Ogg Theora vs. H.264: head to head comparisons

2010 February 26
tags: ,
Posted by Trevor

Streaming video websites like YouTube face growing pressure from consumers to provide support for native standards-based Web video playback. The HTML5 video element provides the necessary functionality to build robust Web media players without having to depend on proprietary plugins, but the browser vendors have not been able to build a consensus around a video codec.

Although the h264 codec has gained dominance due to its excellent compression and broad support in the consumer electronics ecosystem, it is covered by patents that preclude broad royalty-free usage. Several browser vendors, including Opera and Mozilla, favor the Ogg Theora media codec, which is believed to be unencumbered by patents. Ogg may offer advantages from a licensing standpoint, but there are still many unanswered questions about its quality and suitability for Internet video streaming services.

Streaming media consultant Jan Ozer conducted a hands-on comparison of Ogg and h264 in order to shed some light on the relative difference in encoding quality and performance. He has published the results of his comparison, including screen captures and sample clips, in a report at the Streaming Learning Center.

In the videos and still images that he provides for comparison purposes, the h264 content has better color quality and higher detail than the Ogg Theora content. Comparing 468 kbps clips, one can detect a very noticeable difference in quality between the two codecs. Even the 1mbps Ogg Theora clips are not on par with the 468 kbps h264 clips. Based on the results, Ozer concludes that h264 will have the upper hand in many Internet streaming scenarios.

Image credit: Streaming Learning Center; click image for full-size

"These tests are very aggressive, but purposefully so—at very high data rates, all codecs look good. In particular, YouTube encodes their H.264 video at 2mbps, about 2.5X higher than my tests. So my conclusion isn’t that Ogg is a bad codec; it’s that producers seeking the optimal balance between data rate and quality will find H.264 superior," he wrote.

Click Here to Read the Full Article [via ArsTechnica.com]

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