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H.264 vs MJPEG - Quality and Bandwidth Tested

by John Honovich, IPVM posted on Jul 28, 2010 About John Contact John

Encoding video optimally is critical for IP video surveillance systems. Should you choose H.264 or MJPEG? While industry momentum certainly favors H.264, when and how to best use H.264 are important questions.

We believe the 3 key questions in considering H.264 vs MJPEG are:

  • How much bandwidth savings does H.264 provide over MJPEG?
  • What type of image quality differences can you expect between H.264 and MJPEG?
  • What differences in computing load will you experience between H.264 and MJPEG?

This report provides our results and recommendations on the first two questions - bandwidth and image quality.From our tests, we recommend the following 3 key criteria to understand H.26/MJPEG's impact on quality and bandwidth:

  • Determine the complexity of the scene being captured/recorded
  • Determine the streaming mode / control of the camera being used
  • Determine the ratio of total frames to I frames (for H.264)

The tests reveal no magic numbers - the answer is not 80% bandwidth savings or 10% less quality (or any other single value for X or Y). While H.264 generally reduces bandwidth consumption significantly, it depends on multiple factors (including complexity, streaming mode, frame rate and i frame rate). VBR vs CBR selection is especially important, having a especially large impact on use and performance. Finally, while H.264 can deliver the same visible image quality as MJPEG, depending on the settings you use (especially streaming mode), you can easily generate worse quality.

Inside our premium report, we examine and explain each of these elements in-depth with a series of sample videos and tutorial video screencasts. The video introduction below overviews the approach we took:

Premium members should allocate 1-3 hours to read the full report

The complete report is available only to PRO Members.
Inside the Pro Section

Premium members may access the full report including:

  • Explanation of encoding basics and key technology issues
  • Extensive examination of test results on multiple cameras with multiple settings and scenes
  • In-depth analysis on the 3 key criteria to consider including focus on CBR vs VBR Tradeoff
  • Demonstration and use of a stream analyzer to show inner workings of video streaming
  • 5 video screencasts that show key issues in action

Log in to read this IPVM research.
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IPVM does original testing and research that is funded by member's payment enabling up to offer the most independent, accurate and in-depth information in the industry.

Preface:

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Criteria 1: Determine the complexity of the scene being captured/recorded

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Criteria 2: Determine the streaming mode / control of the camera being used

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Should You Use CBR or VBR?

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Criteria 3: Determine the ratio of total frames to I frames

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Sample Performance With Different Setting Combinations Used

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Scene Complexity Tradeoffs

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I Frame Rate Tradeoffs

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Frame Rate Tradeoffs

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CBR vs VBR Tradeoffs
CBR 2Mbps 30fps outdoor daytime - ** **** ********, *.*** ********* *** *.** ****. ** ********, ***** ********* *********** *** ** ****, * ** **********. *.*** ********* ******* *** **%. *******, *,.*** ****** ********* ***** ****** *********** ******** ** *** ***** ******.
CBR 3Mbps 30fps outdoor daytime - ** **** ********, *.*** ********* *** *.* ****. *********** ** ** *** **** ****** ***** ********, ***** * ** **********, **% ********* *******. ********* ** *** ******** ******** ** *****, ***** ******* *** ************* ******** *** ******* *** ******* ******* ** *****.
VBR 30fps outdoor daytime - ** **** ********, *.*** ********* *** *.** ****. ** ********, ***** ********* *** **. *.*** ********* ******* *** **%. *.*** ****** ******* ********* ** *********** ******** ** *****.





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