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How To Choose Best Video Codec

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You are going to convert your video but don't know what codec to choose. There are dozens of them today and you get contradictory opinions of each of them. Here is a short guide on most popular codecs that will help you.

The choice of video codec depends on:

  1. file size
  2. quality
  3. bug free or not
  4. supported by many video devices or not
  5. technical limitations
  6. your personal likes and dislikes
Most codecs available today were designed to compress video file retaining good quality. If this is your main goal choose MPEG-4 AVC codecs (for example x264) but not MPEG-4 ASP codecs (libavcodec MPEG-4 or Xvid). FFmpeg's maintainer Michael Niedermayer wrote a well-grounded artcile Why Mpeg4 Sucks. MPEG-2 codecs produce even worse results.

The main problem of new codecs is that they could be buggy. Those codecs that were developed long ago have already fixed most of bugs. So if you choose to use new technology be ready to get some problems (though it may never happen to you:). Besides, it takes some time to master a new codec and learn all its options. Often the game is worth the candle.

It's very important that the codec was supported by many devices. New codecs are usually not supported by video players. Most video player today support only MPEG-1 (VCD, XVCD, KVCD), MPEG-2 (DVD, SVCD, KVCD) and MPEG-4 ASP (DivX, libavcodec LMP4, Xvid). But if you play video on your computer you don't care about that.

The time is also important. Some codecs (libavcodec MPEG-4 or Xvid) are faster than others. The longer a codec is used the better it is optimized. But sometimes they are overloaded with options that make the process longer while the output file quality is not noticeable higher. To avoid that use default settings of the codec.

You can also try multithread encoding (if you have more than 1 processor). Multithread encoding of Xvid will make the process 40-60% faster but the quality of the video will lower a bit. x264 also support multithread encoding that accelerates the process at 94% for each CPU core.

Personal likes and dislikes can spoil everything. They are often not very sensible. Many people use old codecs like DivX 3 for years not wishing to know about other advantageous codecs. Try new codecs not to stick to old and not efficient ones.

To be on the safe side try several codecs and choose the one that produced best results for YOU on YOUR computer.

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   Updated Wed, 24 Mar 2021

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