New MPEG-4 video codec to be ratified by year's end

Great news for MPEG-4 — Rob Koenen, President of the M4IF (MPEG-4 Industry Forum) and Chairman of the MPEG Requirements Group, is reporting that AVC will be ratified by year’s end.

MPEG-4’s current video codec (MPEG-4 Video) is roughly a generation behind proprietary, non-interoperable solutions. AVC (MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding) codecs will make MPEG-4’s video quality competitive with the latest proprietary offerings from Microsoft, Real Networks, and Sorenson Media. AVC (also known as “H.264”) was created by the group’s Joint Video Team, which represents a partnership between MPEG and International Telecommunications Union.

In a CNET’s story, Microsoft’s Jonathan Usher (a product manager in their Digital Media Division) claims that Windows Media Video 9 is twice as efficient as MPEG-4 Video. However, he’s comparing WMV9 to QuickTime 6’s Simple Profile implementation, which is the lowest common denominator of MPEG-4 video and offers relatively poor quality compared to other vendors’ Advanced Simple Profile codecs.

Jonathan goes on to say that it’s AVC’s increased processing demands could make it less competitive in certain applications. Of course the same is true of Windows Media Video 9, and of course AVC doesn’t replace MPEG-4’s original video codec (which will remain useful for low-complexity applications). Coincidentally, Microsoft is the only notable MPEG-4 holdout. Link

MPEG LA, the main licensing clearinghouse for MPEG-4 standards, has given companies a deadline of Friday to sumbit any patents they believe cover AVC. Hopefully this agressive deadline will prevent a repeat of the disasterous MPEG-4 Video licensing debacle, where licensing was finalized long after the standard was ratified. Link