Understand Difference

Evolution of MPEG Standards: From MPEG-1 to MPEG-4

Introduction to MPEG Standards

If you have ever watched a video on your computer or television, then you have experienced the work of the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). Since the 1980s, MPEG has been developing digital audio and video compression standards that have revolutionized the way we view and listen to media.

Today, it is the most widely used standard for video compression and playback. In this article, we will discuss the history of MPEG and its development of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 standards.

We will also delve into the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as their applications.

Development of MPEG-1 and Its Limitations

The first MPEG standard, MPEG-1, was introduced in 1993. It was developed specifically for the storage and transmission of moving pictures and sound on digital storage media such as CDs. The main goal of the standard was to make it easier to transmit and store high-quality audio and video data, while using minimal storage space.

One of the primary limitations of the MPEG-1 standard was the lack of support for high-definition video. The standard was limited to resolutions of up to 352×240 pixels, which was not sufficient for modern high-definition video formats.

Additionally, the standard did not support a full range of colors, making it difficult to display photos and other graphical images. On the audio side, MPEG-1 was limited to two audio channels, unlike modern standards which support multiple channels.of MPEG-2 to Overcome MPEG-1 Limitations

To overcome the limitations of MPEG-1, MPEG-2 was introduced in 1995.

This new standard improved on the audio and video compression of MPEG-1 while also allowing for higher resolutions of up to 1080p and support for a wider range of colors. It also added support for multi-channel audio, up to 5.1 surround sound.

One of the key features of MPEG-2 was its ability to encode video using inter-frame compression techniques that allowed for better encoding efficiency. This made it possible to transmit high-quality video over low-bandwidth networks without loss of quality.

Furthermore, MPEG-2 was designed with hardware support in mind. This allowed manufacturers to implement the standard in hardware components such as DVD players and set-top boxes, leading to the widespread adoption of MPEG-2 as the video compression standard for digital television broadcasting.

Parts of the MPEG-2 Specification

The MPEG-2 specification is divided into several parts, each covering a specific aspect of the standard. Part 1 covers systems, while Part 2 covers video compression and Part 3 covers audio encoding.

Other parts of the specification cover software simulation, Intellectual Property Management, and compliance testing.

Applications of MPEG-2

One of the key applications of MPEG-2 is in DVD video. DVDs use MPEG-2 compression to store high-quality video and audio on a small disc.

This allowed for the development of portable optical media players that could play back high-quality video on-the-go. MPEG-2 is also widely used for digital television broadcasting.

The standard is used to compress and transmit television signals to households around the world. In addition, MPEG-2 has been used for various video formats, including Blu-ray discs, video on demand, and streaming video services.


In conclusion, MPEG standards have revolutionized the way we view and listen to media. The development of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 has significantly impacted the way we store, transmit and receive audio and video data.

MPEG-2 in particular, with its improved video and audio compression and support for high-definition video, has allowed for the widespread adoption of digital television broadcasting, DVD video and other video formats. Whether you are watching a movie on DVD or streaming video on your smartphone, MPEG standards continue to play an important role in the development and delivery of digital media.

MPEG-4 Standard

The introduction of MPEG-4 in 1999 brought about significant changes in the digital media landscape. Unlike earlier standards, MPEG-4 was developed to not only handle low bit-rate video communications but also to provide an all-encompassing multimedia coding standard for a wide range of applications.

Features of MPEG-4

One of the key features of MPEG-4 is its ability to handle a variety of media types, such as audio, 3D graphics, speech, and video. This standard provides support for a range of coding structures, including the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) that allows for 3D modeling.

MPEG-4 also introduced Digital Rights Management (DRM), which enables the protection of copyrighted material against piracy or unauthorized use. This feature ensures that only authorized persons can access the material, thereby safeguarding the rights of the copyright owner.

Furthermore, MPEG-4 introduced the concept of object-oriented composite files, which allow for the combination of different media types in a single container. This allows for greater flexibility in the development of multimedia applications.

Parts of the MPEG-4 Specification

The MPEG-4 specification is divided into several parts, each covering a specific aspect of the standard. Part 1 covers Visual, while Part 2 covers Audio.

Other parts of the specification cover Conformance testing, the Carriage of ISO/IEC 14496 contents over IP networks, Advanced Video Coding, Scene description and application engine, MP4 file format, and Streaming text format. The Visual part of the specification contains tools and algorithms for video compression, including the use of H.264, which is a more advanced version of the H.262 encoding used in MPEG-2.

The Audio part of the specification contains tools for digital audio coding, including the use of Advanced Audio Coding (AAC). On the other hand, the Carriage of ISO/IEC 14496 contents over IP networks part of the specification outlines the transport of MPEG-4 content via the Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

The Scene description and application engine part of the specification describes tools for the description and interactive manipulation of multimedia scenes.

Comparison Between MPEG-2 and MPEG-4

While MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 are both digital audio and video compression standards, they differ in several aspects.

Lossy Compression Techniques Used in Encoding

MPEG-2 uses the Discrete Cosine Transform (DCT) and Vector Quantization (VQ) techniques for video compression, while MPEG-4 uses a more advanced video-coding method referred to as Wavelet Compression. Wavelet compression is a more efficient, scalable and effective method of achieving higher compression ratios while maintaining good image quality compared to the DCT and VQ used by MPEG-2.

Additionally, MPEG-4 also applies the H.264 encoding technique which is an advancement in compression performance as compared to H.262 used in MPEG-2.

Compression Complexity and File Size

MPEG-4 compared to MPEG-2, has lower compression complexity and produces a lower file size with higher quality. Due to its advanced video compression and scalability options, users have the option of compressing media files to varying degrees, making it possible to achieve different file sizes that are more appropriate for different applications.

Application Fields

MPEG-2 is primarily used for network media transfers such as digital television broadcasting, DVDs, and other applications that require high image quality. In contrast, MPEG-4 is ideal for internet and mobile streaming and low bit-rate video communications.

MPEG-4 is also used for higher quality video streams and DVDs with smaller file sizes.


The introduction of MPEG-4 was a significant milestone in the field of digital media compression and coding. Its ability to handle and combine different media types, provide digital rights management, and offer advanced compression options has made it a popular standard for a wide range of multimedia applications.

Although MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 are both important standards, they are often used for different applications. Regardless of the choice of standard used, the goal remains the same: to provide high-quality digital media while minimizing storage and network bandwidth requirements.

In conclusion, the article has provided an informative overview of the MPEG standards, including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. The article explained the limitations of MPEG-1 and how MPEG-2 was developed to overcome these limitations.

Additionally, the article highlighted the features of MPEG-4, including its ability to handle various media types and application in low bit-rate video communications and digital rights management. Furthermore, the article compared MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, highlighting the differences in lossy compression techniques, compression complexity and file sizes, and the application fields.

Both standards have played a vital role in revolutionizing the way we store, transmit, and receive digital media. As technology continues to advance, new MPEG standards will undoubtedly emerge, ushering in new challenges and opportunities for digital media compression and coding.

Popular Posts