H.264 is one of the most frequently used video formats today. And for good reason. It's a very network-friendly video transmission method that delivers high-quality images without being a bandwidth hog.
H.264 touches every aspect of our digital lives. For instance, your cable TV provider uses H.264. Want to view a video on YouTube? H.264. Watching NetFlix through your BluRay player? H.264.
H.264 isn't just limited to consumer electronics. It's also pervasive in business. Know those TV station vans that broadcast "on the scene?" You guessed it. Same thing for drones used for environmental monitoring. What you're probably more familiar with are the more common business applications such as video walls, digital signage and video conferencing.
So What is H.264?
H.264 or MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) is a video coding format for recording and distributing full HD video and audio. It was developed and maintained by the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) with the ISO/IEC JTC1 Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).
H.264 works by encoding (converting) HDMI (HD) audio and video signals into an IP stream that can be transmitted over an IP network. On the other end, a decoder converts the signals back to an uncompressed HDMI format. What makes H.264 so versatile is that you can stream video from an encoder to multiple decoders simultaneously. For instance, you can stream one set of video signals to a display, a video wall and a digital signage system all at the same time.
The popularity of H.264 continues to grow. It's estimated that by 2025, most conventional video distribution solutions using HDBaseT or other proprietary transmission methods will be replaced by more flexible IP-based systems.
Better Images, More Room
H.264 was created to provide high-quality transmission of full-motion video with lower bandwidth requirements and lower latency traditional video standards, such as MPEG-2. H.264 uses a very efficient codec the provides high-quality images and uses a minimal amount of bandwidth. It's estimated the bit rate savings can be as much as 50% or more compared to MPEG-2. For example, H.264 can provide a better image quality at the same compressed bit rate. At a lower bit rate, it provides the same image quality.
Plays Well with Others
Because H.264 video is standards-based, it provides a vendor agnostic video extension solution. Users can mix and match H.264 equipment from different vendors without worry of any compatibility or proprietary issues.
All in the Family
H.264 has a younger, faster sibling, High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) also known as H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2. Compared to H.264, H.265 offers twice the data compression with the same level of video quality. It supports 4K and is designed to support future resolutions up to 8K UHD (8192x4320) compared to 1080p@60Hz for H.264. Newer equipment, such as TVs, are including a hardware decoder to accommodate H.265 transmissions.
What about H.265?
H.264 has a younger, faster sibling, High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) also known as H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2. Compared to H.264, H.265 offers up to twice the data compression with the same level of video quality. It is designed to support future resolutions up to 8K UHD (8192x4320) compared to 4K (4092x2160) for H.264. Some newer equipment such as TV’s are starting to ship with a built in hardware decoder to play H.265 content, but the improved quality and reduced bandwidth comes at a cost. H.265 encoding and decoding requires much more processing power over H.264 so the cost of H.265 solutions are still significantly higher.
To find out how you can easily implement a cost-effective, scalable video extension solution, take a look at Black Box's VS2000 H.264 Encoder and Decoder.