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Old 20th March 2004, 14:04   #1  |  Link
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MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Information

What is MPEG-4?

MPEG-4 (ISO 14496) is a broad Open Standard developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), a working group of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) which also did the well known MPEG-1 (MP3, VCD) and MPEG-2 (DVD, SVCD) Standards, standardizing all sorts of audio/video compression formats and much more
By its nature the MPEG-4 Standard doesnt aim at standardizing one potential product (eg something comparable to DVD) but covers a broad range of Sub-Standards, which Product Providers can choose from to follow, according to what they need for their product

The MPEG-4 Standard, as mentioned, is divided into many different sub-standards, where for us users on Doom9 the following parts might be of major interest:
- ISO 14496-1 (Systems), Animation/Interactivity (like DVD Menus)
- ISO 14496-2 (Video), e.g. Advanced Simple Profile (ASP), as followed by XviD, DivX5, 3ivx...
- ISO 14496-3 (Audio), Advanced Audio Coding (AAC)
- ISO 14496-10 (Video), Advanced Video Coding (AVC), also known as H.264
- ISO 14496-14 (Container), MP4 container format (uses the .mp4 extension)
- ISO 14496-17 (Subtitles), MPEG-4 Timed Text subtitle format

This information thread now aims at providing some usefull infos on most of these parts, with a focus on MPEG-4 ASP and AVC/H.264


What are the possible advantages of an open standard, like MPEG-4, compared to closed formats, as used by Microsoft's Windows Media?

The good thing about an open standard is that its open for everyone to follow when creating a product. therefore we already have a lot of different products which are compatible to the MPEG-4 Standard and are therefore also compatible to each other
Next to interoperability and big product range to choose from, an open standard leads to competition, which means for the consumer that products in the competitive market will most likely have a better increase in quality, lower prices and a better focus on the consumers needs

but not to forget and thats maybe the most important point for me:
an open standard allows open source development, like we all know from XviD for example
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Old 20th March 2004, 14:08   #2  |  Link
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ISO 14496-10 (Video) - Advanced Video Coding (AVC)

With AVC/H.264 the MPEG-4 Standard defines one of the newest and technically best available, state-of-the-art Video Coding Formats

The AVC/H.264 Video Coding Standard was together finalized and identically specified in 2003 by two Groups, the MPEG (Moving Pictures Experts Group) from ISO and the VCEG (Video Coding Experts Group) from ITU (International Telecommunication Union), a suborganisation of the United Nations (UNO), which also standardised the H.263 format (mainly used in video conference software now)
The AVC/H.264 Standard itself was developed by the Joint Video Team (JVT), which included experts from both MPEG and VCEG

Looking from the MPEG side the standard is called MPEG-4 Part 10 (ISO 14496-10), looking from the ITU side, it is called H.264 (the ITU document number), by which the format is widely known already
As "official" title for the new standard Advanced Video Coding (AVC) was chosen by MPEG - as video counterpart to the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) audio format


AVC/H.264 Profiles

The AVC/H.264 standard defines four different Profiles: Baseline, Main, Extended and High Profile (which themselves are subdivided into Levels):

- Baseline Profile offers I/P-Frames, supports progressive and CAVLC only
- Extended Profile offers I/P/B/SP/SI-Frames, supports progressive and CAVLC only
- Main Profile offers I/P/B-Frames, supports progressive and interlaced, and offers CAVLC or CABAC
- High Profile (aka FRExt) adds to Main Profile: 8x8 intra prediction, custom quants, lossless video coding, more yuv formats (4:4:4...)

It seems the most usable profile for DVD Backups is the High Profile with maybe the following tools (also check out the tool description of MPEG-4 ASP as all, except GMC, are available in AVC too):

CAVLC/CABAC:
AVC/H.264 defines two, more advanced tools for entropy coding of the bitstream syntax (macroblock-type, motionvectors + reference-index...) than MPEG-4 ASP: Context-Adaptive Variable Length Coding (CAVLC) and Context-Adaptive Binary Arithmetic Coding (CABAC)
CABAC, compared to CAVLC (aka UVLC) which is the default method in AVC/H.264, is a more powerful compression method, being said to bring down the bitrate additonally by about 10-15% (especially on high bitrates). CABAC (as CAVLC) is a lossless method and therefore will never hurt the quality, but will slow down encoding and decoding.

