mpeg2 vs h.264: best for archival purposes?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by psingh01, Sep 22, 2009.

  1. psingh01 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2004
    #1
    First off I don't really know much about digital video or editing. My experience revolves around recording sporting events on my tv tuner and picking out the highlights to post on youtube or cutting out commercials and saving the file on a big old hard drive for later enjoyment.

    I've used different formats in the past to save the files including some like the vcr format of the old ATI tv tuners. I quickly learned I couldn't play these files anywhere else and went back and converted to mpeg2 which seemed like a good enough standard format to me.

    Now I'm recording in games in HD and the mpeg2 files are up in the 20-30GB range. I have an HP MediaSmart server which automatically converts to H.264 files. I'm wondering if I should just dump my mpeg2 files once they are converted.

    Benefit of the H.264 file seems to be slightly smaller file size. But with cheap storage prices this might not matter so much. No more "interlaced" looking video. Apparently it's better for streaming to PS3 and other types of devices. I just watch them on my computer so I don't really care. It seems to take a while to convert to H.264 but I let my HP home server do it so it can take 20 hrs and won't affect me.

    Benefit of mpeg2? I can edit pretty quickly in mpegstreamclip....what can I use for H.264 files? It's the same format as the source (right?) so I haven't lost any "quality". This is probably the biggest one for me. I don't want to keep the photograph and throw away the negative if you get the analogy.

    Would I be losing any flexibility by moving to H.264 format? If 5-10 years from now there is a new/better format would I be kicking myself for dumping the mpeg2 files?

    Overall I'm trying to simplify my archive and not have so many different formats cause finding the proper codec in the future can be a problem.
     
  2. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location:
    USA
    #2
    Neither MPEG-2 nor H.264 are editable formats. To edit video stored in these formats, it must be RIPped into an editable format. If you want to archive your video, then you should save it in the original format.
     
  3. DrewIGR macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    #3
    Actually H.264 is editable with FCP and a few other editors. The problem with H.264 is that it is extremely heavy as far a processor intensity goes. I would recommend storing it like MisterMe stated, in the original format. If you don't know what that is, than I would recommend DV Compression for any archival footage. Not only is it going to be editable with most systems, but it will preserve the quality better than any of the other highly compressed formats. It will take up more HD space, but externals are so cheap now days that it is absolutely worth the investment.

    As far as the original question goes though, H.264 is more lossless than mpeg2, and will create smaller file sizes. It will be around for a while as well so you shouldn't have any problems deleting the mpeg2 files after conversion.
     
  4. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #4
    I don't think lossless means what you think it means.

    H.264 performs better at low bitrates, this is true. It is not higher quality in a way approaching lossless (no quality loss from original).

    Something cannot be more or less lossless. Lossless is a binary distinction - it is or is not. That's why they don't talk about bitrate much with lossless audio codecs. They just call them lossless and leave it at that.

    MPEG-2 is usually used in Blu-rays where they have the space to allow extremely high quality video compression, because H.264 does not perform better at high bitrates - MPEG-2 excels there and has done so for a long time.


    H.264 is editable in Final Cut, as is anything shunted into a quicktime compatible format. But what MisterMe means is a format actually intended for editing, with proper timecode, metadata, bundled audio tracks, and not needing a render all the time.

    Neither is compressing back to DV a suitable answer for the problem, because it won't preserve the quality better. Original will preserve it best. It will be properly editable, as DV is an editing format.

    He could compress to H.264 and make smaller file sizes only by compressing at a lower bitrate, but the MPEG-2 he's got is probably just fine. It's not the same as the source, because digital TV broadcasts are actually MPEG-2. H.264, or AVC, or MPEG-4 part 10 (all different names for it) is a completely different format. Since MPEG-2 is a venerable, standard format which is as usable now as it was 15 years ago, I wouldn't worry about it becoming obsolete. There may well be a new format in 5-10 years, but you probably won't care one way or the other.

    OP, keep your original format. If you really want to get gung-ho about preservation and not worry about using space, start archiving onto Blu-rays. They're down to $2.10 per 25 GB disc if you know where to look. Or start buying 1 TB HDDs cheaply.

    Hope that clears things up a little.
     
  5. DrewIGR macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    #5
    You are correct. I didn't read the post as deeply as I should have. DV compression is recommended as far as storing and archiving home movies and similar, though if you are pulling from an Mpeg2 file, re-coding it will not be productive. ...Unless he wants to edit it.

    I'm not sure you know what lossless means in the production world. As far as "lossless" is concerned with video, any compression is a lossy compression. However, in this biz we consider lossless to mean "visually lossless" seeing as how you cannot shoot "lossless" on ANY camera aside from film (only because it is the standard at which anything digital is compared, and even film experiences compression in DI) having to preface the term with "visually" becomes a bit redundant. Even cameras that shoot RGB 4:4:4 go through in camera compression between the sensor and data recording. Audio is a completely different animal.

