Friday, April 23, 2004

MPEG-4 Is Dead

 Just a quick link for today.  An article on video formats I found interesting.  I'll have something on XP and Test developers soon.  Watch this space. 

MPEG-4 Is Dead.  Or so says Jan Ozer of

Before MPEG-4 was introduced, three streaming technologies enjoyed widespread use: RealVideo, Microsoft's Windows Media Video, and Sorenson Video. MPEG-4 offers lower quality than any of them.

In addition to offering lower quality, MPEG-4 also sports the obligation to pay royalties, not only on encoders and decoders, but also on content. Given that decoders for the other three have always been free, it's doubtful that this costs more, looks worse "value proposition" will win many takers in the streaming media space.
Finally, it's hard to minimize the importance of the DVD Forum's provisional approval for Microsoft's VC-9 technology, essentially Windows Media Video 9, along with two other technologies, H.264 and MPEG-2, as mandatory on next-generation playback devices.

This announcement has three significant implications. First, it forces the committee-driven standards to compete primarily on performance, something neither has had to do yet. Second, it opens the door for proprietary standards to compete against committee standards in other markets, whether digital television or Dick Tracy-like video watches. The combined impact of these realities will either force committee members to work harder and faster or spell the death of committee-based video codec standards.



  1. This may be true in time from a commercial perspective, but (in my own tests and some other reviews that I have seen) WMV9 has some way to go in achieving the same quality and performance as some MPEG 4 codecs such as DivX. I routinely capture off air programs to MPEG2 and convert to MPEG 4 AVI for playback on my Archos for time-shifted playback.

    Also, does this mean that VC 9 technology will also be royalty free?

  2. Isn't H.264 a new high quality variant of MPEG 4 (specifically MPEG-4.10 AVC) that levels the playing field? The new codec scales from Mobile Phones to HD. If this is the case, why does current MPEG 4 codec limitations matter?

  3. I haven't personally viewed any specific comparisons between divx and WMV9 but ExtremeTech seems to indicate the quality is equivalent (,1583,a=121163,00.asp).

    I'm not involved in VC9 licensing so I can't comment.

    As for H.264, that is MPEG-4 in name only. It is called MPEG-4 part 10 or some such but if you look at it, the details vary considerably from the H.263-derived MPEG-4. I expect that H.264 will give VC9 a run for its money as it already is in the DVD-Forum but I don't consider that to truly be MPEG-4. It's radically different and quite incompatible. I've also been told that H.264 is presently extremely processor intensive.

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