MJPEG vs. H.264

Author: John Honovich, Published on Apr 17, 2009

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.

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

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.


Related Reports

Verkada, Silicon Valley VSaaS Startup, Targets Enterprise on Oct 19, 2017
Verkada says they are building an enterprise-class VSaaS offering, calling it "The new platform for video security". This is a departure from the...
Axis 'Sold Out' P3707-PVE Multi-Imager Tested on Oct 18, 2017
Axis faced significant product shortages over the summer. Perhaps the most notorious and significantly sold out model was the Axis P3707-PE 8MP...
Geovision GV-EDR2100 Tested Vs Hikvision on Oct 16, 2017
A number of ADI's top selling IP cameras are, at least surprisingly to us, from Geovision. We recently bought and tested the Geovision EDR2100...
Exacq M Series Low Cost NVR Tested on Oct 12, 2017
With recent cyber security issues hitting NVRs and cameras from low cost leaders Dahua and Hikvision, users are increasingly seeking alternatives...
Genetec Launches Streamvault Hardware Revamp on Oct 10, 2017
Genetec is launching a new series of hardware appliances, dubbed "Streamvault", with updated capabilities and design. These units will replace...
Last Chance October Camera Course Registration on Oct 05, 2017
This is the last chance to register for the October Camera Course. Register now. Learn video surveillance and get certified. IPVM provides live...
Deep Learning Startup Umbo Raises Prices 733% For Analytics on Oct 02, 2017
While the industry overall trend is racing to the bottom on price, deep learning startup Umbo is taking the alternative approach, raising prices on...
Geovision 4MP Super Low Cost Turret Tested (EBD-4700) on Sep 29, 2017
~$100 cameras, even for 4MP, are now expected by many dealers, as price cuts and ongoing sales have set this expectation. At the same time, many...
Integrator Camera Optimization Preferences on Sep 27, 2017
How do integrators make cameras 'better'? What settings or optimizations do they change? ~150 integrators told IPVM what they do. First, they...
Avigilon 'Blue' Cloud Entry Examined on Sep 19, 2017
Avigilon is moving to the cloud. The company announced their Avigilon Blue platform, designed to be a web-managed surveillance system, utilizing...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hikvision Access Control Tested on Oct 19, 2017
Hikvision aggressive pricing and marketing combined with generally reliable hardware and free software has made them a major player in video...
Verkada, Silicon Valley VSaaS Startup, Targets Enterprise on Oct 19, 2017
Verkada says they are building an enterprise-class VSaaS offering, calling it "The new platform for video security". This is a departure from the...
Exacq Unbreaks Avigilon Integration on Oct 18, 2017
For nearly 4 years, Exacq had broken and effectively blocked use with Avigilon cameras, as IPVM reported in January 2014. Now, Exacq has...
Search More Important Than Live Monitoring - Statistics on Oct 18, 2017
Search is overall more important than live monitoring to integrators, according to new IPVM statistics.  The key themes found in integrator...
Axis 'Sold Out' P3707-PVE Multi-Imager Tested on Oct 18, 2017
Axis faced significant product shortages over the summer. Perhaps the most notorious and significantly sold out model was the Axis P3707-PE 8MP...
Dahua Removes Auto Rebooting on Oct 17, 2017
For years, Dahua has automatically programmed its IP cameras to reboot weekly, a highly atypical and questionable practice. Following IPVM...
Deep Learning Tutorial For Video Surveillance on Oct 17, 2017
Deep learning is a growing buzzword within physical security and video surveillance. But what is 'deep learning'? In this tutorial, we explain...
Multipoint Lock Access Control Tutorial on Oct 17, 2017
Doors are notoriously weak at stopping entry, and money can be misspent on wrong locks that leave doors quite vulnerable. While closed and locked...
Buy From B&H, Ship Direct From ADI on Oct 16, 2017
B&H, one of the largest online sellers of video surveillance equipment to end users, regularly purchases their video surveillance equipment...
Competing Against Siemens on Oct 16, 2017
Siemens entered the integration business with 15,000+ customers, through their acquisition of Security Technologies Group in 2001. Since that time,...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact