Saturday, June 7, 2008

Jan Ozer Says Microsoft Should Embrace H.264

Streaming media author and encoding expert Jan Ozer posted a commentary on yesterday on why Microsoft should consider adding H.264 playback to Silverlight and/or Windows Media player and drop the continued development of Microsoft's VC-1 video codec . He said that there was a major buzz about this at Streaming Media East and thought it made a lot of sense but it turned out to be only a rumor that Microsoft has adamantly denied.

Jan Ozer presents a compelling case on why Microsoft should adopt H.264 and offers the following:
  1. In all his codec quality tests since 2006, VC-1 has rated last far below H.264 and on2's VP6 codec. You can look at some of the results in the presentation he gave at Streaming Media East available here. He also tested CPU utilization and found that at 720p the H.264 Baseline profile still out performed VC-1.
  2. Having a single standard like H.264 within the mobile market will help it thrive best and help lower overall costs for video-enabled phones. As for streaming, he asked, "Since VC-1 will likely fail in the device market, why continue to push in streaming? All this does is force publishers seeking to stream to both computers and devices (like NBC and the upcoming Olympics) to encode using two different codecs, needlessly increasing production costs. Since video playback in the device market is currently scattered among H.264, Flash Lite, and WMV, supporting multiple codecs is necessary today, but should it be in the future?"
  3. He says that Silverlight would also prosper by adding H.264 support and it would be a shame to lock it into a technology that doesn't even match the quality of the two Flash codecs. It's his opinion that the Microsoft would score major market points by adopting an open standard like H.264.
  4. His last point speaks to the entire video ecosystem which would benefit from one standard. He says, "Agreeing on a single codec for all streaming—computer and device—would simplify life for consumers and producers alike, and advance the streaming market."
Dan Rayburn also talked about this on his blog which included a comment by Philip Hodgetts who said,

" Despite the denials, it seems like they may be doing it anyway. Microsoft evangelist Ben Waggoner linked to this article today:

"...The IIS 7.0 Media Pack supports all media file types, including WMV, FLV, and MP4,..."and
"Built-in support for ASF, AVI, FLV, M4V, MOV, MP3, MP4, RM, RMVB, WMA, WMV..." Seems to suggest a tectonic shift in the standardization of media delivery."

Who didn't think this was going to be a big year for H.264?

On a related subjected, if you are a streaming media producer or online video publisher be sure to check Jan Ozer's mixed media publication, Critical Skills for Streaming Producers, available as a DVD disc in the form of a 340-page PDF file in book form, It's an incredible resource that covers all the phases of production and encoding complete extensive tutorials, bookmarks, videos and screencams. I did a promo of it here and I'll be sharing my review of it on this blog sometime soon.

I've learned a lot from reading Jan's articles in the various industry publications of the years and I want to extend my personal thanks to him for all his knowledge sharing. You rock Jan!