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H.264 Video Prepares MPEG-4 For Prime Time

Broadcasters around the world are moving away from tape-based digital acquisition to disk-based digital acquisition, editing, and transmission systems. As they make this shift, MPEG-4 system vendors’ products can gain significant market share advantage against MPEG-2 for transmission, but the speed of the adoption depends on several factors. De-mystifying H.264 and its availability as a codec within the MPEG-4 format will have a positive impact on MPEG-4’s growth.

After years of hype, the rubber is meeting the road with MPEG-4. One of the leading MPEG-4 vendors, iVast, has shifted its focus from the domestic US market to what it describes as the "more promising overseas markets." Until the company tests this transition strategy, manufacturers and customers can only speculate on the outcome.

A careful analysis of customer education, technology stability and budgetary/adoption cycles is helpful to predict if, how, and when MPEG-4’s financial forecasts will be met.

Customer education is certainly a hurdle that many streaming and rich media technologies face, especially convergence products. Despite numerous articles and books on the subject, MPEG-4 remains somewhat misunderstood by potential users and solution buyers. When the MPEG-4 standard was first announced, a few articles made mention of its overall capability, including interactivity, timecode, and the standard’s inherent flexibility to allow future video and audio codecs to be "plugged in" to an MPEG-4 system.

Unfortunately, much of the information on MPEG-4’s system capability has been lost to the general user. And, earlier MPEG-4 implementations did not offer a key ingredient: H.264 for video encoding. The introduction of H.264 will require the industry to untangle many myths and confusion associated with previous labels such as MPEG-4 part 10, H.26L, and AVC. Discussion of the quality differences and usage models for H.264 has also muddled the dialog and delayed decision makers.

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