Saturday, 30 May 2009

Is H.264 all it’s cracked up to be?

Walking around IFSEC this year, one couldn’t help notice the number of CCTV manufacturers who had H.264 stamped on their kit. However, we bumped into a few people at the show – who might be described as old curmudgeons – who weren’t enamoured with it at all.

So what is it and what’s all the controversy about?
H.264 is the latest motion-compensation-based codec developed by the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) together with the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) in a partnership known as the Joint Video Team (JVT).

H.264 is also known as MPEG-4 part 10 (not to be confused with MPEG-4 Part 2) and MPEG-4 AVC (advance video coding).

Designed as an all-purpose video standard to be used across a range of applications - including low and high resolution video, broadcast, DVD storage, IP packet networks and multimedia telephone systems - H.264 is a motion-compensation-based codec which means, in short, that it performs some clever tricks to predict where moving objects in a scene will travel, thus reducing the amount of video data that has to be retransmitted with every frame of video.

It has a menu of tools which can be implemented or not, depending on the application. Each tool brings with it a set of benefits and costs so each implementation of H.264 can achieve different results. Implement more of the H.264 “toolbox” and you get smaller bitstreams (lower bandwidth required) but at the cost of more processing power or increased latency as the bitstream undergoes more intensive processing by higher power algorithms.

Proponents of H.264 claim it delivers :
- Improvements in video quality and compression over MPEG-4 and MPEG-2.
- Low latency times
- Up to 300:1 video compression
Detractors variously claim it is:
- Too complex for the task, requiring too much computational power
- Too slow, leading to higher latency times, especially at the higher compression levels
- Not much of an advance on MPEG-4 (part 2)
- Expensive to implement
- A bunch of hype as manufacturers implement the very simplest profiles of H.264 and fail to realise the true value of this wonderful new compression standard.
Have you bought or specified H.264 products? Does your company manufacture H.264 compliant products? Do you think it represents a significant step forward from MPEG-4 part 2?

Or is H.264 just the latest “must-have” badge on manufacturer’s products? Is it too costly for the benefits it delivers?

Write to us, call us, let us know what you think about this hot topic.

Contact me at: or Tel. 020-8255 5007
We’ll publish a selection of responses in CCTV Image magazine and online.
Best regards,
Tom Reeve
Editorial Director
CCTV Media

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Post IFSEC update

So the dust has settled and IFSEC has been and gone but far from forgotten. The team at CCTV Media have enjoyed meeting many of you and we're all the better for learning about the new technologies and products in the market. One thing we did gain is a very definite reaction to Mike Newton (CEO at Dedicated Micros) video comments about IP (for those that haven't quite got it together with streaming video - you can read all about it in the latest edition of CCTV Image magazine). In our next issue we have an article coming up that will put forward a more positive case for IP - the debate continues. If you have a comment, then please do mail we want to know what you think. For the reaction so far you can take a look at our video coverage of IFSEC on
Moving on, many thanks are due from me to the numerous companies that took time to talk to Junco Films representative India Hamilton. It was great to introduce India to companies that are happy for their technology and products to be featured in Junco's 90 minute documentary which looks into security and surveillance and how this works with our human rights and the threat level faced in various territories globally. If you would like to learn more about the film and how you can be considered for involvement go ahead and email

If you have an interest in the Republic of Ireland keep your eyes on your inbox as today's the day we release our first enewsletter dealing specifically with ROI security matters. If you want to mail PR for consideration please forward to Should you not receive a copy of the news you can view it at and if you mail to we'll ensure going forward you gain a personalized copy at no cost.
Well I must continue with the many opportunities we have to follow up with from the show, let us have your feedback on any aspect of the industry as you see it and if we think it's a story, rest assured we'll apply the media element of our company name and we will deliver the news to our globally positioned community on your behalf!
There was an error in this gadget News Feed Headline Animator