Loop/Deblocking Filter:
in contrary to prefiltering (for example via avisynth, done on the input), or postprocessing/filtering (via the decoder, done on the final output), LoopFiltering is applied during the encoding process on every single frame, after it got encoded, but before it gets used as reference for the following frames. This helps avoiding blocking artifacts, especially on low bitrates, but will slow down en/decoding

Variable Block Sizes/Macroblock Partitions:
in contrary to MPEG-4 ASP (where, only with Inter4V/4MV, the Block Sizes can varry between 16x16 and 8x8 pixels), AVC/H.264 offers for Motion Search Precision the division of a macroblock down to 4x4 pixels (including steps like 8x4...). The Block Size is adaptive/variable, a good encoder will be smart enough to decide which one is best to use in every specific macroblock

Multiple Reference Frames:
in contrary to MPEG-4 ASP (which only allows using the frame before the actual frame as reference), AVC/H.264 offers choosing from multiple ones for inter motion search, which means the codec can decide whether he wants to simply refer to the previous frame (like in ASP) or even to a frame before that. Because of that (eg a P-Frame can refer to a frame before the latest I-Frame) a new frametype had to be introduced: IDR-Frames, which are I-Frames before which no following frame is allowed to refer to. Allowing multiple reference frames will slow down encoding and decoding and cutting will be only possible at IDR-Frames

Weighted Prediction:
With Weigthed Prediction there can be weights applied to a reference frame (eg you can scale (brightness-wise) a previous picture). This helps especially whenever there are fades, where the subsequent picture is very similar to the previous one except that it is darker. WP will not help with cross-fades (eg a fade from one scene to another)

Rate Distortion Optimisation (RDO):
RDO allows the encoder to make the most efficient coding decisions whenever it has to choose between different choices (for example when it comes to inter/intra decisions, motion search...)
RDO is not a tool defined by the AVC/H.264 specs, but it's a new decision making approach which was first introduced by the H.264 reference software. Other codecs can also make use of RDO, like XviD's VHQ Mode enables RDO already for example


An overview of AVC/H.264 compared to other popular video coding formats:


available AVC/H.264 Codecs

AVC/H.264 implementations are available atm already from x264, Nero, Apple, Sorenson, Elecard, Moonlight, VSS, mpegable, Envivio, Hdot264 (binary), DSPR, JM (reference software) (binary), ffmpeg, Philips, FastVDO, Skal, Sony and many more

Encoders

- x264: the first publically available High Profile encoder, opensource (GPL) (Source), available for VFW: x264vfw, ffdshow (output .avi), as commandline: x264cli (outputs .mp4, .mkv, raw), mencoder (outputs raw, .avi) (Doom9's MeGUI) or ffmpeg
x264 supports 2pass, CABAC, Loop, multiple B-Frames, B-References, multiple Reference Frames, 4x4 P-Frame, 8x8 B-Frame Blocksizes, anamorphic signalling and High Profile: 8x8 dct and intra prediction, lossless and custom quant matrices
- NeroDigital AVC: useable in Nero Recode2, outputs .mp4
ND AVC supports 2pass, CABAC, (adaptive) Loop, multiple B-Frames, mulitple Reference Frames, weighted prediction, 8x8 P-Frame Blocksizes, 16x16 B-Frame Blocksizes, Adaptive Quant. (Psy High)
- Sorenson: useable in Sorenson Squeeze 4, outputs .mp4,
Sorenson supports 2pass, max 2 B-Frames, B-References, Loop and multiple Slices
- Apple: useable in Quicktime 7, outputs .mp4, .3gp and .mov, totally slow
uses 2pass, max 1 B-frame, Loop (0,0), P8x8,B8x8,I4x4, Adapt. Quant, 5 Slices, no CABAC, no Weighted Pred., no multi Ref.
- JM: The AVC Reference Software offers in v9.3 Main and High Profile: B/SP-Frames, CABAC, Loop Filter, 4x4 Blocksizes, multiple Reference Frames, Adaptive Quant, Error Resilience, RDO, Lossless Coding, Custom Quants, Rate Control aso...
- Hdot264: opensource (GPL) VFW version of the reference software by doom9 member charact3r, still based on a very old version of the reference (JM 4.0c)
- VSS: free preview VFW Encoder (limited to 5 days), based on the reference encoder
- Elecard: useable in Elecard Mobile Converter, outputs .mp4 and MainConcept's v2 encoder, outputs .264 and .mpg PS/TS
not publically available anymore:
- Moonlight: useable in Moonlight's OneClick Compressor v1.1 and CyberLink's PowerEncoder, outputs .mpg
Moonlight supports 1pass (VBR/CBR/Fixed Quants), CABAC, Loop, 2 B-Frames, 8x8 P-Frame Sizes, Adapt. Quant, PAR, Interlacing
- MainConcept: was useable in the v1 encoder (adds a watermark), outputs .264 and .mpg PS/TS
1pass (CBR/VBR/fixed Quants), P-Frame Reorder, CABAC, Loop, Multiple B-Vops, Multiple Ref, 4x4 P-Frame Sizes, PAR, RDO
- mpegable: offered for some time a free VFW Encoder (not based on the reference), doesnt handle YV12
mpegable supports 1pass (fixed quants) uses P-Frames only, 8x8 P-Frame Blocksizes, CAVLC only, Loop
- Envivio: useable in 4Coder, outputs .mp4

