Susan Brady: H.264 is considered the next generation in video compression standards. Would you explain why this is and the specifics of H.264 that make it a better standard than what already exists?
Harvey Waters, president and CEO, USA Security Ltd., Inc: Not since the introduction of MPEG-2 video compression in 1995 has there been a new standard as promising as the H.264 codec. H.264 is the newest international video coding standard and is now in its final stages of development by the joint ITU-T and ISO/IEC standards organization. This new standard is widely regarded as an inflection point or the next generation for the industry because it surpasses the best previous standards by 2x (or more) in compression while delivering a substantial improvement in video quality.
The main objective of the H.264 was to develop a high performance video encoding standard; by adopting a back-to-basics approach with simple and straightforward design, using well-known building blocks. The ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) initiated the work on H.264 in 1997.
Toward the end of 2001, after witnessing the superiority of the video quality and the efficiencies of the H.264 hardware compression over the MPEG-4 software compression, ISO/IEC MPEG joined ITU-TVCEG by forming a joint video team (JVT) to create a single video-coding standard that is now known as H.264 codec.
The advantages of H.264 over MPEG-4 as it relates to the security industry are:
• greater stability and reliability.
• DSP (digital signal processor) technology.
• 50% smaller file size.
• improved video quality.
• 30 frames per second, per camera channel.
• “MAXUM Series” 64 cameras, 1920 frames per second record.
• High pixel quality with low bit rates.
• Lower bandwidth requirement, thus greater transfer rate.
Oliver Vellacott, CEO of IndigoVision: H.264 is the latest official video compression standard, which follows on from the highly successful MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video standards and offers improvements in both video quality and compression. The most significant benefit for IP video systems is the ability to deliver the same high-quality, low latency, digital video with savings of between 25% and 50% on bandwidth and storage requirements. Or to put it another way, deliver significantly higher video quality for the same bandwidth.
H.264 is a video codec (compressor and decompressor) standard. A video codec is designed to compress and uncompress digital video in order to reduce the amount of bandwidth required to transmit and store the video. This is needed as the raw data rate of uncompressed CCIR601 active digital video (720x480 pixel 4:2:2 video at 30fps) is in excess of 158Mbps – over 300 times the capacity of a 512kbps ADSL connection and only just over one hour recording on an 80GB hard disk.
Simply scaling the video, to SIF resolution (352x240 pixel 4:2:0 video at 30fps), and compressing with standard utilities such as WinZip or gzip could achieve 10:1 compression. However, at least 300:1 compression is needed to stream live video over an ADSL connection and to achieve 300 hours recording to an 80GB hard disk. This level of compression can be achieved with H.264.
Brady: What type of products is H.264 being used in? Is there a cost difference between products with H.264 and those with another image compression standard?