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Web Video Compression: The Essentials

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/1/2011

You may have shot great video and did some cool editing work, but you may be in the dark when it comes to exporting video for web. What are the different codecs you could use?

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    Web video is all about compression – most of the time you want to get good quality video with a small file size.

    Sometimes, size may not matter and you want high quality video on the web, especially if you’re preparing a trailer for a feature you’ve shot.

    Whatever your needs, understanding the relevant codecs is the key to producing web videos that matter.

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    Web Video Players

    Before you decide on a codec to use to compress your video, let’s look at available web video players to help you obtain a clearer picture.

    The most popular among the lot is obviously Adobe’s Flash Player which is now at version 10. Many users, however, are still sticking to version 9.

    The difference between the two is that Flash Player 10 supports the H.264 codec in addition to the V-6 codec. Version 9 supports only the latter.

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    Which Codec to Use?

    From the above you could see that Flash is installed in most computers. So, if you want your video to be seen by the majority of web users you would want to deal with Flash that allows you to use the V-6 codec and the industry standard H.264.

    Or you would opt for Quicktime which uses H264 codec if you’re aiming Mac users.

    Generally, the V-6, V-1 and H.264 codecs offer impressive video quality. So, it’s up to choose any of them according to the player you would like to use on your web page.

    The point to note is H.264 is processor intensive. So, older computers may not offer a smooth playback even if one quits the programs running in the background. H264 will also not work with older versions of Flash players.

    Sorenson Spark is another codec used for .flv files especially in YouTube. If you’re looking for high quality video, you should avoid this codec. Most freeware or entry-level shareware encoders use this codec to encode FLV.

    Another point to note is if you would want to your video to be downloaded by users of iPod, iPhone, or PlayStation Portable, you could do well to use the H.264 codec.

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    Compression Software

    Here are among software you could use to compress video for the web.

    • ON2 Flix Standard (Win & Mac) - VP-6 and H.264 encoding
    • Microsoft Expression Encoder (Win) - VC-1 encoding
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    Freeware

    • Ffmpeg - (Win/Mac) - H.264 encoding
    • VC-1 Encoder SDK Professional (Win) - V-1 encoding
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    Online Services

    Hey!Watch charges $0.10 per H.264 conversion.

    Ecoding.com charges $10 per month and offers VP-6 and H-264 encoding.