You must have come across a situation where you shot a nice slow-motion video on some conditional Xiaomi smartphone about how your girlfriend throws autumn leaves into the air. They sent it to her, but she can’t even look at it on her Samsung, let alone upload it to stories. It’s most likely a codec issue. In fact, codecs, if you know how to work with them correctly, can not only cause problems, but can also be very useful when editing video. Read more about this in this article.
What is a codec and how does it work
What are video codecs
Video codecs for editing and their capabilities
What to do if the codecs do not match
Codec sets for Windows
Mac Codec Packs
Codec sets for Android
Codec — software (software) that compresses and decompresses digital video. This is a deeply technical thing, in fact, the average user becomes interested in the codec when something goes wrong with it.
If it’s very simple, then the process of recording and playing video looks like this: the original video is encoded into a file, which then needs to be decoded by the phone or computer in order to play it. Why such difficulties? This is necessary so that the video files do not take up too much space, and they can be quickly transferred and conveniently stored. Without coding, a one-minute video would weigh not 6 GB, but not 200 MB.
When do problems occur in codecs? If mobile A encoded the video in conditional Chinese, but mobile B only understands English, then there are problems. In the slow motion video example, it turns out that during compression, encoder A stuffed more information into the file than decoder B can digest. Therefore, the video does not play.
Codecs can be conditionally divided into two types: viewing and editing. The first ones you most likely use every day: when you watch a movie or take pictures of your cat on your phone. Such codecs usually compress the file more strongly, so that when you download a movie from the Internet, you have to download 4 GB, not 400. Editing codecs store more information needed, for example, for high-quality video color correction and speeding up work with it. But at the same time, files encoded in this way will weigh significantly more.
To understand what the salt is here, you need to know how video encoding takes place. The simplest video compression option is to remove identical pieces of information in adjacent frames. If, for example, you are shooting a person who is running against the background of a lake shore, and the water, the forest along the shore and the setting sun do not change much, then the codec will remove this part of the information from a part of the frames during compression. And when decoding, it will restore from neighboring frames.
Of course, the scheme described above is greatly simplified, but it conveys the general principle of lossy encoding and decoding. When we talk about loss of quality here, we are not talking about the colors in the video becoming somehow acidic, but the video itself will become dark or go square. Modern codecs work quite well — among the losses there may be subtle shades that the human eye cannot distinguish, and such things. As a result, the video quality will be enough to watch and enjoy the video, but it may not be enough for video post-processing. Therefore, other codecs are used for professional editing.
Most popular viewing codecs:
- H.264 (MPEG‑4);
- H.265 (MPEG‑H, HEVC);
The most common H.264 codec, with it, as a rule, there are the least problems. H.265 is its updated version, but bugs often occur with it, because some devices may not have new decoders.
Which codec a particular device uses in a particular situation depends on its type and year of manufacture. Find information about the codec on both cameras and smartphones can be found in the video settings menu.
Another option is to look in the instructions for the gadget.
The most popular editing codec is Apple ProRes. The main disadvantages of working with it include the fact that the video takes up a lot of space, because the codec allows you to store more information. Compared to photo formats, it’s about the same as the difference between .JPEG and .TIFF. Therefore, such a video is much better suited for color correction. Including ProRes allows you to work with the alpha channel during editing, that is, make part of the video transparent. This is useful, for example, when working with chroma key.
ProRes doesn’t compress video as much as viewing codecs, so the processor doesn’t have to decode it on the fly. Thanks to this, you can even edit 4k video even on medium-sized computers. For example, with an Intel Core i5 12400 or Ryzen 7 3700X processor and a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or Xiaomi Redmi G video card. But since large amounts of information will need to be transferred to work, you need a fast SSD with a capacity of 512 GB or more.
There are advanced cameras designed for video that can immediately shoot video encoded in Apple ProRes. For example, the Panasonic Lumix GH6 can write ProRes directly to a memory card, although this requires a fast CFexpress Type B memory card. More versatile cameras, such as the Nikon Z6 II, can also work with this codec, but you will have to write video through the HDMI output camera to an external recorder.
Even more information will be stored in the RAW video. It is used by specialized film cameras. These formats will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, ProRes RAW being considered the most standard. For example, Sony Alpha 7S III can shoot such a video.
What is a codec, how it works, what they are, we found out. But what to do if everything does not work because of them? The video either simply does not play, or the player gives errors like “the required codec is missing”.
With the same slow motion video from Xiaomi, the easiest option is to run the video through the video editor built into the smartphone (usually you can find it through the “edit video” command directly from the image gallery) and save it with a standard number of frames. Of course, this advice sounds something like “Buggy? Restart!”, but most often works. As, however, and reboot.
If you filmed on a camera, and then uploaded it to a computer, and he does not want to read, you need to find out which codec a particular model uses. Usually this information can be found in the instructions for the camera or on the manufacturer’s website.
Then the desired codec must be found and installed. Read more in the instructions for Windows here. For computers running on MAC — here.
You can try installing one of the universal codec sets. There are several dozen of them from different manufacturers, each has its own adherents, haters and fans. It is important to understand that whether a video will work with a particular set of codecs depends on many factors. You may have to try several different options to find the best for yourself. We list several popular codec packs.
Codec sets for Windows
Portable codecs for Windows 10. A fairly versatile set aimed at seamless playback of audio and video on a computer, including subtitles. Able to work with MP4 with multiple audio tracks.
X Codec Pack 2.7.4. Suitable for older Windows — up to version 7 inclusive. The kit comes with a basic video player and a special utility that allows you to see which codecs are already in the system.
K‑Lite Codec Pack. One of the most common and popular codec sets available for free. The pack is not too big, but it solves most of the problems and tasks of the average user.
Combined Community Codec Pack: CCCP. A set of codecs for Windows created by a team of subtitled anime fans. Users praise it for its ability to work with different subtitle formats. One problem — it has not been updated for a long time. Does not support video formats such as QuickTime .QT and .MOV.
Media Player Codec Pack for Microsoft Windows. A very extensive set that includes many different codecs, including those used for editing. The package also includes a universal video player.
StarCodec. The latest set of codecs in the selection, so it is well compatible with the latest versions of Windows. The kit comes with a utility that allows you to see which codecs you already have and not install them.
Mac Codec Packs
Divx. The most popular, most complete set of codecs, which is suitable for different devices of the system.
MPlayerX. In fact, this is not a set of codecs, but a convenient omnivorous player in which these codecs are pre-built. Copes well with audio and video playback, including subtitles.
Codec sets for Android
AC3 Codec for Android. Implemented as an application for a smartphone, which, among other things, has a built-in video player. Works on almost any smartphone or tablet with Android 4.1 or higher. There are not too many codecs, they do not work with all players.
DDB2 Codec Pack. A more complete set of codecs, including codecs for Apple smartphones. Comes with a universal video player. Users praise this pack for its stability and lack of glitches.