    H264 is more "visually lossless" than mpeg2, but if mpeg2 is your source file then yes, it is pointless to convert. I apologize, for again, I did not read the thread as deeply as I should have. However, if I were to take footage I've shot on the RED One for example and needed to export a trailer or feature onto blueray from RED's RAW codec (which yes, it is visually "lossless", but highly compressed) I would hands down choose H264 as it will be visually more pleasing than mpeg2, and at a smaller file size. We could get into bitrates etc, but in the end one codec is without question more efficient than the other as it can yield better results with proper gamma settings with low bitrates than the other with high bitrates, and we both know what that is.

    And as far as Blue ray being Mpeg2, that isn't entirely correct. Early Blue ray discs were Mpeg2, however the large majority of recent titles(and I'm talking for the last year and a half) have been released in H264, AVCHD, and Mpeg4 compression, and the latter 3 are virtually the same codec with different names and a few very small differences. All four formats are supported by Blue-ray tech but since mpeg2 is not nearly as efficient as the other 3 formats it has been considered the red-headed step child of the group. Looking at the algorithms that sit at the foundation of these codecs it is clear that Mpeg2 is much more primitive, though less processor intensive. Not to count it out completely since DVD's are, and will always be recorded in this format, it is also the grandfather that helped to usher in these newer higher compressed but more visually lossless codecs. Its really apples to apples at the end of the day if you are simply trying to compare images.

    My personal take however, is that if you want to be able to edit your video and those are the only two codecs that you are willing to work with, go with H264 as it is much more widely supported in NLE's. If you would like to just archive your footage and encode it for an edit later, leave it as mpeg2. Again, Personally I would compress it as DV for editing, since DV is editable in any NLE. It won't improve the visual quality at all, but again, it is editable.

    TheStrudel is right about storage. I would invest in external drives (750gig is the sweet spot for performance and life) and recordable bluerays shelf lives are still questionable at this point, though a typical HD will last 2-5 years, so we are stuck with unreliable long term options unless you have plenty of $$ to spend. I'm rambling. Its late. You are probably much more confused at this point than you really should be, and for that I apologize.
     
  6. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #6
    Shrug. Codec efficiency is one thing, and a lot of people may not be able to tell the difference but I wouldn't append the word lossless to a codec unless it performed like REDCODE does - it is RAW. Not to be a stickler, but the words you append to these things matter when you're talking about flexibility in terms of color handling in post production. But this discussion is pretty much in the wrong forum at that point.

    As for MPEG-2, when encoded at 25MBps, I don't think there's any real difference between it and MPEG-4. Certainly once you get up to 6MBps H.264's advantage is pretty much gone. It's true that Blu-rays can use any of the formats, but I think MPEG-2 usage is more common than you think even at this point.
     
  7. sarge macrumors 6502a

    sarge

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #7
    Yes

    MPEG 2 is a lot more common than you think. Sony is still developing the codec -XD cam for example utilizes it.

    As far as H.264 goes, it is primarily a distribution format - in no way shape or form can h.264/MPEG4 be considered an archival format as it uses inter-frame compression to achieve a smaller file size. If you had to choose MPEG 2 vs h.264 for purely archival considerations, you would have to go w/MPEG 2 hands down.
     
  8. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #8
    There actually is an H.264 intraframe compression format - called AVCIntra. Not in common use yet, but it exists.

    Just thought I'd point it out.

    It is, by now, apparent to observers that video formats are complex, byzantine, and there's rarely an easy answer. I think we can all agree on that.
     
  9. sarge macrumors 6502a

    sarge

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #9
    Too true! JPEG 2000 here we come, or maybe not.
     
  10. ChemiosMurphy macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2007
    Location:
    Warminster, PA
    #10
    If i had to choose between Mpeg-2 and H.264, i'd go with H.264.

    It's a seemingly more efficient codec and should be future proof. Now i wouldn't drop a h.264 in FCP without transcoding it to ProRes, but if you're just going to watch the videos, it's fine.

    I use h.264 for blu-ray creation and work with Panasonic's AVC-I all the time with my work's HPX-3000, and haven't had a problem.
     
  11. sarge macrumors 6502a

    sarge

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #11
    The fact that h.264 is a more efficient codec is what makes it a superior distribution format - and diametrically at odds with archival concerns. This is why photographers save their camera RAW files as opposed to lossy compression formats like JPEG for their libraries.

    So, to the OP's question of MPEG2 vs h.264 for archival purposes, he would want to save the MPEG2 file and not the h.264 if he were hoping to retain as much of the original information possible.
     
  12. psingh01 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2004
    #12
    Thanks for all the input. I see there are people on both sides of the fence on this one. I think I'll just keep the mpeg2 files since it's simplest solution.
     
  13. sarge macrumors 6502a

    sarge

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #13
    That puts you inside the fence where it is lush and green.

    I work in the archive profession by day so I keep abreast of these issues - if for no other reason than to protect my personal work when I leave the office. I know how Reuters, Fox, British Pathe, and others are archiving their stuff and what the engineers are saying about it (even if I don't always understand the math..) - just trying to share best practices w/everyone else interested in doing right by their content.
     

Share This Page