File Under: APIs, Multimedia

Amazon Tackles Web Video With New Conversion Service

Amazon is getting into the web video game with a new video transcoding service aimed at making it easy to build the next YouTube.

Transcoding video is the process of taking a user uploaded video and converting it to a video format that works on the web, typically MP4 and WebM. Consumer video services like YouTube and Vimeo handle this for you behind the scenes. But if you want to actually build the next Vimeo or YouTube you’re going to have transcode video.

Open source tools like ffmpeg simplify the video transcoding process, but require considerable server power to operate at scale. And server power is something Amazon has in spades.

Amazon’s foray into video is hardly the first cloud-powered video transcoding service — Zencoder is another popular service (and runs on Amazon servers) — but Amazon’s offering is marginally cheaper and well-integrated with the company’s other services.

The Amazon Elastic Transcoder works in conjunction with the company’s other cloud offerings like S3 file storage. You send a video from one S3 “bucket” to Transcoder, which then converts it to the formats you need and writes the resulting files to another S3 bucket.

For now the Elastic Transcoder will only output MP4 video containers with Apple-friendly H.264 video and AAC audio. The new Transcoder options in the Amazon Web Services control panel allow you to create various quality presets if, for example, you’re delivering video to both mobile and desktop clients.

As with all Amazon Web Services the new Transcoder has a pay-as-you-go pricing model with rates starting at $0.015 per minute for standard definition video (less than 720p) and $0.030 per minute for HD video. That means transcoding a 10 minute video (the max on YouTube) would cost you $.15 for SD output and $.30 for HD, which sounds cheap until you start looking at transcoding several hundred 10-minute videos a day (200 a day would set you back $60 a day for HD). Amazon’s free usage tier will get you 20 minutes of SD video or 10 minutes of HD video encoded for free each month.

Amazon’s rates are marginally cheaper than Zencoder, which charges $0.020/minute for SD and double that for HD. Zencoder does have a considerable edge when it comes to output format though, offering pretty much anything you’d need for the web, including live streaming, while, at least for now, Amazon’s offering is limited to MP4.