Decoders (comparison)

- ffmpeg: opensource (LGPL), used e.g. in ffdshow (VFW and DShow decoder), mplayer and VideoLAN
supports B-Frames, B-References, CABAC, Loop, Weighted Prediction and High Profile (8x8 dct and intra prediction, lossless)
- CoreAVC
- Apple: AVC decoding inside Quicktime 7, supports .mp4/.mov, very slow
supports only 1 B-Frame, CABAC, Loop but no mixed references, multiple B-frames and no interlacing
- NeroDigital AVC: DShow Decoder and .mp4 Parser coming with Recode2
supports Main and High Profile
- VSS: preview VFW Decoder (limited to 5 days) and a DShow Decoder (limited to 30 days)
VSS DShow supports .avi (with VSSH and H264 fourcc), CABAC, Loop, B-Frames
- Elecard: available in Elecard's MPEG Player and MainConcept's v2 encoder
- Envivio: not freely available AVC DShow decoder called EnvivioTV, handling AVC in .mp4 (since 2.0, current version: 2-1-181)
- Philips: DShow AVC decoder freely available in the AVC Alliance player (handles raw AVC only)
- FastVDO: time limited (5 minutes per video) High Profile DShow Decoder
not publically available anymore:
- Moonlight: DShow decoder/Parser handling AVC in .mpg, .mp4 and .264 available in Moonlight's MPEG Player v3.0
supports Main and High Profile
- MainConcept: the v1 preview offered a free DShow AVC decoder (adds watermark) and Parser handling AVC as .mpg PS/TS
- mpegable: offered for some time a free VFW decoder (usable also in DShow), supports .avi (with DAVC fourcc)
- Basic AVC Decoder in C, for an university project available here
- Pegasus: not really compliant DShow AVC decoder available here

Sample content

NeroDigital: mp4, mp4
Sorenson: mp4
AVC Alliance: raw
Moonlight: raw/medium bitrates, raw/low bitrates, raw, mpg
FastVDO: raw/high profile
Apple: mov
Lead: ogm


current issues with AVC/H.264

- interoperability: most implementations support different container formats atm:
.mp4: which is the container of AVC defined in the MPEG-4 Standard (ISO 14496-15) and supported by Apple, Nero, Sorenson, Envivio, Elecard/Moonlight and x264 atm
.mpg PS/TS: which are the containers of AVC defined in the MPEG-2 Standard (ISO 13818-1, AMD3) and supported by Mainconcept and Elecard/Moonlight atm
.avi: using AVC-in-AVI is nowhere standardized and therefore already causes incompatibilies. The limitations of AVI and VFW (eg regarding b-frames or arbitrary frame coding orders), together with the necessary hacks caused by these two formats, hinder the full implementation of all possible features AVC offers and therefore harm the possible quality or at least the speed of the development, the interoperability and therefore also the competition. AVI is currently used by VSS and x264 (mencoder and vfw)
.264/.h264: the raw bitstream not stored in a container. output for example by the reference, x264cli, mencoder and mainconcept

