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Nathaniel CooperOct 25, 2019 3:04:09 PM1 min read

What is the difference between transcoding and encoding?

When it comes to producing videos if you've shot on anything from an iPhone to a DSLR or even a Red Camera, chances are at some point you've had to deal with file formats.  So are you encoding or transcoding?  And what the heck is the difference?

Let's start with how they are the same.  In both cases, you take an audio or video file and turn it into a different file type.  As an example, you can take an R3D file from a Red camera and transcode it into a ProRes file.  In either case you start with a file of one type, and end with a file of another type.

Now for how they are (subtlety) different.

Encoding is when you have an uncompressed audio or video file and turn it into some other type of file format.

Transcoding is when you have a compressed audio or video file and turn it into some other type of file format.

Encoding = Source file is Uncompressed

Transcoding = Source file is Compressed

It's that simple.  So does it matter?  Not really, ultimately the terms are used interchangeably and if you've read this article you are likely the only person you know that knows the difference.


Nathaniel Cooper

As Chief Operating Officer of ProMAX Systems, Nathaniel Cooper, runs ProMAX Systems day to day operations. Cooper has been working with Storage, Backup and Media Management for video and creative professionals since 2001. Cooper has lead the design and deployment of some of the largest media systems in the world including a range of customers from NFL, MLB & NBA teams, US Military operations, and many of the worlds largest PR agencies and consumer brands. Cooper has spent the last 9 years as part of the ProMAX team and specializes in translating complex technical issues and options into easily understandable concepts.