Transcode Video Online Using the Zencoder API

Matthew Casperson, May 6th, 2010

ZencoderBandwidth is getting cheaper by the day, leading to more and more sites incorporating high bandwidth features, like video, into their services. But when it comes to video (and audio), it seems every device uses its own special format. There is a good chance the format used by your camera can’t just be copied to a web site and viewed as is.

The process of converting between formats is known as transcoding. It is a CPU intensive job, and the hundreds of formats to choose from presents developers with a significant challenge.

Zencoder is a new web service that looks to provide a solution:

Zencoder is based on the needs of hundreds of real-world customers. We’ve even built several video websites ourselves over the years. So we know what’s important in a video transcoding service (and what’s not). Zencoder is designed to be incredibly powerful where it matters, and dead simple whenever possible.

Zencoder makes some impressive claims about their service:

Zencoder promises fast encoding, claiming to be at least 30 percent faster than the current encoding technologies.

The startup also claims to handle 95% of the unusual or corrupt files that other services can’t tackle.

Developers can access the service using a REST based API, with JSON as the data structure. The API is tightly bound to the Amazon S3 service, with some of the API functions requiring an S3 bucket to save the transcoded videos.

Zencoder offers a number of monthly payment options, or you can pay as you go for 6 cents per minute of video encoded. If you are just debugging your code, Zencoder offers a “Integration Mode”. In Integration mode there are no charges, but the output videos will be only 5 seconds long.

Note that there are other video encoding alternatives with developer APIs including the Encoding.com API and the Heywatch API (both part of the hot video API market — we now have 96 video APIs in our directory).

Video players like VLC have become incredibly popular thanks to their ability to play just about any video format, and if Zencoder can offer the same level of compatibility and ease of use for server side development it should have a bright future.

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