- speed: some current implementations are pretty slow
still x264 and NeroDigital's AVC encoder seems to offer already a nice speed and quality. But this doesnt change the fact that AVC is a very advanced video coding format and therefore encoding and decoding on old CPU's can be very time consuming


MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 on Hardware - HD-DVD/Blu-ray

the DVD Forum and the Blu-ray Disc Association are currently working on successors for the DVD format, supporting High Definition content (simply larger picture sizes than current DVD): HD-DVD and BD-ROM

As reported here MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 will be mandatory for HD-DVD
Blu-ray has also included MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 as written here

It is therefore very likely that AVC/H.264 will be THE upcoming video format, which will be widely used and supported, like it is the case with MPEG-2 (used in DVD) today


further documentation

Read more about the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 here for a detailed overview or here
a list of available implementations
The AVC Verification Test Results can be found here
The whole specs of AVC/H.264 can be downloaded here
Technical Info about Blu-ray is available here
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Last edited by bond; 12th May 2008 at 12:04.
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Old 7th April 2004, 14:31   #3  |  Link
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If you have any suggestions, ideas which points should be added or found any broken links, feel free to post below!
I will do my best to keep the Information up-to-date

Please don't use this sticky to discuss any MPEG-4 issues, this thread is meant for info only!
If you have any questions plz search the forum, perhaps they have been answered already and only then start a new thread

thanks,
bond
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Old 4th November 2007, 15:21   #4  |  Link
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I don't think calling H.264 an open standard is entirely justified ... all standards are openly available, what makes an open standard is that it's free to implement IMO.

Why do you always put MPEG/AVC before ITU/H.264 BTW? MPEG's contribution came only at the end of development and their development process is undeniably less open than ITU's ... which has now also made the permanent commitment to provide their standards for free. As long as the OP has to have propaganda in the name of openness put H.264 first, although maybe no propaganda at all would be better.

Anyway, this needs to be linked in the OP :
http://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-H.264/e

Last edited by MfA; 4th November 2007 at 15:23.
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Old 4th November 2007, 18:42   #5  |  Link
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MfA View Post
I don't think calling H.264 an open standard is entirely justified ... all standards are openly available, what makes an open standard is that it's free to implement IMO.
It is free to implement--it just isn't free to use once you've implemented it, especially in the case that you intend to use it for commercial purposes.

An example of a non-open standard would be the DOC file format; intentionally not well-documented, for the purpose of incompatibility.

There are very very few useful standards that are truly not patent encumbered.
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Old 4th November 2007, 20:54   #6  |  Link
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Meh, I'd call DOC a format not a standard.

W3C has lots of truly open standards.
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Old 13th December 2007, 05:32   #7  |  Link
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Looks like the sample content link to AVC alliance is dead-the domain is no longer active.
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Old 9th May 2008, 22:25   #8  |  Link
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I realize the top was written before VC-1 was standardized, but I don't think that the "Micro$soft" comparison is appropriate now that VC-1 and H.264 have similar licensing and standardization status.
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Old 11th May 2008, 20:34   #9  |  Link
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removed the "$". i leave the rest in as windows media is not only vc-1 and the top article is not only about video
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Old 12th May 2008, 05:57   #10  |  Link
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If you are making changes how about adding a link to the openly available version of the visual coding part of the standard rather than an outdated draft? (To be honest ITU is dragging it's feet with releasing the latest revision ... but the 2005 standard and addendums up to 2007 is still better than a 2003 draft, unless you really think it's important it says MPEG AVC on the first page rather than ITU-T H.264.)
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Old 12th May 2008, 12:05   #11  |  Link
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oops, sorry, changed the link.
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Old 1st June 2008, 19:33   #12  |  Link
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As Pete Fraser was nice enough to point out on comp.compression ... the latest version of the H.264 standard is now live on the ITU site.
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Old 22nd October 2008, 00:52   #13  |  Link
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Hello, in the second post, near the bottom, both the Hdot264 binary link, and the JM binary link, which point to a rarewares page, are not valid anymore as far as I can tell.
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Old 9th July 2009, 20:25   #14  |  Link
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Why do you always put MPEG/AVC before ITU/H.264? "Looks like the sample content link to AVC alliance is dead-the domain is no longer active." Nope its not, and I dont know why.

