Behind The Screen: A Deep Dive Into The World Of Video Codecs

Posted By : Arpita Pal | 29-Feb-2024

What are Video Codecs?


Video Codecs are essential compression tools that repackage digital video content in a form that makes it easier to transmit, store and stream across platforms and devices. Compression takes place by identifying patterns in a single frame, removing redundant and repetitive information, and removing data that have less chance of being noticed by the user. By constricting video data into small chunks of information, users can enjoy streaming high-quality video content, especially OTT from devices and browsers, anywhere and anytime.


Rapid advancement in the technology and entertainment industry has given rise to multi-format devices that require OTT platforms to keep up with the technology to provide the best viewing experience for the user. Video codecs empower OTT platforms with features like adaptive bitrate streaming, content protection and more in addition to compression that provides dynamic abilities in real-time adjustment, security measures etc for a seamless experience at a comprehensive level. This blog gives an insight into the world of video codecs and the role they play in supporting the OTT industry in providing an exceptional streaming experience to their viewers.



Popular Video Codecs in the OTT Scene


1) H.264 or Advanced Video Coding (AVC): Considered a safe choice for its reliable performance, long history and established ecosystem, H.264 can be seamlessly played on any device including phones, laptops, smart TVs, etc ensuring wider reach among audiences. Its superior performance is credited to its ability to offer the right blend of creating moderately sized files and maintaining credible quality of the content. 


Its influence also forays into markets of Blu-ray and cable broadcasting by integrating it with ACC audio codec and packaging it into formats like .mp4, .F4V, etc. Deemed to be more suitable for low latency platforms, due to its high performance in live origination and transcode with fast encoding speed instead of newer technologies like 4K and 8K video content delivery.


2) H.265 or High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC): A powerful tool for streaming high-resolution content, HEVC (H.265) is gaining traction in terms of popularity for its higher efficiency compared to its predecessor, H.264 (AVC), especially on newer devices and platforms like Netflix. It can create much smaller quality files for the same level of quality which is highly beneficial for optimizing high-resolution content such as 4K and 8K to the available storage space. 


However, it can prove to be costly due to its licensing framework, specifically for platforms with lesser budgets. Due to this reason, it has witnessed comparatively slower adoption as compared to H.264 (AVC).


3) VP9: Developed by Google, it is an open-source and royalty-free video codec and compatible with most browsers including Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and devices such as Android and iOS devices. Due to its extensive web compatibility, it is the preferred choice for platforms like YouTube that can support high-resolution video content like 4K and 8K. VP9 can support low bitrate compression for high-quality ultra-HD, and extra support for 10/12 bit encoding and high dynamic range (HDR) content. 


It is considered highly efficient for its ability to compress video content by 50% while maintaining the same quality as compared to H.264 (AVC). VP9 supports large coding units (up to 64X64 pixels) for encoding of areas with smooth uniform textures and smooth motion in high-resolution content. Moreover, it integrates a sizable range of inter-frame and intra-frame modes to ensure higher precision motion and compensation, enabling the requirement of less data to represent a video.


4) AV1:  AV1 (AOMedia Video 1) was developed by the Alliance for Open Media (AOM), a group of tech giants like Google, Apple, Netflix, etc.  It is an open-source and royalty-free video codec similar to VP9 and offers high-efficiency compression of up to 30%-to 50% while ensuring better video quality. For OTT platforms this means substantial benefits like lesser bandwidth usage and storage spaces leading to faster loading for video streaming.


Built on the foundation of VP9, it integrates additional features such as advanced block partition, autocorrelation transform, and compound prediction to deliver high performance. Advanced block partitioning enables more efficient encoding and better adaption to different types of content with the help of flexible block sizes and partitions. Autocorrelation transform aids with eliminating redundancy and compression through identification and utilization patterns within the video data. Lastly, compounding prediction amalgamates numerous predictions from multiple reference frames for higher accuracy to deliver enhanced compression.


How Video Codecs Support OTT Streaming


Video codecs are the silent heroes that work behind the scenes that enable high-quality video experiences with lesser bandwidth and storage requirements. Especially in cases of unstable connections, video codecs ensure an enjoyable experience with uninterrupted streaming with exceptional technical performance. 


1. Compression and Bandwith Optimization: Video codecs ensure a smooth streaming experience and reduced buffering through the compression of files in video data while maintaining the same quality of content. Initially, they eliminate redundancy by removing repetitive information, performing pixel prediction on the basis of multiple frame references and applying mathematical transformations to categorize and present pixels in a compact manner. This allows video codecs to compress video information without sacrificing video quality.

