Amazon Web Services is at it again.  The IT Computing Services shopping center in the cloud has a new offering – Amazon Elastic Transcoding.  If you’ve been looking to distribute videos on your website, and you don’t want to use YouTube, or other similar sites for distribution, Amazon has a cost effective method now for distributing those videos.  Amazon can handle hosting (Amazon S3), transcoding, and distribution (Amazon Cloudfront).

What is it?

Amazon’s transcoding service allows you to convert the current format of a video file, to formats typically used for viewing on desktop computers, as well as smartphones and tablets.  Typically, to distribute one video requires at least two formats of the video to facilitate playback on these devices.  To truly optimize delivery requires a number of additional formats.   If you use desktop software to do your transcoding, your limitations are primarily computing power.  Transcoding just a few videos at a time of short time length, i.e. under 10 minutes, can be accomplished within a couple of hours.  However, if you’re transcoding a larger collection of videos, processing time could span days.  Transcoding in our office happens on computers we also use for editing.  We can’t afford to tie up an editing system for days, so transcoding in the cloud is an attractive option.

How to Provide Source Files

Along with price, the biggest consideration for using the service is how to upload potentially extremely large source videos for transcoding.  If you have a few files to upload, then doing this over the web through Amazon’s browser interface is pretty straightforward.  However if you have, for example, a 500GB external drive of videos that you want to transcode,  there are other options.  Amazon offers a bulk import facility that can facilitate the upload, or you can send your external drive directly to an Amazon location for copying onto their network.  Once files are loaded on to Amazon’s S3 storage, then transcoding can begin!  All output from transcoding will also be stored on S3.

Transcoding Costs

From the AWS website,, pricing is attractive.  $0.15 per minute of SD transcoding, $0.30 per minute of HD transcoding (720p and above).

Is it Worth It?

Utilizing Amazon’s Elastic Transcoder has greatest value when an organization commits to utilizing Amazon as a CDN.  Amazon has positioned itself to host video source files, provide the ability to transcode, and host the transcoded files, and then distribute them efficiently over Amazon’s Cloudfront network.  As parameters change in the distribution process, the Amazon solution can provide the most efficient, cost effective method to maintaining your library of videos.  Imagine being able to quickly generate new video formats on the server that will be deploying those videos, eliminating upload times, and utilizing optimum computing power for the transcoding process!  Quick, efficient, and cost effective.

Now with Amazon in the transcoding business, we look forward to their inevitable offering of transcoding of live streams!