Anyone know anything about MPEG4?

Is it dead?

I’ve read that MPEG1 and 2 are great standards, but MPEG4 is a different matter. Unlike 1 & 2, when 4 was introduced:

  • there were already 3 other streaming media technologies: RealVideo, Microsoft’s Windows Media Video and Sorenson Video,

  • MPEG4 offers lower quality than all of those,

  • MPEG4 also requires payment of royalties not only on encoders and decoders (and decoders for the other three are free), but also on content,

  • the only hope for MPEG4 is on appliances such as DVD players, cell phones and PDAs, but it’s unlikely to succeed there, because such appliances are no longer driven by single-purpose chips, but now use general purpose DSPs taht can support multiple compression technologies, lessening the importance of standards, and

  • the DVD Forum approved Microsoft’s VC-9 technology.

Would you agree?

From what I know, there are already existing implementations for MPEG 4, QuickTime and DiVX just to name 2. Isn’t Xvid also MPEG 4 compatible? I am not sure what significance RealVideo will play, but for sure WMV produces good quality videos and was added as another standard to the next generation DVDs (HD DVD if I remember correctly). As far as I heard it implements produces videos using a H.264 video codec, which is also part of MPEG 4, Part 10 to be correct. So MPEG 4 Part 10 should be able to generate videos at the same quality as the M$ codec using similar bandwidth.

As for Microsoft, you will never be sure, how much they will charge you, once they established a standard, or gained market dominance. So I would not count on that. I agree that there is a lot of competition in the market, but with no winner yet. Maybe this time, if none of the standards gains market dominance, and as you said becomes less and less important, the consumer will be the smilling one.

And at the moment there are many free, or low-cost video codecs out there which is good and keeps the competition going. Let’s hope that future DVD Players will implement all of those and that we can still play our home made videos on all of them. Otherwise, the PC is always a good option.

Thanks for the response. You obviously know a lot more about the subject than I do. In case you’re interested, here’s an article (from April) entitled MPEG4 is Dead.

And here’s one from a guy who wrote a book on Internet video who agrees.

As you know, one of the issues is as follows:

I read through those articles you posted, very interesting, but I still don’t see doomsday for MPEG4. Afterall it will be important what content is published using these codecs, and who’s codec will be used for the DVD’s in the shelves at WalMart. At the moment M$ seems to have a head start with several movies being available in MPEG2 and WMV9, but that might change, once HD DVD is officially released, we will see on which horse the major film studios put their money. And from what I heard it is pretty much a toss-up. Also the Blueray disc is still in the game too, the above written counts for this format as well. And I don’t think that M$ has its codec playing in this team. So who knows, at the end the consumer will decide, and we might get players that can handle Blueray discs as well as HD DVD and all the associated codecs, similar to what happened in the DVD+/- war.

As far as streaming goes, there are similar things happening too. Some websites offer WMV and RealVideo, some do Quicktime and WMV, or any other possible combination. I just hope that open standards will receive a greater market share than they do now. I really need to try XviD one of these days.

The best indications so far is that both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray will approve the following format for video: 1) MPEG-2 2) H.264 (subset of MPEG-4) and 3) VC-9 (subset of Windows Media Video). If that becomes reality, it will mean that all players will have to support those formats for playback. Which format videos actually come out in will be another matter.

The main issue with MPEG-4 is that they want to charge licensing fee on streaming video, whereas MPEG-2 only charges for encoders and decoders. The streaming video licensing issue is controversial enough that it will probably fail to happen in the face of competition with the other codecs.

I totally agree, I don’t think that they can put the license fee through for streaming content. Some of those guys are probably still dreaming of their 5th Porsche. Anyway, it was somewhat new that M$ got their foot in the door for the Bluray disc as well. My hopes lie on MPEG4 Part 10 (H.264). We will see how many film labels M$ can confince.

MPEG are compression algorithms that can also be used for other purposes than streaming.
MPEG-1, mainly used for VCDs, isn’t really great IMHO - poor quality and the compression is not very effective, resulting in lot’s of data (i.e. big file size). MPEG-2, as used on DVDs, is far better.

