MJPEG vs. H.264by John Honovich, IPVM posted on Apr 17, 2009 About John Contact John
Recently, IQinVision releaed an article advocating benefits of MJPEG.
[Update Dec 2010: We conducted extensive testing comparing MJPEG and H.264. Read our Test Results of MJPEG vs H.264.]
While I found the article technically accurate, well written and worth reading, the nature of the application and its economics demand that MJPEG be almost always avoided. Since H.264 is hot right now, this is a popular claim to make. However, a discussion of this can help examine the economics and operational drivers driving this interest.
Jason's central claims are:
1. With moving cameras or images of high activity areas, MPEG4 and H.264 provide little bandwidth savings relative to MJPEG.
2. Proper network design requires factoring in worse case scenarios so you will need to dedicate the same amount of bandwidth whether or not you use MJPEG, MPEG4 or H.264.
3. MJPEG provides higher quality because of no intra-frame compression.
4. Unlike MJPEG, with MPEG-4 vendors deviate from standards, increasing potential integation costs.
My counterpoints are:
1. For most users, cameras usually have low or modest activity, translating into significant savings for MPEG-4 or H.264. Most cameras in the world are fixed. Most cameras have significant periods during the day when there is little or no motion (nights, weekends, etc.) Even within PTZs, PTZs are often left at a home position, or iterate over a series of pre-sets stopping for 5 - 10 seconds each.
2. Many, perhaps most organizations, do not set network bandwidth budgets for worst case scenarios. Sometimes, organizations don't want to pay the money for the extra capacity but sometimes it can't be done due to constraints of reutilizing existing infrastructure (very common in wireless networks). In other words, organizations generally trade-off infrequent pixelization for immediate cost savings. Maybe this is 'objectively' wrong but this is common.
2a. Jason does not discuss storage but storage is a HUGE economic driver in the move away from MJPEG. I have had a number of occasions where my DVR/NVR with a 1TB hard drive was only recording for 13 days. Why? I had forgot we recently integrated just a few megapixel cameras using MJPEG. Let's say we can save 1 Mb/s by switching from MJPEG to MPEG4. Over a two month period, for one camera, that is 650 GBs. It would cost you $300 to $600 to add that much storage for each MJPEG camera.
3. As for quality, the difference in quality is usually close enough that most customers are ok with it, especially for the savings.
4. The issue with deviation from standards is generally a one-time cost/problem that can be amortized by the manufacturer over many different customers. In the larger scheme of things, it's mainly a nuisance.
In sum, then, the economics of reducing network and storage costs are usually very significant budgetary and operational factors that drive purchasing decisions. With megapixel manufacturers starting to announce H.264 support, it will be interesting to see what IQinVision does.
Comment #1 by Jason Spielfogel posted on Apr 20, 2008
Comment #2 by John Honovich posted on Apr 20, 2008
Most Recent Industry Reports
ONVIF Mega Test on Apr 16, 2014
In this groundbreaking report, we share findings of in-depth ONVIF testing. ONVIF Real World Integration We tested 14 camera manufacturers with 5 VMSes, performing 70 total integrations. The cam...
7 Quizzes - Test Your Co-Workers on Apr 14, 2014
A major new offering, now IPVM members can take a series of 7 quizzes, plus they can assign them to their co-workers who are also IPVM members. Make sure you truly are on top of surveillance ...
Super Low Lux Minidome Tested on Apr 10, 2014
'Super' low light cameras have become increasingly common in box and full size cameras. However, no one we know has offered them in a minidome, the most common form factor for many users, valu...
Testing 'Megapixel' Analog Camera on Mar 26, 2014
Megapixel analog sounds like a contradiction in terms. 'Analog' by definition, or at least in common use, is constrained by 60+ year old NTSC / PAL specifications and cannot be 'megapixel.' Howeve...
Ranking 95 Surveillance Manufacturers Interest on Mar 24, 2014
IPVM has ranked interest levels in 95 surveillance manufacturers from most to least. These are the companies covered: Over 400 IPVM members selected which of these companies they were interested...
2014 Surveillance Test Results Guide Released on Mar 19, 2014
Inside, get the 50 page IPVM 2014 Surveillance Test Results Guide and register for the 1 hour live webinar. In the past year, IPVM has spent thousands of hours conducting over 75 tests, representi...
Testing Pelco SureVision 2.0 on Mar 17, 2014
Pelco's new SureVision 2.0 line promises superior low light and wide dynamic range capabilities, claiming "industry-leading image quality in the most difficult lighting conditions." But does it del...
IPVM Site Improvements Directory on Mar 15, 2014
IPVM continuously develops new features and improvements. This document will serve as a directory of those, like 'release notes' but with more color and commentary. 2014 Site Improvements Added N...
Shootout: Megapixel vs Analog Cameras on Mar 12, 2014
How much does resolution really make a difference? For those purchasing budget or entry level systems, what, if any gain, does one get for higher resolution? In this test report, we did head to he...
Announcing News Monitoring Service on Mar 11, 2014
Now get weekly alerts on 110+ security companies, including new information from their websites as well as articles and discussions on them. This is the most powerful way to stay informed on the co...