Friday, May 06, 2005

QuickTime 7 and the real power of H.264

In previous articles we talked about the hardware requirements of QuickTime 7 for H.264 HD. H.264's implications for high definition content are very exciting, but perhaps not quite as exciting as its implications for web delivery of lower resolution content.

Behold the power of H.264 in QuickTime 7:



This image is a screen capture of a QuickTime 7 stream of CNBC's report on Tiger. What's interesting is the fact that it's a 640x480 stream with a high frame rate, with a bit rate of only 676 Kbps.

Contrast this to what QuickTime 6 users get:



Now, the bitrate of this clip is approximately 30% lower than the H.264 clip, but still, even at the same bitrate it would be extremely difficult for any QuickTime 6 codec to achieve anywhere near to close the quality of the H.264 clip with the same resolution and frame rate.

It's fortunate for Apple that the iPod and iTunes are so popular, since every installation of iTunes includes QuickTime. I look forward to when QuickTime 7 for Windows is released. Once that happens, the iPod will mean a big boost for the adoption of H.264, which I hope translates into a quick transition to a time when video streams on the internet are actually enjoyable to watch.

5 comments:

micmoo said...

has anyone compared the quality of H.264 and Windows Media's best efforts? From the last web reviews of QT6, DIVX (i believe) and WinMedia, QT got pretty stomped in image quality vs. file size. I bet we are doing better now...

Anonymous said...

I wonder where they got the QT streaming video.

CNBC only support Windows Media Player.

Scott said...

Wow! Do the publishers have to do anything special for the increased quality, or do you think we'll be seeing more of the same?

Eug said...

micmoo,

The best quality WMV9/VC-1 is supposedly on par with the best quality QT H.264. Both require lots of processing power to decode though.

For this reason, I suspect that 640x480 H.264 @ 30 fps will prove problematic for users with older machines.


scott,

I think we'll be see a LOT more of the same, but because of the reasons mentioned above, I think a lot of H.264 web content will (like now) offer a choice of one of multiple resolutions for the video streams. Lower resolutions will allow people with slower computers to be able to adequately decode the videos. Lower resolution streams will also save on bandwidth requirements, for those on dialup or whatever.

Jacken said...

I tried out H.264, and I think it's great. I could double the size of the video with the same file size, and the quality is amazing. Check it out here.