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COMMENT Why Video Codecs Matter V ideo codecs confuse a lot of people. But understanding codecs is critical to just about every element of video production, editing and distribution. Codec is an acronym that stands for “COmpressor/ DECompressor.” It is easy to get intimidated by all the technical jargon surrounding codecs, but, at their core, a codec is the math that converts the light we see and the sound we hear into ones and zeros that can be stored and displayed on a computer. The “compressor” part converts light and sound into ones and zeros, while the “decompressor” part converts the ones and zeros into light and sound. Codecs are the key element in determining file size and image/sound quality. Common codecs include: * JPEG, PNG and TIFF for still images * MP3, AAC, and AIF for audio * H.264, MPEG-2 and ProRes for video However, that is only a small sample of the codecs available. The last time I checked, there were more than 400 codecs in active use! Why so many? Because there is no one codec that works well for all situations. by Larry Jordan For example, there are codecs that are optimized to create small file sizes - JPG or H.264 - while other codecs are optimized for editing - PNG or ProRes. Some codecs are designed to retain maximum exposure and color data - TIFF or 12-bit RAW files - while others reduce color information to maximize download speeds - GIF or H.265. The question isn’t “what’s the best codec?” Instead the question is “what’s the best codec for what I want to do?” A THREE-CODEC ENVIRONMENT In the past, when we were shooting and editing standard- definition video, we shot DigiBeta (or DV), edited DigiBeta (or DV) and output DigiBeta (or DV). The format we shot was the format we edited was the format we output. Those days are long gone. Sigh… Now, codecs are optimized for specific functions: shooting, editing and distribution. We need to convert between codecs as our project moves through to completion. Understanding the differences between these three types of codecs will help you better understand your options. 42 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 99 MARCH 2015