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Old 9th July 2009, 23:09   #15  |  Link
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Quote:
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Why do you always put MPEG/AVC before ITU/H.264?
Because "MEPG-4 Advanced Video Coding (AVC)" and "ITU H.264" are two names for the very same video compression standard

Quote:
Originally Posted by MartinMan885 View Post
"Looks like the sample content link to AVC alliance is dead-the domain is no longer active." Nope its not, and I dont know why.
Looks like a typical "parked" domain...
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Old 18th November 2010, 02:11   #16  |  Link
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how do i play h.265/avc files with mpc?
ive got a dvb-t usb stick and it records in that format.
mpc only plays audio...
(i've got k-lite mega codec pack installed)
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Old 9th December 2010, 13:16   #17  |  Link
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Question for FAQ. I know that MPEG-4 Main profile support interlaced material. But how exactly does that compare with MPEG-2 encoding of interlaced material and what exactly does "support" mean.

I have always been told that MPEG-2 is best for my DV SD resolution home videos because it handles compression best for this content and keeps the interlacing without issue. When I inquired a year ago if I could use MPEG-4 for my DV video with comparable quality results and where encoder would not try and de-interlacing, I was told it did not handle interlaced material as well as MPEG-2 encoder.

Is this true?

Currently I use ProCoder which is said to be the best for quality MPEG-2 encodes for DV material. And I do like the results. But wanted to see if I could get same quality from newer codec for same content at smaller file sizes.

Someone had mentioned in ProCoder forums:
Quote:
Procoder absolutely shines with complex interlaced footage such as DV. It has a field based encoding function specifically for this
But on the doom9 forum I found this which seems to indicate MPEG-4 standard should support this. But whether the x264 encoder does is another question:
Quote:
For interlaced content, the H.264 standard allows two fields to be coded either jointly, i.e. frame-based coding, or separately, i.e. field-based coding [1]. The frame/field coding concept can be extended to the macroblock level called Macroblock-Adaptive Frame/Field (MBAFF) coding in H.264. The concept of macroblock frame/field coding decision was originated from MPEG2 standard. Instead of splitting up a 16x16 MB into two 16x8 blocks, super MB [2] is defined as a decision unit. Each super MB consists of two vertically adjacent MB’s. The advantage of super MB is that all 7 block sizes can be used in either frame or field coding. Macroblock-Adaptive frame/field coding provides additional gain over picture-level adaptive coding
Other then x264 encoder, are their commercial ones that may support interlaced MPEG-4 encoding and offer similar quality to that I see in ProCoder?

If x264 does indeed support interlaced encoding with doing any destructive de-interlacing techniques first, then what are the options I need to use (i.e. width of the encoded file to be mod16, etc)?

UPDATE: new thread on this discussion here

Last edited by jfcarbel; 10th December 2010 at 09:43.
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Old 9th December 2010, 16:30   #18  |  Link
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This topic is titled: "MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Information".

It's here to provide information. It's not a Q&A.
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Old 10th December 2010, 06:59   #19  |  Link
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeeMoreDigital View Post
This topic is titled: "MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Information".

It's here to provide information. It's not a Q&A.
Sorry, you are so right, I read the part where author mentioned suggestions and understood this wrong. My intent was to point out an area the FAQ does not address, however I went beyond that with a Q/A type post. My apologies.

I will create a new thread since my search did not provide many good results on my questions.

So in posting correctly.
My suggestion for this FAQ is to cover how MPEG-4 handles interlaced content encoding. Specifically if it is suited to DV video in comparison to MPEG-2.

UPDATE: new thread on this discussion here

Last edited by jfcarbel; 10th December 2010 at 09:43.
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Old 1st November 2011, 07:29   #20  |  Link
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Need information on AVC related to PES

Hi All,

I am looking for follwoing information:

What can be maximum size of MPEG-2 PES when packatizing H.264? I have old document which mentions maximum size of 64kB. Was there any amendment for H264? Where can I find such documents?

Thanks in advance,
Ajit
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