An Overview of H.264 Video Codec

The H.264 video codec is a popular streaming standard that has been used for years because of its high efficiency and image quality. It was designed to be an open format that would work across all platforms, including mobile devices, to provide HD video quality with low bandwidth requirements.

This article discusses the basics and some of the more advanced features of the H.264 video codec.

What is H264 Codec?

H.264 or AVC – Advanced Video Coding is a digital video compression standard that uses a combination of lossy and lossless compression. It is the most advanced video codec available and is used in various applications, including streaming media, Blu-ray discs, and HDTV broadcasts. The H.264 video codec standard was developed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG).

How does the H.264 video codec work?

H.264 video codec uses block-oriented standards and motion-compensated algorithms to analyze and process images. H264 encoders perform prediction, transformation, and encoding to create bits in a bitstream. The encoder makes multiple macroblocks (16 x 16) in the entire sequence and divides them into small forecast blocks for transportation. When a block is inserted in the encoder, the code is regrouped to allow re-encoding of that block. H.264 codecs have varying profiles, e.g., encoding techniques in video encoding. The compression technique will vary according to the maximum bit rate of each code and its resolution. That’s why H264 is better than H265, as it uses more techniques to achieve high-quality video at a lower bit rate.

H.264 Video Codec

Benefits of H.264 Video Codec

H.264 offers two main benefits over other video codecs: improved compression efficiency and improved quality at lower bitrates.

Compression Efficiency

H.264 video codec is more efficient than other codecs because it uses a combination of inter-frame and intra-frame compression. Inter-frame compression-only looks at the differences between frames, while intra-frame compression encodes each frame independently. It means that H.264 can achieve better compression ratios than other codecs without sacrificing quality.


H.264 offers excellent video quality at lower bitrates, which is why it is used for streaming media and Blu-ray discs. When compared to other codecs, H.264 provides the same video quality at lower bitrates or better video quality at the same bitrate.

Advanced Features

In addition to its improved compression efficiency and quality, H.264 also offers many advanced features, including:

Scalability: H.264 is scalable, which means that it can be used for a variety of applications, from low-quality video conferencing to high-definition television broadcasts.

Error Resilience: H.264 is designed to be resilient to errors, such as those that occur when streaming video over the internet.

Multi-view Coding: H.264 can encode multiple views of a scene, such as those captured by multiple cameras, into a single bitstream.

Disadvantages of H264 Video Codec

There are a few disadvantages to the H264 video codec. It is a proprietary codec, so it is not an open standard. This means it is not as widely adopted as other codecs and may not be compatible with all devices and software. Another disadvantage is that it is a CPU-intensive codec, so it can tax your computer’s resources and may not be suitable for real-time encoding.

H.264 applications – When and Where to use?

HVC compression format enables data transmission over long distances using existing wires and infrastructure. This format is becoming increasingly popular due to its wide range of applications, including outside broadcast (OB vans), energy industries education, and travel drone video recording for environmental surveillance applications.

Is H264 better than H265?

The short answer is yes. H.264 is more efficient than H.265, which means it can achieve better compression ratios without sacrificing quality. Additionally, H.264 offers several advanced features, such as scalability and error resilience, that make it the preferred codec for various applications.

Let’s Wrap it Up

H.264 is a video codec that is used to compress video data to be transmitted or stored more efficiently. It is used in various applications, including Blu-ray Discs, digital television, and online video. H.264 offers many advantages over other codecs, including better compression ratios, reduced file sizes, and better image quality.

Despite these advantages, H.264 is not without its drawbacks. One of the biggest concerns with the codec is that it is patented and licensed by several companies. Users may have to pay royalties to use H.264-encoded video. Additionally, H.264 can be more computationally demanding than other codecs, leading to increased power consumption and slower processing speeds.

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