Codec is shorthand for "Encoder/Decoder". A codec allows to convert data into a different representation and decode it again. Codecs are mostly used in signal transmission, e.g. for audio/video playback or streaming.

Note that "codec" is typically just the name for a standard that describes how to engineer "encoders" and "decoders". For example, MP3 is a codec, and LAME is an encoder for it.

In practice, this distinction isn't made, and therefore "codec" will mostly be used synonymously with "encoder". For a list of popular codecs and the difference to actual file formats, see: What is a Codec (e.g. DivX?), and how does it differ from a File Format (e.g. MPG)?

Some popular codecs on Super User include:

  • (MPEG 2, Layer III)
  • (Advanced Audio Coding)
  • (H.264, MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG-4 Part 10)
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