Next generation MPEG advanced video coding ready in spring

At its Pattaya, Thailand meeting in late March, the Moving Picture Experts Group, or MPEG, promoted a new video coding standard to Final Draft status. The standard will be known as ITU-T Rec. H.264 and ISO/IEC 14496-10 "Advanced Video Coding" and is expected to receive ITU-T Consent on March 28th and final ISO approval as an “International Standard” shortly thereafter.

Dr. Lonardo Chiariglione, convener of the MPEG Committee and Dr. Gary Sullivan, Chairman of the ISO/ITU Joint Video Team (JVT), both expressed great satisfaction and appreciation at the unanimous approval and support for this new standard.

Completing the specification makes this important standard available to the industry at large. AVC/H.264 will provide a dramatic improvement in compression performance for general video coding applications and will dramatically influence applications ranging from video communication to digital SD and HD TV to streaming Internet video to DVD to digital video recorders.

Where MPEG-2 codes 720p HDTV in 16 Mbit/s, and MPEG-4 Advanced Simple Profile (ASP) codes HDTV in 8 Mbit/s, the new standard (as MPEG-4 AVC) is expected to beat even that.

Other MPEG news is that the MPEG-4 High-Efficiency AAC extension to MPEG Advanced Audio Coding (HE–AAC) is now in its final ballot stage leading up to becoming an International Standard. This extension significantly enhances the existing AAC LC (low complexity) standard with Spectral Bandwidth Replication (SBR). This provides the industry with one of the most remarkable advancements in audio compression in many years.

Both PC software and firmware implementations of HE AAC are now available. Coding options permit streams that do not have SBR decoder extensions available to still play the AAC streams at the highest available quality.

MPEG is enhancing its MP4 file format so that it can contain AVC data in a well-specified way. MP4 has spawned the more generic ISO file format, the basis of a growing family of compatible formats. In addition to the ISO/IEC MP4 and Motion JPEG 2000 file formats, it has also been adopted by 3GPP and 3GPP2 for multimedia in mobile, as well as in other industry associations. The file format is also being enhanced to better support un-timed (static) meta-data, and to support MPEG-21. MPEG-21 support is targeted to enable the storage of a ‘Digital Item Declaration’ with some or all of its resources in a single file. This allows MPEG-21 files to be compatible with other files in the family.

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