When I was working at IMG, for a section called Gamer TV, I had to encode and upload a lot of video on to the MSN network and also the mobile phone network 3. It was relatively straight forward work to do, but for some reason I have always enjoyed doing multiple test encodes and seeing the very best quality I could get. For example if for the web – viewing quality vs file size and streaming speed. 😀 I guess that is a little nerdy – but also very rewarding.
The article linked to below sums up some of the best encoding software you can get presently. Personally I like Sorenson Squeeze the best. But all the software and hardware here is pretty good.