A video codec is software or a device that enables the compression or decompression of digital video. In the past, video was stored as an analog signal on magnetic tape. With the immersion of the Compact Disc and its ability to store video in digital format, it became possible to begin utilizing and storing video in digital form. Video codecs seek to represent a fundamentally analog data set in a digital way.
Many technologies have since emerged to store and play digital video. There is a complex balance between maximizing the video quality while minimizing file size for storage and streaming. Included within this complexity is the quantity of data needed to represent the video (bit rate), encoding and decoding algorithms, ease of editing, minimizing data loss, and many other factors.
The most common digital video codecs utilized today for broadband video playback on the various Internet connected devices include MPEG-2, H.263 / Sorenson Spark, MPEG-4 Part 2, H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC, and VP6.