posted by Thom Holwerda on Sun 23rd May 2010 09:41 UTC
IconNow that Google has opened up VP8, the big question is obviously how it'll hold up to H264. Of course, VP8 already wins by default because it's open source and royalty free, but that doesn't mean we should neglect the quality issue. Jan Ozer from StreamingMedia.com has put up an article comparing the two codecs, and concludes that the differences are negligible - in fact, only in some high-motion videos did H264 win out. As always, this is just one comparison and most certainly anything but conclusive. Update: Another comparison. I can't spot the difference, but then again, I'm no expert.

On2 once claimed that VP8 could deliver twice H264's quality at half the bandwith, and while that certainly isn't true, the codec is pretty much on par with H264 - according to this test, of course. "To set the table, Sorenson Media was kind enough to encode these comparison files for me to both H.264 and VP8 using their Squish encoding tool," Ozer writes, "They encoded a standard SD encoding test file that I've been using for years."

The results for low motion video are clear: there is absolutely no difference between the two competing codecs. In fact, Ozer notes that in some cases VP8 retains more detail than H264 did - but in all honesty, if Ozer hadn't pointed them out, I would've missed it. In high motion video, there are cases where H264 wins out, but once again, if Ozer hadn't pointed them out I wouldn't have noticed it.

If this rather crude test shows one thing, it's that VP8 is more than good enough. Add to this its royalty free nature and the strong industry backing it has already garnered, and we're looking at a winner. After Google's continuous stabs at Apple during the I/O conference, I'm convinced YouTube will switch to the new codec exclusively as soon as WebM support is added to Android (Gingerbread, Q4 2010) - if only to spite Apple.

It is important to note that when comparing Theora to H264, Ozer was pretty clear in declaring the latter the winner, so we're not looking at a biased test here. Ozer's Theora vs. H264 test was widely linked on the internet by the pro-MPEG-LA/H264 lobby, so it'll be interesting to see if they're going to do the same with this one.

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