For bandwidth optimization, they utilize adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR) and content delivery networks (CDNs) to dynamically adjust video quality on the basis of the user’s network bandwidth and distribute content through geographically dispersed servers for a faster loading experience. 


2. Multi-Resolution Encoding: Multi-resolution encoding allows for the video content to be stored and utilized in different formats such as 720p, 1080p, 8K etc. Video codecs ensure an uninterrupted playback experience by presenting the device and server with a video quality appropriate for current net speed and screen space, leading to the requirement of lesser storage space. It expands the accessibility of video content to wider audiences with diverse types of devices and net connections. 


3. Scalability: With the gaining popularity of OTT services, video codecs are adept at encoding and delivering content at a large scale keeping diverse requirements of users in mind. With dynamic compression capabilities, they ensure servers are not loaded beyond their capacity without reducing the quality of the video delivery. Depending on the network bandwidth of an area or the device limitation of a user, the video content gets adjusted automatically and the user is able to enjoy a smooth watching experience. 


4. Content Security: Video codecs come integrated with Digital Rights Management (DRM) and encryption mechanisms that protect copyrighted content from unauthorized access or piracy during the playback and transmission process. This ensures protection for intellectual property rights and a secure viewing environment for the user. 


Also Read: Educational OTT Platforms : Imparting Learning Beyond Classrooms


How to Choose the Right Video Codec For Your OTT Platform:


1. Target Audience and Compatibility:  For choosing the right codec for your OTT platform, first the target audience and the type of platform the content will be delivered on will need to be decided first. Will the OTT platform be accessible through mobile, laptop, smart TV or all of them? Depending on the medium and level of performance required for compression of video data, an appropriate video codec should be chosen for optimum content delivery.


2. Technical Requirements: Priority for file size or quality will be the governing factor in choosing the right codec for your platform. Video codecs like H.264 provide a good balance between between file size and quality, whereas H.265 provides higher efficiency but comparatively lesser compatibility support. VP9 and AV1 are better in terms of compression abilities but rank lower in terms of file quality than H.264.


3. Platform Specifications: As different platforms come with their own set of requirements, care must be taken in deciding the right video codec if they are compatible with the set criteria. Whether the video content will be offered on a platform like YouTube, a streaming service like Netflix or social media platforms, choosing a codec with which compatibility is offered will be the right step towards successful video content delivery. With clarity for which platform will be chosen to offer video services, video codecs must be chosen from that particular range to offer a seamless viewing experience. 


4. Encoding and Decoding Capabilities: Processing power for encoding and decoding capabilities is an essential factor in deciding the right video codec for your OTT platform. Codecs like HEVC and AV1 require comparatively higher processing power from the platform than H.264. For platforms and audiences with limited processing capabilities, H.264 is a better option to carry out compression for video files.


5. Budget (Royalty and Licensing Fees): If your platform has limited resources and budget, a video codec like HEVC with licensing fees may end up stressing your budget targets. For such cases, royalty-free video codecs like VP9 and AV1 with higher efficiency performance can be promising solutions for limited-budget OTT platforms. 


Final Thoughts


Video codecs are necessary tools for providing users with a seamless experience in video streaming. They perform thorough analysis and compression of video data into small transmittable files that make it easier to stream video from any device through any platform. Users don’t have to worry about using OTT services with low network bandwidths or devices with limited capabilities as video codecs enable dynamic adjustment of content delivery depending on the resources available. With the help of these powerful tools, the future of OTT promises a more seamless, efficient and accessible experience for a global audience. If your business is looking for an OTT solution of its own or tech solutions in general, we’d love to be your partner in the journey. You can contact us here, and our experts will get back to you in 24 hours.



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Arpita Pal

Arpita brings her exceptional skills as a Content Writer to the table, backed by a wealth of knowledge in the field. She possesses a specialized proficiency across a range of domains, encompassing Press Releases, content for News sites, SEO, and crafting website content. Drawing from her extensive background in content marketing, Arpita is ideally positioned for her role as a content strategist. In this capacity, she undertakes the creation of engaging Social media posts and meticulously researched blog entries, which collectively contribute to forging a unique brand identity. Collaborating seamlessly with her team members, she harnesses her cooperative abilities to bolster overall client growth and development.

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