Difference Between MPEG4 and H264 and H263

MPEG4 vs H264 vs H263

MPEG-4 is a digital media compression standard developed by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) in cooperation with International Standards Organization (ISO). H.263 is a codec specified by the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) as a member of H.26x family. H.264 is a part of the MPEG-4 standard and is based on the H.263 Codec.


MPEG-4 is the latest standard defined by MPEG. It incorporates the features of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 with the newer industry technologies and features such as Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), 3D rendering, object-oriented composite files and facilitates the structure for externally specified Digital Rights Management. It was initiated as a standard for low bit-rate video communications, but later morphed into a comprehensive multimedia coding standard. MPEG is still a developing standard.

MPEG-4 Part 2 describes the visual aspects and forms the basis of the Advanced Simple Profile used by codecs integrated into software such as DivX, Xvid, Nero Digital, and 3ivx and by QuickTime 6. MPEG-4 Part 10 describes the video aspects of the standard. MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 or Advanced Video Coding used in the x264 encoder, Nero Digital AVC, and HD video media like Blu-ray Disc are based on this. Following is a summary of the Parts included in the specification of the standards.

• Part 1: Systems

• Part 2: Visual

• Part 3: Audio

• Part 4: Conformance testing

• Part 5: Reference software

• Part 6: Delivery Multimedia Integration Framework (DMIF)

• Part 7: Optimized reference software for coding of audio-visual objects

• Part 8: Carriage of ISO/IEC 14496 contents over IP networks

• Part 9: Reference hardware description

• Part 10: Advanced Video Coding (AVC)

• Part 11: Scene description and application engine

• Part 12: ISO base media file format

• Part 13: Intellectual Property Management and Protection (IPMP) Extensions

• Part 14: MP4 file format

• Part 15: Advanced Video Coding (AVC) file format

• Part 16: Animation Framework eXtension (AFX)

• Part 17: Streaming text format

• Part 18: Font compression and streaming

• Part 19: Synthesized texture stream

• Part 20: Lightweight Application Scene Representation (LASeR) and Simple Aggregation Format (SAF)

• Part 21: MPEG-J Graphics Framework eXtensions (GFX)

• Part 22: Open Font Format

• Part 23: Symbolic Music Representation (SMR)

• Part 24: Audio and systems interaction

• Part 25: 3D Graphics Compression Model

• Part 26: Audio Conformance

• Part 27: 3D Graphics conformance

• Part 28: Composite font representation

• Part 29: Web video coding

• Part 30: Timed text and other visual overlays in ISO base media file format

Parts 29 and 30 are currently under development.

MPEG-4 provides DVD quality video, but consumes a lower bit rate; therefore, it’s feasible to transfer digital video streams over computer networks.


H.263 is a video compression standard developed by Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) in 1996 as an advancement in the H26x family. It was intended for low bitrate videoconferencing functionalities.

Before H.264, much of the streaming content available on the internet was based on the H.263 codec. H.263 is also used in IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), and transparent end-to-end Packet-switched Streaming Service. It is also used in the 3gp file container designed for mobile devices.

Since its initial release in 1996, several versions were released, and they are H.263v2 (H.263+) and H.263v3 (H.263++) along with Annex X

H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10 / AVC)

H.264 is the codec specified in Part 10 of MPEG-4 standard, also known as Advanced Video Coding (AVC). It is one of the most commonly used codecs for recoding, compression, and distribution of the HD video. H.264 is based on the H.263 codec. H264 was developed with the goal of improving the video quality while reducing bitrate compared to the earlier MPEG codecs such as MPEG-2 H.262 and H.263. It is also network friendlier and simpler in profile configuration than the previous codecs.

H.264 facilitates a broad range of applications such as transmission of HDTV programs at twice the efficiency of MPEG2, ability to store good quality lengthy videos (approx. 2hrs) on a normal red laser DVD disc etc. It serves as the basis for advancing the personal video recorder (PVR) technology to high definition video and increasing the allowable program storage capacity. The handheld cameras can be designed to record HD video and video programming in mobile devices can be provided with CIF quality.

H.264 has three main types of profiles; baseline, main, and extended profiles. Baseline profile is used for conversational services such as videoconferencing and mobile video. Main profile is used for broadcast methods such as HDTV. Extended is used for video streaming purposes.

MPEG-4 vs H264, H264 vs H263

• MPEG-4 is a digital media compression standard while H.264 is a component of the standard specifying digital video compression. H.263 is the predecessor to H.264, and the basis for the H.264 codec.

• MPEG-4 is developed by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) while H.263 was developed by Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG).

• H.263 was developed for low bitrate video while H.264 can encode both low and high quality videos successfully. Both codecs can be used for streaming purposes; however, H.264 has replaced the older H.263 and now H.263 is considered a legacy codec.