Some Facts about HD Video Compression Codecs used in Blu-ray

I just finished reading an interesting article by Amir Majidimehr (former Microsoft VP, video compression) in Oct 2008 issue of Widescreen Review.  I was surprised that there are 4 different, incompatible versions of MPEG-4! Here are some facts from the article; I recommending picking up a copy of the magazine for all of the details and background.

  • MPEG-2 was created in 1993 and gave great improvements of JPEG.
  • Real Video and Windows WMV-9 were alternative compression codecs created for internet video streaming and are about 200% to 300% more efficient than MPEG-2.
  • The MPEG association wanted to get into this segment and created MPEG-4 (later known as MPEG-4 ASP.) It was terrible, only 30% more efficient than MPEG-2.
  • The European Standards body ITU created H.264 and it was much better than MPEG-4 for internet steaming video.  MPEG approached the ITU and they joined forces, creating the new MPEG-4 AVC, a.k.a. H.264 JVT, and it is completely different from and incompatible with the origianal MPEG-4 ASP.
  • When HD-DVD was developed, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVC, and Microsoft WMV-9 (VC-1) were compared. For HD video VC-1 was the clear winner, MPEG-2 was second, and MPEG-4 AVC gave the lowest quality/compression.
  • MPEG-4 AVC HP (High Profile) was created to overcome the problems with the original MPEG-4 AVC, which focused only on low bitrate steaming video. MPEG-4 AVC HP is what is in every Blu-Ray (and HD-DVD) player and it completely incompatible with MPEG-4 AVC.
  • Every Blu-Ray player supports VC-1, MPEG-4 AVC HP, and MPEG-2.
  • Microsoft seemed to have their act together throughout this process and developed the right codec for multiple situations from the beginning.  It’s roughly equivalent to MPEG-4 AVC HP in quality but requires less processing power to decompress.
Written by in: Home Theater | Tags: , , , , , , , | Last updated on: 2014-May-27 |


  • Diana Pears says:

    I’m still sticking it out with MP4. Perhaps in a few more months I’ll upgrade to a blu-ray.

  • Eugene says:

    I did some testing in the past comparing MPEG-4 ASP and X264. Don’t know how far x264 can be compared to h264 JVC, but MPEG-2 still isn’t all that bad.. It can preserve more grain and preserving grain can be be a good thing Especially with old movies. VC-1 and x264 work best with recently shot movies and animations who have minimum grain in their source. If you so much as have a bit of grain or lots of smoke and explosions with smokey clouds, H264 will make a hassle and macro-blocking will be very evident. That’s my opinion anyway. I think That is why studios will smoothen and flatten the hell out of skintone and smoke before coding to mpeg-4 or VC1

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