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H.264

Published Date: 24 November 2022

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 Features

  • 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 Use-cases

  • 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.


Related Terms

Video Quality

In simple terms, video quality is the characteristic of a video that determines how clear, crisp, and detailed the video transmitted to the viewer is.

Video Watermark

A video watermark is a digital copyright tool used to identify the video's copyright owner or prevent illegal distribution.

1:1

1:1 is a commonly used aspect ratio in videography. It produces videos that are a perfect square; the width and height of the video image are the same.

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