Video encoding standard

MPEG-4 is a group of international standards for the compression of digital audio and visual data, multimedia systems, and file storage formats. It was originally introduced in late 1998 as a group of audio and video coding formats and related technology agreed upon by the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC29/WG11) under the formal standard ISO/IEC 14496 Coding of audio-visual objects. Uses of MPEG-4 include compression of audiovisual data for Internet video and CD distribution, voice (telephone, videophone) and broadcast television applications. The MPEG-4 standard was developed by a group led by Touradj Ebrahimi (later the JPEG president) and Fernando Pereira.[1]


MPEG-4 absorbs many of the features of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 and other related standards, adding new features such as (extended) VRML support for 3D rendering, object-oriented composite files (including audio, video and VRML objects), support for externally specified Digital Rights Management and various types of interactivity. AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) was standardized as an adjunct to MPEG-2 (as Part 1) before MPEG-4 was issued.

MPEG-4 is still an evolving standard and is divided into a number of parts. Companies promoting MPEG-4 compatibility do not always clearly state which "part" level compatibility they are referring to. The key parts to be aware of are MPEG-4 Part 2 (including Advanced Simple Profile, used by codecs such as DivX, Xvid, Nero Digital and 3ivx and by QuickTime 6) and MPEG-4 part 10 (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 or Advanced Video Coding, used by the x264 encoder, Nero Digital AVC, QuickTime 7, and high-definition video media like Blu-ray Disc).

Most of the features included in MPEG-4 are left to individual developers to decide whether or not to implement. This means that there are probably no complete implementations of the entire MPEG-4 set of standards. To deal with this, the standard includes the concept of "profiles" and "levels", allowing a specific set of capabilities to be defined in a manner appropriate for a subset of applications.

Initially, MPEG-4 was aimed primarily at low-bit-rate video communications; however, its scope as a multimedia coding standard was later expanded. MPEG-4 is efficient across a variety of bit rates ranging from a few kilobits per second to tens of megabits per second. MPEG-4 provides the following functions:

  • Improved coding efficiency over MPEG-2[2]
  • Ability to encode mixed media data (video, audio, speech)
  • Error resilience to enable robust transmission
  • Ability to interact with the audio-visual scene generated at the receiver


MPEG-4 provides a series of technologies for developers, for various service-providers and for end users:

  • MPEG-4 enables different software and hardware developers to create multimedia objects possessing better abilities of adaptability and flexibility to improve the quality of such services and technologies as digital television, animation graphics, the World Wide Web and their extensions.
  • Data network providers can use MPEG-4 for data transparency. With the help of standard procedures, MPEG-4 data can be interpreted and transformed into other signal types compatible with any available network.
  • The MPEG-4 format provides end users with a wide range of interaction with various animated objects.
  • Standardized Digital Rights Management signaling, otherwise known in the MPEG community as Intellectual Property Management and Protection (IPMP).

The MPEG-4 format can perform various functions, among which might be the following:

  • Multiplexes and synchronizes data, associated with media objects, in such a way that they can be efficiently transported further via network channels.
  • Interaction with the audio-visual scene, which is formed on the side of the receiver.

Profiles and Levels

MPEG-4 provides a large and rich set of tools for encoding.[vague] Subsets of the MPEG-4 tool sets have been provided for use in specific applications.[vague] These subsets, called 'Profiles', limit the size of the tool set a decoder is required to implement.[3] In order to restrict computational complexity, one or more 'Levels' are set for each Profile.[3] A Profile and Level combination allows:[3]

  • A codec builder to implement only the subset of the standard needed, while maintaining interworking with other MPEG-4 devices that implement the same combination.[3]
  • Checking whether MPEG-4 devices comply with the standard, referred to as conformance testing.[3]

MPEG-4 Parts

MPEG-4 consists of several standards—termed "parts"—including the following (each part covers a certain aspect of the whole specification):

More information Part, Number ...

