Understanding CCTV: M-JPEG vs MPEG-4 vs H.264?

The fith part of the case for H.264 by Mark Harraway, UK Country Manager

Q. Has the popularity of M-JPEG caused the CCTV sector to accept low frame rates as the norm? Is there any truth in the adage: “You don’t miss what you’ve never had.”?

I wouldn’t say that M-JPEG is more popular than MPEG4 or H.264. Rather, it’s just that it is an older and easier format and therefore more convenient to adopt.  But then I think the key to this is that when MPEG-4 was introduced, the classic scenario occurred in that those who didn’t offer it tried to frighten the industry by saying that as the B or P frames in MPEG weren’t “complete” frames, this would render the footage inadmissible in court on the grounds that it had been “tampered” with. It’s a similar scenario to so many vendors at this year’s IFSEC saying “Go hybrid!” My contention is that they are only taking this position as they don’t have a comprehensive IP solution and are fudging the issue.

What this has meant is that since M-JPEG makes big demands in both storage and bandwidth, frame rates have been sacrificed meaning that you could miss the crucial shot of a human face. By contrast, with H.264 you can now offer both high frame rate and high resolution very easily over the same bandwidth.  The issue of judicial admissibility of MPEG4 or H.264 has long been solved so I do see H.264 as the future of CCTV in general just as few would argue now that HD is the future of commercial television and movies.

Part 6 continues on Monday…

7 Responses to Understanding CCTV: M-JPEG vs MPEG-4 vs H.264?

  1. Old cctv designer says:

    For sure H.264 is better in terms of space.

    According to an IP Video SYstem Design Tool MPEG4 takes about 3 times less storage space. And with H.264 about 6-8 times less space in compare with MJPEG.

    But my concern is H.264 was not specially designed for goals of CCTV. So P or B frames still confuses many cctv designers.

    • controlware says:

      The cost savings are good and so the technology is beneficial for CCTV systems.

      Regarding the confusion of CCTV system designers its important that installers and integrators understand what they are doing when designing systems. I would advise any installer or integrator to seek advaice if they are unsure about a design. Often going to the manufacturer of a camera is of no help especially in open systems which integrate products and components from multiple manufacturers.

      This is where Controlware comes in with our value added services if you are designing a system and need some independent advice get in touch!

  2. Steve says:

    Whenever a codec offers “80% less” storage and bandwidth, this means that the image quality has to drop, because data has been removed. Any imaging expert will tell you that the higher the compression, the lower the quality. This is why it’s not viable to use LPR or any other analytical tool with H.264, because there is a lot of information missing in each frame. H.264 is no exception this rule. What H.264 does that is so clever, is that it looks good while streaming – but when you pause the image, the drop in video quality is noticeable.

  3. Carly Parker says:

    I am enquireing if you can use the DVr MPEG4 off of a UGA system?

  4. Mark Bottomley says:

    You suggest that the judicial admissibility of H.264 has been solved. Do you have any references to that? Particularly any North American references?


  5. controlware says:

    Hi Mark,

    We are not aware of any issues with H.264 video being used for evidential purposes and have provided many systems based on H.264. End users in many different sectors including the police are users.

    As far as the US goes we have one major government agency in the US that is using H.264. I have no sign off from them to name them publically though but they are a major government agency and its a large system with around 1,200 cameras over 9 odd sites.

    Kind Regards, Ben

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