What is a Codec?
A codec is a standard used for encoding (compressing) or decoding (compressing) digital files. You might have heard about video/audio codecs, which consume significant bandwidth.
Why are codecs important?
Large video and audio files are complicated to deliver over the internet, given network conditions, different device processing capacities, compatibility, and download speeds. Codecs help rapidly compress and decompress media files while maintaining the original video's quality—reducing the required bandwidth and allowing multimedia files to be transmitted and accessed easily over networks.
Codecs are the foundational technology for streaming media on the internet. From recording video to editing and encoding it for distribution, codecs play a key role in every step. Without codecs, multimedia streaming and downloads would take 3 to 5 times longer as compared to now.
How do codecs work?
Codecs comprise a coder to compress files and a decoder to decode files—hence, the name "codec". It acts on video and audio data at the source by encoding it into a more manageable or streamable form—which is then decoded by the target video player or platform before playback based on the information contained in that codec. This is a lossy compression process.
Most Common Audio and Video Codecs
There are a host of different codecs used with audio and video files. These include
- Video Codecs: H.264 (AVC), H.265 (HEVC), VP9, AV1, FLV, MOV.
- Audio Codecs: MP3, AAC, AC-3, WAV, WMA, Opus