MPEG-4 Part 2

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MPEG-4 Part 2, MPEG-4 Visual (formally ISO/IEC 14496-2[1]) is a video compression format developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). It belongs to the MPEG-4 ISO/IEC standards. It uses block-wise motion compensation and a discrete cosine transform (DCT), similar to previous standards such as MPEG-1 Part 2 and H.262/MPEG-2 Part 2.

Several popular codecs including DivX, Xvid, and Nero Digital implement this standard. MPEG-4 Part 10 defines a different format from MPEG-4 Part 2. MPEG-4 Part 10 is commonly referred to as H.264 or AVC, and was jointly developed by ITU-T and MPEG.

MPEG-4 Part 2 is H.263 compatible in the sense that a basic H.263 bitstream is correctly decoded by an MPEG-4 Video decoder. (MPEG-4 Video decoder is natively capable of decoding a basic form of H.263.)[2][3][4] In MPEG-4 Visual, there are two types of video object layers: the video object layer that provides full MPEG-4 functionality, and a reduced functionality video object layer, the video object layer with short headers (which provides bitstream compatibility with base-line H.263).[5] MPEG-4 Part 2 is partially based on ITU-T H.263.[6] The first MPEG-4 Video Verification Model (simulation and test model) used ITU-T H.263 coding tools together with shape coding.[7]


The MPEG-4 Visual format was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) committee. The specification was authored by Iranian-Swiss engineer Touradj Ebrahimi (later the president of JPEG) and Dutch engineer Caspar Horne.[5] The standard was developed using patents from over a dozen organizations, listed by MPEG LA in a patent pool. The majority of patents used for the MPEG-4 Visual format were from three Japanese companies: Mitsubishi Electric (255 patents), Hitachi (206 patents), and Panasonic (200 patents).[8] See Patent holders below for a full list of patent holders.


MPEG-4 Visual editions[9]
Edition Release date Latest amendment Standard Description
First edition 1999 2000 ISO/IEC 14496-2:1999[10]
Second edition 2001 2003 ISO/IEC 14496-2:2001[11]
Third edition 2004 2009[1] ISO/IEC 14496-2:2004[1]


To address various applications ranging from low-quality, low-resolution surveillance cameras to high definition TV broadcasting and DVDs, many video standards group features into profiles and levels. MPEG-4 Part 2 contains approximately 21 profiles.

The most commonly deployed profiles are the Advanced Simple Profile (ASP or AS Profile) and the Simple Profile (SP), which is a subset of the ASP.

Other profiles include the Advanced Coding Efficiency Profile (ACEP or ACE Profile), the Advanced Real Time Simple Profile (ARTSP or ARTS Profile), the Core Profile (CP), the Main Profile (MP), and the Simple Studio Profile (SStP or SSt Profile).

Most of the video compression schemes standardize the bitstream (and thus the decoder) leaving the encoder design to the individual implementations. Therefore, implementations for a particular profile (such as DivX or Nero Digital which are implementations of Advanced Simple Profile and Xvid that implements both profiles) are all technically identical on the decoder side. A point of comparison would be that an MP3 file can be played in any MP3 player, whether it was created through iTunes, Windows Media Player, LAME, or the common Fraunhofer encoder.

Simple Profile (SP)[edit]

The Simple Profile is mostly aimed for use in situations where low bit rate and low resolution are mandated by other conditions of the applications, like network bandwidth, device size etc. Examples are mobile phones, some low end video conferencing systems, electronic surveillance systems etc.


Level Max. buffer Max. bitrate Max. delay at max. bitrate Max. VP size Max. VOP size Max. decoder rate Max. framesize
@ 30 Hz @ 25 Hz @ 24 Hz @ 15 Hz @ 12.5 Hz
0 160 64 2.50 2,048 99 1,485 QCIF (176×144)
0b 320 128
1 160 64 128×96 144×96 160×96
2 640 128 5.00 4,096 396 5,940 256×192 304×192, 288×208 304×208 CIF (352×288)
3 384 1.66 8,192 11,880 CIF (352×288)
4a 1,280 4,000 0.32 16,384 1,200 36,000 VGA (640×480)
5 1,792 8,000 0.22 1,620 40,500 D1 NTSC (720×480) D1 PAL (720×576)
6 3,968 12,000 0.33 3,600 108,000 720p (1280x720)
Units kbits kbits/s seconds bits macroblocks macroblocks/s pixels

Advanced Simple Profile (ASP)[edit]

The Advanced Simple Profile was not included in the original standard. Its notable technical features relative to the Simple Profile, which is roughly similar to H.263, include:

The MPEG quantization and interlace support are designed in basically similar ways to the way it is found in MPEG-2 Part 2. The B picture support is designed in a basically similar way to the way it is found in MPEG-2 Part 2 and H.263v2.

The quarter-pixel motion compensation feature of ASP was innovative, and was later also included (in somewhat different forms) in later designs such as MPEG-4 Part 10, HEVC, VC-1 and VVC. Some implementations of MPEG-4 Part 2 omit support for this feature, because it has a significantly harmful effect on the speed of software decoders and it is not always beneficial for quality.

The global motion compensation feature is not actually supported in most implementations although the standard officially requires decoders to support it. Most encoders do not support it either, and some experts say that it does not ordinarily provide any benefit in compression. When used, ASP's global motion compensation has a large unfavorable impact on speed and adds considerable complexity to the implementation.


