Version 1.0, Released: April 2, 2014

H.264

A Complete Guide to the Video Codec

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With all of the codecs and compression standards in the video encoding space, Encoding.com wanted to give a refresher and complete overview on the most popular standard-H.264. This industry standard for video compression is arguably the most widely used, and compared with other standards such as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 Visual, H.264 can deliver better image quality at the same compressed bitrate, or a lower compressed bitrate for the same image quality.

Example Coding Efficiency Comparison

H.264 has the most backing and use amongst the largest tech companies (eg. Microsoft and Apple), the most use by streaming internet sources, such as videos from Vimeo, YouTube, and the iTunes Store, and web software such as the Adobe Flash Player and Microsoft Silverlight. However, it is not free and requires patent licensing fees for commercial use. All major video editors, including Final Cut, Adobe Premiere and Avid, export to H.264 format.

History of H.264

H.264/MPEG-4 AV was developed by the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) together with the ISO/IEC JTC1 Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). The project partnership effort is known as the Joint Video Team (JVT).

The standardization of the first version of H.264/AVC was completed in May 2003. The Scalable Video Coding extensions were completed in November 2007.The Multiview Video Coding extensions were completed in November 2009, and adaption of the standard has been growing ever since.

How Does it Work?

An H.264 video encoder carries out prediction, transform and encoding processes to
produce a compressed H.264 bitstream. An H.264 video decoder carries out the complementary processes of decoding, inverse transform and reconstruction to produce a decoded video sequence.

Browser Support for H.264

Browser Support
H.264+ AAC + MP4 4.0+ partial support 2.1+ 9+ 3.2+ 3.2+ partial 2.1+

There has been mixed support surrounding H.264 primarily from its use within the HTML5 Internet standard. As a reminder, HTML5 added the <video> and <audio> embeds and the codec support varied from the different major companies and browsers. Google and Apple support H.264, while initially Mozilla and Opera supported Ogg Theora (now Google, Mozilla and Opera all support Theora and WebM with VP8).

Microsoft, with the release of Internet Explorer 9, has added support for both HTML 5 and H.264. In January 2011, Google announced that they were pulling support for H.264 from their Chrome browser and supporting both Theora and WebM/VP8 to use only open formats. However, Google has not followed through with this announcement and still supports H.264 in their Chrome browser through FFmpeg. In March of 2012, Mozilla announced support for H.264 in Firefox on mobile devices, due to prevalence of H.264-encoded video and the increased power-efficiency of using dedicated H.264 decoder hardware common on such devices. In February of 2013, Mozilla implemented support in Firefox for decoding H.264 on Windows 7 and above.In late 2013, Cisco Systems published the open source code, OpenH264, and, with that, Firefox announced additional support. This open source gave Mozilla the ability to support the H.264 standard natively in Firefox. As of the release of Firefox 26, H.264 support has been added.

Encoding.com Support for H.264

We offer full support for H.264. When, choosing your output format, you can select H.264 as your output format as an MP4 or for Flash9. Encoding.com will also support the latest standard, H.265 this year.

Output Format Options in Encoding.com UI
Output Format Options in Encoding.com UI

For how we can assist more or answer any questions on this standard or any encoding needs, feel free to contact us.

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