A Brief History of Video Compression

Some of you who know me know that I used to write software for digital movie recording and playback, with some hardware assisted magic.  It's been a while since I've been active in that space, so I'm a little rusty when it comes to the recent history of compression standards for dealing with high quality digital video.

I ran across this article that does a nice job of summarizing the evolution and improvement of video compression over the last 10 to 15 years.  If I had to "bottom line" it, I'd say this: if you're using some kind of computer to watch movies and other video content, your best bet is to create H.264, and it's going to get even better pretty soon.  If you're using a set top box from your cable or sattelite provider, you're probably going with the older-and-less-efficient MPEG-2 standard, and you should write to them and tell them to hurry up and upgrade your set top box to be H.264-compatible.  It's in their best interest to do that in the long term; it'll just cost a bit of capital cost up front.  That's okay, they'll make that money back soon enough.


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