Zencoder isn’t about having the most features. It’s about having the right features done really well. We don’t encode to 20 different output formats, because only 3-4 video codecs (and 3 audio codecs) are needed for most websites and mobile devices. Instead, we focus things like transcoding quality, speed, input compatibility.
We started with H.264, which is the highest quality video compression format available today. We added VP8 a few weeks ago, the day Google launched the WebM project. And today, we’re launching Beta support for a new codec: Ogg Theora.
The details: Ogg support at Zencoder
Theora is a video codec, and Ogg is a container format. If you want audio with your video, use the Vorbis audio codec (which we added a few weeks ago alongside of VP8).
To use Theora, just set the “video_codec” parameter to “theora”, and if you specify a filename, use an extension of .ogg or .ogv (Ogg Video). We’ll automatically use the Vorbis audio codec if you choose Theora video.
Our Theora video encoder supports most of the options that are available with our other codecs, like constant quality encoding, 2-pass ABR encoding, and video optimization.
It’s officially “Beta” for now, so if you try it out, let us know what you think.
Like VP8, and unlike H.264, Theora is an open, free standard. And while VP8 generally offers better compression efficiency than Theora, VP8 is brand new, just 1 month old, while Theora has been around for a long time. Theora has a large userbase and is widely supported in the Firefox, Opera, and Chrome browsers.
We believe that free software is important. We made Video JS free and open-source because the web needs a free video player. And we use free software all over the place – from our programming languages to our app servers to some of our transcoding tools, like x264.
We’re big supporters of VP8 here at Zencoder. We think it’s A Big Deal, a codec that will become ubiquitous (alongside of H.264) over the next 5-10 years. And though it’s new and can be a bit raw, it’s ready for primetime.
But we also believe that options are good, and that one free, open codec is good, but two are better. What if VP8 turns out to be patent encumbered in a way that Theora isn’t? Not saying it will, but it doesn’t hurt for the open video community to put its eggs in multiple baskets. Competition also drives improvement; Theora has improved over the years, and VP8 will do the same. And free video codecs puts pressure on the patent holders behind H.264 to offer favorable licensing terms.
That’s why our platform now supports Theora, VP8, and H.264.
(We’ll also be adding one more video codec over the next few weeks – guess which one? – but that’s another story.)