Amazon Elastic Transcoder review

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Elastic Transcoder is an online service of AWS Amazon. It converts videos online and you can chose from a range of presets to determine the format of the output. It is possible to set several formats in one go and have them transcoded/converted in the background. You can also create new presets based on existing ones. See also See also Introduction to AWS Amazon or have a look at http://www.miracletutorials.com/s3-amazon-web-services/ for more info if you are new to the AWS Amazon services.

Advantages:

  • It works in the background, so it does not take up resources from your own computer.
  • It is easy to use, meant for non-technical people.
  • Elastic Transcoder gives surprisingly good results.
  • The conversion is quite fast, it is generally not slower then offline converters.
  • You can ask to send an email when the job is done.
  • If you are a web developer, you can create integrate Amazon Elastic Transcoder into your web project to convert videos on the fly or make it part of your multimedia plugins/extensions for Content management systems (CMS) like Joomla, WordPress, Drupal etc…
  • You do not need to study an offline converter.

Disadvantages:

  • The main problem is that you first have to upload your master videos, which are generally quite heavy. With an offline converter, you do not need to do that. Having a master video of 20GB is not abnormal. During upload, you will notice the internet connection slows down considerably, unless you have a fiberglass connection of 1GBps or more.
  • Unexpected cost. You pay for the upload of your master files, and for the transcoding itself. Although it is quite cheap, it’s hard to calculate the cost upfront.
  • You do not have the fine detail control you would have with good offline converters.

I think the advantages speak for themselves, so let’s delve into the disadvantages a bit deeper. After all, whether a disadvantage is relevant or irrelevant to you depends on your workflow. If you have backups of your master files in AWS Amazon anyway, using this service is certainly worthwhile as it works in the background and you can tell it to send the video to a bucket of your choice. A bucket is a space on the AWS S3 amazon server(s), comparable with a folder.  See also Introduction to AWS Amazon or have a look at http://www.miracletutorials.com/s3-amazon-web-services/ for more info if you are new to AWS Amazon.

Uploading and cost

Uploading heavy videos takes time and if you have many of them, it adds considerably to the cost. For example, if you have a total of 500 GB master files, uploading those master files alone would amount to $47.03. If you leave them there, you pay the same amount monthly. Then you have the cost of conversion on top of it. This adds about $50.00, so in total, you would pay $97.03., assuming my calculation using the AWS calculatoris correct. It is not exactly a user friendly calculator, so forgive me if I’m wrong. If you already have experience working with high volumes of conversions, let us know what you paid

Control over the output

Since Elastic Transcoder is meant to be easy to use, and it actually is very easy, control over little details is limited. Offline converters offer much more control.  Even a free encoder like HandBrake has reliable presets that can be fine-tuned in great detail. However, if you are not a video expert, the Elastic Transcoder is good enough to create good quality output on the web. It all boils down to your level of knowledge and so far, the tests gave good results once I fine-tuned the presets.

Conclusion

If ease of use is important and you are not a video expert, Elastic Transcoder is very useful. The fine tuning you find in offline converters like Sorensen Squeeze, HandBrake and others makes only sense if you know what you are doing. The difference in quality is marginal, especially if you want to present videos on the web.

For advanced developers used to working with AWS
Since you can integrate Amazon Elastic Transcoder in your web project using the AWS API, you can allow users of your site to upload videos and convert them in one go. This is especially useful for portals of video tutorials where you work with several content providers who do not necessarily have the knowledge to convert the videos to the various formats to support tablets and mobile devices. This is of course quite advanced, but if you are up to it, this offers immense possibilities.

Given the fact this service is useful to both non-techical users and web developers,  this service gets a 4 star rating!
See Elastic Transcoder tutorial for the video tutorial.

 

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