Profiles are also defined within the individual "parts", so an implementation of a part is ordinarily not an implementation of an entire part.

MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-7 and MPEG-21 are other suites of MPEG standards.


MPEG-4 contains patented technologies, the use of which requires licensing in countries that acknowledge software algorithm patents. Over two dozen companies claim to have patents covering MPEG-4. MPEG LA[62] licenses patents required for MPEG-4 Part 2 Visual from a wide range of companies (audio is licensed separately) and lists all of its licensors and licensees on the site. New licenses for MPEG-4 System patents are under development[63] and no new licenses are being offered while holders of its old MPEG-4 Systems license are still covered under the terms of that license for the patents listed (MPEG LA – Patent List).

The majority of patents used for the MPEG-4 Visual format are held by three Japanese companies: Mitsubishi Electric (255 patents), Hitachi (206 patents), and Panasonic (200 patents).

See also


  1. Ebrahimi, Touradj; Pereira, Fernando (2002). The MPEG-4 Book. Prentice Hall Professional. ISBN 9780130616210.
  2. Wiegand, T; Sullican, G J; Bjontegaard, G; Luthra, A (2003). "Overview of the H.264/AVC video coding standard". IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems for Video Technology. 13 (7): 560–576. doi:10.1109/TCSVT.2003.815165.
  3. MacKie, David; Singer, David; Meer, Jan Van der; Swaminathan, Viswanathan; Gentric, Philippe (December 2003), RFC 3640, IETF, p. 31.
  4. MPEG. "MPEG standards – Full list of standards developed or under development". Chiariglione. Archived from the original on 2010-04-20. Retrieved 2010-02-09.
  5. ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29 (2009-11-09). "Programme of Work – MPEG-4 (Coding of audio-visual objects)". Archived from the original on 2013-12-31. Retrieved 2009-11-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. WG11 (MPEG) (March 2002). "Overview of the MPEG-4 Standard". Retrieved 2010-04-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. WG11 (1997-11-21), Text for CD 14496-1 Systems (MS Word .doc), retrieved 2010-04-11{{citation}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. "MPEG Systems (1-2-4-7) FAQ, Version 17.0". July 2001. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  9. "MPEG-J White Paper". July 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  10. MPEG (March 2002), FPDAM ISO/IEC 14496-1:2001 / AMD3 (Final Proposed Draft Amendment), archived from the original (MS Word .doc) on 2014-05-12, retrieved 2010-08-01
  11. "MPEG-4 IPMPX white paper". MPEG. July 2005. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  12. "MPEG Intellectual Property Management and Protection". MPEG. April 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  13. MPEG-4 IPMP Extension – For Interoperable Protection of Multimedia Content (PDF), 2004, archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-18, retrieved 2010-08-01
  14. "MPEG Registration Authority – IPMP". MPEG RA International Agency (CISAC). Archived from the original on 2007-06-16. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  15. "MPEG RA – FAQ IPMP". MPEG RA International Agency (CISAC). Retrieved 2010-08-01.[permanent dead link]
  16. "Intellectual Property Management and Protection Registration Authority". CISAC. 2004-12-05. Archived from the original on 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  17. Chiariglione, Leonardo (2003), Digital media: Can content, business and users coexist?, Torino, IT: Telecom Italia Lab, archived from the original on 2011-07-25, retrieved 2010-08-01
  18. "MPEG-4 LASeR white paper". July 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  19. "MPEG-4 Systems MPEG-J". July 2001. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  20. "MPEG-J GFX white paper". July 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  21. ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29/WG 11 (July 2008). "ISO/IEC 14496-22 "Open Font Format"". Chiariglione. Retrieved 2010-02-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  22. "MPEG Licensing Authority – MPEG-4 Visual: Introduction". Archived from the original on 2018-06-26. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
  23. "MPEG Licensing Authority – MPEG-4 Systems: Introduction". Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2011-01-07.

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