Level Max. buffer Max. bitrate Max. delay at max. bitrate Max. VP size Max. VOP size Max. decoder rate Max. framesize
@ 30 Hz @ 25 Hz @ 24 Hz @ 15 Hz @ 12.5 Hz
0 160 128 1.25 2,048 99 2,970 QCIF (176×144)
2 640 384 1.66 4,096 396 5,940 256×192 304×192, 288×208 304×208 CIF (352×288)
3 768 0.86 11,880 CIF (352×288)
3b 1,040 1,500 0.69
4 1,280 3,000 0.43 8,192 792 23,760 352×576, 704×288
5 1,792 8,000 0.22 16,384 1,620 48,600 720×576
Units kbits kbits/s seconds bits macroblocks macroblocks/s pixels

Simple Studio Profile (SStP)[edit]

The Simple Studio Profile has six levels, ranging from SDTV to 4K resolution.[12] SStP allows for up to 12-bit bit depth and up to 4:4:4 chroma subsampling,[12] using intra-frame coding only.[13] SStP is used by HDCAM SR.[12]


Levels with maximum property values[12]
Level Max. bit depth and
chroma subsampling
Max. resolution
and frame rate
Max. data rate
1 10-bit 4:2:2 SDTV 180
2 10-bit 4:2:2 1920×1080 30p/30i 600
3 12-bit 4:4:4 1920×1080 30p/30i 900
4 12-bit 4:4:4 2K×2K 30p 1,350
5 12-bit 4:4:4 4K×2K 30p 1,800
6 12-bit 4:4:4 4K×2K 60p 3,600

Patent holders[edit]

MPEG-4 Part 2 patents expired worldwide, with the exception of only Brazil. The last US patent expired on November 14, 2023.[14] The following organizations held patents for MPEG-4 Visual technology, as listed in the patent pool administered by MPEG LA.

Organization[15] Patents[8]
Mitsubishi Electric 255
Hitachi 206
Panasonic 200
Sun Patent Trust 125
Toshiba 96
Samsung Electronics 92
Sony 84
Philips 73
Sharp Corporation 44
Pantech 36
Robert Bosch GmbH 27
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone 24
GE Technology Development 23
CIF Licensing 20
Dolby 19
Telenor 19
Siemens AG 15
JVC Kenwood 14
Orange S.A. 14
LG Electronics 13
Fujitsu 11
ZTE 10
Google 9
BT Group 3
Calmare Therapeutics 2
Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. 1
Canon Inc. 1
Microsoft 1
Oki Electric Industry 1
Sanyo 1


MPEG-4 Part 2 has drawn some industry criticism. FFmpeg's maintainer Michael Niedermayer has criticised MPEG-4 for lacking an in-loop deblocking filter, GMC being too computationally intensive, and OBMC being defined but not allowed in any profiles among other things.[16] Microsoft's Ben Waggoner states "Microsoft (well before my time) went down the codec standard route before with MPEG-4 part 2, which turns out to be a profound disappointment across the industry - it didn't offer that much of a compression advantage over MPEG-2, and the protracted license agreement discussions scared off a lot of adoption. I was involved in many digital media projects that wouldn't even touch MPEG-4 in the late 1990s to early 2000s because there was going to be a 'content fee' that hadn't been fully defined yet."[17]

Popular software implementations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c ISO. "ISO/IEC 14496-2:2004 - Information technology -- Coding of audio-visual objects -- Part 2: Visual". ISO. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  2. ^ (2006-08-10). "Riding the Media Bits, End of the Ride?". Archived from the original on 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  3. ^ (2003-10-25). "Riding the Media Bits, Inside MPEG-4 - Part B". Archived from the original on 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  4. ^ ISO/IEC JTC1/SC29/WG11 (March 2000). "MPEG-4 Video - Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2010-03-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b Touradj Ebrahimi and Caspar Horne. "MPEG-4 Natural Video Coding - An overview". Archived from the original on 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  6. ^ (2009-09-06). "Riding the Media Bits, The development of MPEG-1 - Part A". Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  7. ^ Fernando Pereira. "MPEG-4: Why, What, How and When?". Archived from the original on 2011-10-18. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  8. ^ a b "MPEG-4 Visual - Patent List" (PDF). MPEG LA. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  9. ^ MPEG. "MPEG standards - Full list of standards developed or under development". Archived from the original on 2010-04-20. Retrieved 2009-10-31.
  10. ^ ISO. "ISO/IEC 14496-2:1999 - Information technology -- Coding of audio-visual objects -- Part 2: Visual". ISO. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  11. ^ ISO. "ISO/IEC 14496-2:2001 - Information technology -- Coding of audio-visual objects -- Part 2: Visual". ISO. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  12. ^ a b c d Yasuhiko Mikami; Hugo Gaggioni. "4K End-to-End HPA Technology Retreat 2010" (PDF). Sony. Retrieved 2012-11-28.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Caroline R. Arms; Carl Fleischhauer; Kate Murray (December 2011). "MPEG-4, Visual Coding, Simple Studio Profile". Sustainability of Digital Formats. Library of Congress. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  14. ^ "MPEG-4 Visual Patent List".
  15. ^ "Licensors Included in the MPEG-4 Visual Patent Portfolio License". MPEG LA. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  16. ^ Melanson, Mike. "15 reasons why MPEG4 sucks". Lair of the Multimedia Guru. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  17. ^ VC-1 and H264 - Page 2 - Doom9's Forum

External links[edit]