Video production

Multi-encoding: What it is and when it’s useful

June 15, 2022 Marta Chernova

Multi-encoding: What it is and when it’s useful image

The world of video production is filled with specialized terms that can be difficult to decipher at first, and hard to keep straight. “Multi-encoding” is one of those, and it’s the term we’ll break down for you in this post.

Read on to get a clear understanding of what multi-encoding is and when you’d want to use it.


    What is multi-encoding?

    Multi-encoding is the practice of encoding a single live program multiple times at different encoding settings. It’s a way of simultaneously producing different video assets to best fit the destination requirements, whether for recording or streaming.

    For example, you may want to encode the same program in 4K30 for local recording, 1080p30 for streaming to a local display, and 720p30 for live streaming to a content delivery network (CDN). Multi-encoding makes this possible, letting you encode multiple video assets instead of just one. This way you don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your local recording for bandwidth reasons or because your target CDN doesn’t support 4K30.

    What multi-encoding is not

    Multi-encoding is easily confused with several other, closely related terms: multistreaming, adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR), and multi-bitrate streaming (MBR). It’s here where a lot of confusion comes up, so let’s clarify things:

    • “Multistreaming” refers to streaming to two or more destinations – but not necessarily with different encoding settings.
    • ABR is a process that provides the optimal playback experience for viewers streaming content from a CDN. For example, if someone is watching a video at 1080p and their network bandwidth takes a dip, the player can adapt by lowering the video resolution to prevent playback from stopping completely.
    • With MBR, the viewer chooses a quality setting, and the player sticks to that setting regardless of bandwidth fluctuations.

    An easy way to remember the differences between these terms is this: MRB and ABR describe the viewer’s experience as they receive streamed content from the CDN, while multi-encoding refers to encoder-to-destination processes.

    Why multi-encode?

    The main benefit of multi-encoding is that you won’t have to re-encode video assets after production. Having your assets how you want them right away can save you tons of time.

    Besides this, there are many other video production scenarios where multi-encoding might be key. For instance, it’s the way to go if you’re ever looking to:

    • Simultaneously record a video in high resolution and at a high frame rate, and live stream the same content at lower encoding settings (e.g., to be more suitable for your bandwidth)
    • Stream multiple encodes at different settings to a single CDN that doesn’t offer MBR or ABR
    • Stream to multiple CDNs at different encoding settings
    • Have a high-quality local stream and a lower-quality external stream
    • Record the same channel simultaneously at different resolutions (e.g., 4K and full HD)
    • Include your switched live program as part of another layout

    How to multi-encode video

    One way to multi-encode your program is using a video splitter and dedicated encoders. A more efficient method is to use a single software or hardware encoder that supports multi-encoding. For example, advanced streaming software like vMix and Wirecast allow you to set up different encoding output profiles for recording and streaming. And many hardware encoders (e.g.,Pearl-2, Pearl Mini) support multi-encoding.

    There’s one important caveat here: multi-encoding will add to your encoder’s processing load, so there’s a ceiling that will depend on the hardware you’re using. It’s one reason why we recommend using a dedicated appliance for multi-encoding rather than streaming software running on a general-purpose computer. (For a full breakdown of the considerations, check out our blog on hardware vs. software encoding.)

    A trusted choice for multi-encoding

    Pearl-2 is the swiss army knife of video production, offering all-in-one mixing, live switching, multistreaming – and multi-encoding. With Pearl-2, you can record and stream video in up to six different encodes, including up to four in 4K.

    Learn more about how Pearl-2 can help you simultaneously encode the video assets you need.

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