MPEG-4 was supposed to push the compression ratio even further, thus allowing to store more data (like HDTV) on current media and allow “real” video streaming on the internet.
Maybe the latter is the market for MPEG-4, if the quality is worst than MPEG-2 I surely don’t want to see it on DVD / used for HDTV.

Sure, that’s true for VCDs v. DVDs. But don’t forget MPEG-1, layer 3, aka MP3. Obviously, it has revolutionized the distribution of music.

I think MPEG4 is more than just streaming video on the Internet. I believe it’s also intended for mobile phones and various handheld wireless devices. And, they claim it’s great for its ability to store various media objects (images, text, video) separately and put them together in a synchronized interactive presentation. All of that makes MPEG4 powerful, but too expensive for many applications, which is why its divided into subset that may be licensed separately.

As an attorney, the licensing issues are what particularly interest (and baffle) me. The MPEG4 standard may comprise 2 or 3 hundred patents owned by 20 entities. One can license the patents from each of the entities, which is obviously too burdensome, or one can license from a patent pool such as MPEG LA (Licensing Authority), which is a group that all the patent owners have signed on to. Such patent pools have been challenged on anti-trust grounds and passed muster.

But what really confuses me is that competing entities license MPEG technology: MPEG LA, Via, Philips, Fraunhofer, etc. will all license the same standards (though sometimes one licenses for audio, another for video, etc). How is that possible? How can more than one entity own the right to license the patents? For example, I believe one can license MP3 from either Sisvel or Thompson – who should one go to in such a case?

There are plenty of good MPEG4 compatible video codec. MPEG4 was designed to cover a wide range of applications from internet video streaming to HD quality video content. As a matter of fact, Apple just announced that the H.264 algorithm (MPEG Part 10) will be available in the next Quicktime 7 release. And of course Apple will add HD quality video editing to their major productline ( iMovie, Final Cut etc. )

Very true. I wass mainly referring to the video side of things though.

If the receiver is a PC, PDA, mobile phone or any other handheld device doesn’t make much difference to the stream(ing), regardless if it comes from the internet or a dedicated server (intranet).

The low(er) quality might be suitable to presentations, as well the fact that it takes less space compared to MPEG-1/-2 might be an advantage here and there, but I don’t see it as useful for DVD/HDTV applications.

Anyhow, as a “techie” can’t help you with the issues related to the licensing.

If you use the same bitrates, MPEG-4 will be better quality than MPEG-2. You can also use a lower bitrate on MPEG-4 with the same quality as MPEG-2. Most MPEG-4 you’ve seen is probably at very low bit rates compared to most MPEG-2 you’ve seen, so it’s not really a valid comparison. Most of the pirated videos floating around on the net use a bitrate of around 800kbps-1mbps. MPEG-2 DVDs can go up to 9mbps, and are usually no less than 4mbps. Typical is around 5-6mbps. So if that’s what you base your comparison on, it’s not really a fair comparison, as it is a 1:5 to 1:10 ratio. If you try a comparison at a ratio of 1:1.5 or even 1:2, the quality will be very close. At those compression levels it is possible to do HD MPEG-4 at much lower bitrates than MPEG-2 which takes up to 36mbps at the highest resolution and quality.

Cheers for the info. Have been a bit mislead by MT’s earlier statement that ‘MPEG-4 offers lower quality’. If that is “optional”, i.e. it can also offer better compression (or better quality at the same compression) than that changes things and I am in support of it.
That said, does anyone have a link to some good MPEG-4 samples?

Does anyone know how MPEG decoding/encoding is preformed in hardware? If anyone has any VHDL/Verilog code performing such would be greatly appreciated, otherwise any links towards the details involved in designing hardware to perform such would be great.
I guess I can live with the C/assembler code otherwise…

I realize you guys are techies, not lawyers, but I’ve got a basic question about MPEG.

