The internet is constantly evolving. The current trends of increased user bandwidth (upstream and downstream), mobile connectivity and bandwidth (3G/4G/WiMax/Ubiquitous WiFi), social networking/media/commerce, affordable video capture (cell phones, Flip cams, cheap HD video cameras), media driven websites (youtube, facebook, myspace) are all driving us toward a web future where user sourced video will be a major component to many web sites and web applications. Everything from citizen based news and event coverage to social video sharing with friends and family to amateur movie production to media rich social commerce will be major growth areas over the next 36 months.
One critical component is video transcoding/encoding. That is, taking video from your users in a wide variety of resolutions, formats, encoding, containers, and bit rates, and converting it into a single high quality, low size, web friendly format at one or more standardized resolutions. Unless you’ve already worked on this problem yourself, you’d probably be surprised at how difficult it is to get a solution that works well with every major format and capture device your users are likely to use. I’m no stranger to this problem having written my own transcoding system for How Good I Was. Which while I’m proud of it, only handles some formats not all, and occasionally has some odd glitches. The other big problem is even if you can build your own transcoding system, and are willing to keep up with new formats and new capture devices, the CPU usage for transcoding video is very high, and as more and more devices start capturing in HD it will get much worse. If you start off on a single server, whenever you’re transcoding a new video your web site may be slow and unresponsive. If you move to dedicated transcoding servers you’re incurring new costs and have to deal with distributing jobs to a farm of transcoding engines, etc… It’s a non trivial problem and can be quite costly.
Enter: zencoder! Zencoder provides video conversion/transcoding as a web based or API driven service. Zencoder’s primary focus is that they support virtually all video formats and encodings and will keep up with new codecs and formats as they are introduced to the market. They are also focused on providing FAST encoding, minimizing the amount of time your users have to wait to see their uploaded videos on your site. Zencoder pricing is very cheap and you can start off with a free plan and just pay by the minute if you like. I will be using them for my next media driven project, and I highly recommend you check them out instead of trying to roll your own.