Streaming Media Producer by Jan Ozer
It's time for an H.264 tune-up. Lean how choose the right encoding tool and optimize H.264 encodes for ideal quality and device compatibility.
H.264 is the only compression technology that plays on all computers, mobile devices, and OTT players. This makes producing high-quality H.264 files compatible with your target playback devices an essential skill. Helping you acquire and/ or polish this skill is the focus of this article.
We’ll start with the compatibility element, since if the file won’t play on your target devices, it really doesn’t matter how good the quality is. Then we’ll tackle the resolution, frame rate, and data rate of your encoded file, since if you get these wrong, fussing with the H.264 encoding parameters of your file also won’t matter. Then we’ll cover choosing the right encoding tool and H.264 codec and how to quickly tune x264 encoding parameters for an optimal quality file.
The most fundamental H.264-related encoding parameters are profiles and levels. Briefly, the profile controls which encoding algorithms and techniques are used when producing the encoded file. The Baseline profile produces a file that can be played back on devices with minimal CPU and memory, while the High profile uses the most advanced techniques and requires a more powerful playback platform. Most encoding tools provide a simple control for choosing the profile, such as that shown in Figure 1 (from Telestream Episode).
Profiles were established in the H.264 standard to allow device manufacturers to support H.264 playback with an inexpensive, power-efficient configuration, such as that used in the original video-capable iPods, which could only play H.264 video encoded using the Baseline profile. At the other end of the spectrum, computers manufactured in the last 5 or 6 years and all OTT devices can play video encoded using the High profile. read more...