Linked by Preston5 on Sat 27th Mar 2010 11:46 UTC
Multimedia, AV In January, we had read the various arguments regarding Mozilla's decision not to get an H.264 license. This has generated a lot of discussion about the future of video on the web. With Youtube, Dailymotion, Hulu and Vimeo having adopted H.264 for HD video, Mozilla and Opera should use the codecs installed on a user's system to determine what the browser can play, rather than force other vendors to adopt Ogg. Refusing to support a superior codec would be a disservice to your users in years to come. Why hold back the majority of your users because 2% of your users are on niche OSes?
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J. M.
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This comparison is quite useless. It does not really say anything.

Firstly, H.264 and Theora are formats, not encoders, and quality largely depends on the encoder. Even if you use a vastly superior format, you can still get a much worse result if you use a bad encoder. A crappy H.264 encoder can indeed give worse results than a good Theora encoder. And even if you use the best encoder for the format available, you can still get an extremely low-quality result, because good encoders are highly configurable and there are many settings that can totally destroy the quality (for example, in an H.264 encoder, you can turn off all advanced features that help the compression tremendously). So yes, it is perfectly possible to encode H.264 video with a vastly inferior quality/size ratio compared to a Theora video. What exactly does it say about the quality of the two formats? Nothing.

Secondly, re-encoding an already encoded H.264 video is not fair. Because the lossy H.264 compression already "cleaned up" the original video, that is, spatial and temporal details have been lost, which made the job easier for the Theora encoder.

Thirdly, compressibility is yet another factor. For example, you can encode H.264 video at 8 megabits per second, and it will look great. Especially if the video is highly compressible. So, then you re-encode the video to Theora using a bitrate of 6 megabits per second, and it will still look great. So what? Does it mean Theora is better, because it needs less bits per second for the same quality? Of course that's total nonsense. It only means 6 megabits per second is superfluous for most videos, and you could probably encode the original H.264 video at 1 megabit per second or less and it would still look great.

That's why all these "tests" showing how good Theora is are completely bogus and that's why all serious audio/video quality tests are made by encoding files from the same source, using encoder settings that are generally considered optimal. Only then you can make any meaningful comparison.

Edited 2010-03-28 07:34 UTC

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