MPEG1, MPEG2, etc. are standards for the compression of digital data that have been developed based on extensive global input and cooperation between industry, academia and other experts, with the goal of developing excellent standards for next-generation technology that will be universally adopted, thereby enhancing interoperability between devices, companies and industries. Jlick informed me that each standard consists of open specs that show how a particular codec is created and in many cases a reference implementation – a program that implements all or a portion of the standard.

But here’s my question. MPEG4 may be a great standard for video compression. Is it possible that several different companies might develop software that is MPEG4 (or MPEG1 or MPEG2) compatible? If so, is it possible that each of them might obtain an independent patent on its own software? Or, would it be impossible to create software that is MPEG4 compatible without relying on on the hundreds of patents (probably) that make up the MPEG4 standard? Judging by the ordinary meaning of the word “standard” one would think several companies could independently develop different technologies meeting the standard, but I don’t think that’s the case with MPEG standards and anyone who meets the standard can only do so by licensing from or infringing on the patents of others.

I hope you understand my question. I recognize also there is one other option – that I am totally clueless and the above scenarios are all illogical, but hopefully that’s not the case.

In terms of the digital video recorders, I think using mpeg4 is a great idea. All you need is a memory stick of 256, 512 or even 1g of SD ram to record videos onto your dv cam. No more need to record straight to digital video tape or burn straight to DVD. I bought a Sanyo Xacti so I can see the convenience. I am just waiting for the big brands like Sony or JVC to go this route. Maybe when the SD ram gets cheaper. It may not be MPEG4 but it should be some other format that records onto a memory stick.

Downside is not that many video editing software will have the codecs necessary to edit MPEG4 and if there is a codec you need to buy it seperately.

[quote=“Mother Theresa”]I realize you guys are techies, not lawyers, but I’ve got a basic question about MPEG.

Or, would it be impossible to create software that is MPEG4 compatible without relying on on the hundreds of patents (probably) that make up the MPEG4 standard?[/quote]

It seems as though you have a case regarding video compression, judging from the two posts you’ve made recently.

As for your question about making software that does the same thing as a MPEG4 encoder/decoder without infringing on the patents, it all depends on how the claims of the patent are written. As a lawyer, I’m sure you are well aware of that.

Yes, I’m working on matters involving licensing of codecs at work and, while I’ve worked on lots of patent licensing agreements, I find issues concerning MPEG a little overwhelming. For example:

  • The MPEG Licensing Authority (a US company that acts as a “patent licensing pool”) issues MPEG2 licenses that include more than 640 patents developed and owned by at least 18 companies.

  • One can license MPEG technology from a variety of patent licensing pools including MPEG LA; Audio MPEG, Inc.; Via Licensing (a subsidiary of Dolby); Thomson and others (these licensing pools were formed to create a one-stop shop for obtaining MPEG licenses, so licensees needn’t deal directly with all of the patent owners who are included within an MPEG standard).

  • Often one entity will license certain patents for one implementation and another entity will licensed the exact same patents for another implementation (ie, one for encoding/decoding, one for something else, or one for audio another for visual).

Some commentators describe the above as a “patent thicket,” with so many competing and related claims by patent holders that it is virtually impossible for a manufacturer to know who to go to for permission to use a certain technology. Additionally, patent pools would seem to raise serious anti-trust issues, but so far they have passed muster.

Due to intense research, I understand it better than I did a month ago, but I’m still learning, and I’m still a little stumped by the basic question that I asked and you started answering. MPEG4 is a standard that consists of numerous patents. Is it possible that various companies might sell different programs based on that standard (thereby including the essential patents within the standard)?

I think the answer is yes. For example, I believe DivX is very popular video compression program that incorporates the MPEG4 standard (I believe DivX received a license from one of the MPEG patent pools) and perhaps it includes other patents of their own or from other sources. Does that sound reasonable? And, in that case, there are probably other video codecs that also incorporate the MPEG4 standard and have licensed the essential patents from an MPEG licensing pool?

Update, I just read that Premiere, and German PayTV channel is broadcasting the entire Soccer Worldchampionship in HDTV using MPEG4 H.264 to save resources they claim. MPEG 4 must be an effentient codec.

Here is the entire article (German):