What is H.264?
H.264, also known as AVC (Advanced Video Coding) or MPEG-4 Part 10, is a popular block-oriented video compression technique used to distribute high-definition digital video content. It is a motion compensation-based, integer-DCT coding standard that provides a range of profiles and levels (i.e., bitrates and display resolutions).
H.264 was designed as a successor to MPEG-2 Part to improve efficiency and reduce the bit rate effectively. It is succeeded by H.265 or HEVC, further improving compression efficiency by manifolds.
- H.264 encodes (compresses) digital video content such that it halves the amount of storage or bandwidth required when compared to MPEG-2.
- Despite the higher compression rates, the codec effectively maintains the video quality and shows no visible signs of deterioration.
- H.264 is compatible with 4K resolutions and can support up to 8K Ultra High-Definition in recording, encoding, and distribution.
H.264 vs. H.265
- The primary difference between H.264 and its successor H.265, lies in the higher efficiency of the video compression process. H.264 requires twice as much bandwidth for compression as H.265; however, H.265 demands more robust hardware.
- H.265 was developed to pioneer a new video compression standard for distributing higher-quality video at a significantly lower bit rate than H.265 while ensuring simplicity in design for practical implementation and cost-efficiency.
- H.265 is better suited for video streaming because it provides a higher compression level without reducing the video quality noticeably. However, H.264 compression still provides acceptable video quality for regular streaming use cases and, thus, still remains an industry standard.
- H.264 is a popularly used encoding format where Blu-ray Discs and internet sources are concerned.
- H.264 is adopted as an industry standard across many verticals and is compatible with a host of devices—from web browsers and smartphones to professional decoders.
- H.264 can also be flexibly used with a host of applications, operating systems, and varying network conditions—be it low or high bitrates and resolutions, IP packet networks, satellite connections, cable, internet, and even ITU-T systems.