The difference between lossless and lossy video compression.

Learn when to use lossy or lossless compression for your video storing, editing, and sharing needs.

Video files are often very large — this can create challenges when you need to store or upload those files. A reliable way to fix this problem is to reduce the size of your video files by compressing them. However, it’s important to know that not all compression methods are equal. Let’s dive into the difference between lossy and lossless video compression.

What is lossy video compression?

This type of compression decreases the file size by throwing out extra data within the file. For this to happen, image quality is sacrificed as a result.

For example, let’s say you shoot a video that shows rolling fields comprised of many shades of green. With lossy compression, the green pixels may be reduced to only a few different shades of green, instead of the dozens captured in the original shot.

Lossy compression isn’t all bad, though. You may decide to use it when your video contains more information than you really need for your intended purposes. It’s also useful for making files small enough to share online or to view on a smartphone.

What is lossless video compression?

Lossless compression works by eliminating redundancy. Unlike lossy compression, it doesn’t throw any information out — instead, it simply stores the information in a more efficient way.

This type of compression enables you to perfectly reconstruct the original file. For example, you could compress a video file to make it small enough to send to another person. The recipient could then uncompress the file and open it on their computer without losing any quality.

Which type of video compression should I use?

In short, you’ll want to use lossless when you want a perfect copy of your video. It will take up more space, but the data will be preserved perfectly. If a “good enough” copy will suffice, lossy compression will save you a significant amount of space.

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