Why Transcoding Matters in Ediscovery

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YouTube, Vine, police body cameras; the sources and varieties of recorded audio and video content continue to proliferate at an incredible rate. The good news for anyone tasked with reviewing this information is that encoding standards for media content seem to be undergoing the opposite trend, coalescing around a handful of formats as they are reinforced by operating system and hardware defaults popular in the consumer world. That said, it would still be an enormous challenge to consume the wide variety of media available, were it not for transcoding.

Transcoding Process

Transcoding is the process of converting information from one format to another. It relies on specialized software and can also benefit from specialized GPU components in executing the relatively complex algorithms involved. Indeed, Amazon and other cloud computing providers offer highly-scalable transcoding services as part of their cloud service portfolio (e.g., Amazon Elastic Transcoder, part of Amazon Web Services), to make it easier and more cost-effective for businesses and developers to transcode media on demand.

Benefit of Transcoding

In practice, transcoding yields two primary benefits: normalization and optimization. Normalization reduces complexity by, say, converting media files from several different formats into one common format, making it easier to then consume that media through a single playback application rather than having to use several. Optimization increases efficiency by ensuring that the stored media takes up no more room than necessary, and, in a streaming context, maximizing quality within the bandwidth and computing power available for streaming.

Transcoding in Ediscovery

The benefits of transcoding make it possible for you to visit a free website like YouTube, from an array of devices and over many types of connections, and view content originally recorded in a wide variety of formats. Transcoding has a similar impact in ediscovery, where it lets litigation teams store, organize, and review media in a normalized, optimized fashion. In the face of rapidly rising volumes of media in litigation, these are efficiency gains that will only become more important over time.


In our series on ediscovery, we’re covering the ediscovery basics and core technical concepts, the technologies powering ediscovery (encryption, cloud computing, etc.), and the future as we see it. Next in the series we’ll cover machine transcription, the technology that converts spoken words in audio or video files into written text, making them searchable just as other documents. Get the ebook in full here.