-bitrate encoding is a strategy that involves creating multiple versions of a video, each encoded at different bitrates and quality levels. When a viewer initiates playback, the streaming player intelligently selects the version that best matches their available bandwidth. This approach guarantees a seamless viewing experience by adjusting the video quality on-the-fly. 

Guidelines for Multi-Bitrate Encoding 

1. Set the Right Resolutions: Encode videos at multiple resolutions, such as 480p, 720p, and 1080p, to cater to varying screen sizes and device capabilities. 

2. Choose Bitrates Wisely: Determine bitrates based on the resolution and desired quality. Higher resolutions generally require higher bitrates for optimal results. 

3. Employ Variable Bitrate (VBR) Encoding: Utilize VBR encoding, which allocates more data to complex scenes and less to simpler ones, enhancing quality and efficiency. 

4. Craft a Diverse Codec Collection: Create versions encoded with different codecs to accommodate a wide range of playback devices. 

5. Incorporate Adaptive Streaming: Integrate adaptive bitrate streaming with multi-bitrate encoding for a dynamic and uninterrupted viewing experience. 

6. Test Thoroughly: Simulate real-world scenarios to ensure smooth transitions between quality levels and responsive adaptive streaming. 

Video Encoding Challenges and Strategies 

Video encoding is a meticulous process, but even with the most careful execution, challenges can emerge. These hurdles can compromise the quality of your streaming content, undermining viewer satisfaction and engagement. Let’s explore these challenges and unveil the solutions that can salvage your streaming experience. 


Few things are as frustrating for viewers as the dreaded buffering wheel. Buffers occur when the video playback outpaces the download speed, causing interruptions. One solution is to implement adaptive bitrate streaming, which seamlessly adjusts the quality to match the viewer’s available bandwidth. This dynamic approach prevents buffering while maintaining an enjoyable experience.  

Dailymotion features adaptive streaming technology, ensuring that your viewers enjoy uninterrupted playback regardless of their network conditions. Adaptive bitrate streaming optimizes the video quality in real-time, providing a seamless viewing experience and eliminating buffering issues. 


Artifacts, those unsightly distortions that mar video quality, can arise due to aggressive compression or inappropriate encoding settings. To combat artifacts, strike a balance between compression and quality preservation. Opt for higher bitrates and advanced compression techniques to minimize their occurrence. 

With Dailymotion’s advanced video encoding techniques, we focus on maintaining the highest possible visual quality while optimizing file size. Our platform utilizes cutting-edge compression methods to minimize artifacts and deliver pristine video content. 

Compatibility Conundrums 

Mismatched codecs and formats can lead to playback issues across different devices and platforms. One approach is to create multiple versions of your content, each encoded with codecs and formats suited to specific environments. Additionally, leverage the power of transcoding to convert your videos into formats that ensure broad compatibility. 

Dailymotion’s transcoding capabilities ensure that your videos are automatically converted into various formats and codecs to ensure compatibility across devices and platforms. This eliminates compatibility concerns and guarantees a smooth playback experience for all viewers. 

Quality Degradation 

Frequent re-encoding or excessive compression can result in quality degradation, where your video loses its visual appeal over time. To counter this, establish a balanced encoding workflow that employs efficient codecs without excessive compression. Regularly monitor the quality of your content to detect any signs of degradation. 

Our expert encoding techniques prioritize maintaining video quality throughout the encoding process. By utilizing the right balance of codecs and compression, we ensure that your content retains its visual excellence over time. 

Viewers on Mobile 

Viewers on mobile devices often encounter network fluctuations and varying screen sizes. Optimize your videos for mobile by implementing multi-bitrate encoding with adaptive streaming. This strategy tailors the viewing experience to the viewer’s device and network conditions, guaranteeing smooth playback and optimal quality. 

At Dailymotion, multi-bitrate encoding combined with adaptive streaming technology ensures that your videos are optimized for mobile devices. This approach automatically adjusts the video quality based on the viewer’s network speed, providing a seamless viewing experience on the go. 

Ensuring Smooth Transitions 

Quick transitions between scenes or camera movements can pose challenges, as traditional compression algorithms might struggle to adapt rapidly. Implement keyframes strategically within your videos to enable smoother transitions and avoid visual hiccups that can disrupt the viewer’s experience. 

With Dailymotion, encoding process intelligently handles keyframes to ensure smooth transitions between scenes, even during rapid movements. This guarantees a seamless viewing experience and maintains the visual flow of your content. 


Which Video Encoding is Better? 

Determining the “better” video encoding depends on various factors such as your specific use case, goals, and audience. Different video encodings offer varying trade-offs between compression efficiency, file size, and visual quality. H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HEVC) are popular codecs, each excelling in different areas. H.264 is widely supported and offers good quality, while H.265 provides better compression efficiency but may require more processing power to decode. To decide which is better for you, assess your requirements and prioritize factors like compatibility, quality, and bandwidth efficiency. 

Is H.265 Better Than H.264? 

H.265 (High Efficiency Video Coding or HEVC) is generally considered to be more advanced than H.264 (Advanced Video Coding or AVC). H.265 offers better compression efficiency, allowing for higher quality video at the same bitrate compared to H.264. This means that H.265-encoded videos can deliver the same level of quality as H.264 while using less data, making it well-suited for high-resolution content and bandwidth-constrained scenarios. However, H.265 encoding and decoding can be more resource-intensive due to its complexity. 

Is MP4 an Encoding? 

MP4 (MPEG-4 Part 14) is not an encoding; it’s a digital multimedia container format. MP4 files can contain various types of audio, video, and even subtitle streams. When referring to encoding, we’re discussing the process of compressing and converting video and audio data into a specific format using codecs like H.264 or H.265. MP4 is often used as a container for these encoded video and audio streams, providing a standardized way to store and playback multimedia content. 


This concludes our comprehensive guide on video encoding. As you continue to create and share your content, remember that mastering video encoding is an ongoing pursuit, and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques will empower you to deliver exceptional streaming experiences. 

If you are seeking a video encoding technology solution that can understand and cater to your business needs, you can reach out to our team today for a free consultation. Explore how Dailymotion can transform your video encoding challenges into successful streaming experiences. With our expertise spanning nearly two decades in the video industry, we comprehend the intricacies of video encoding and are dedicated to assisting you in achieving your streaming goals. 

Dailymotion offer a powerful, streamlined and easy-to-use video streaming encoder. It’s built right into the online video platform. You’ll get an optimized and scalable video hosting solution with live streaming delivery. Why not try it today?