Short for Moving Picture Experts Group, and pronounced m-peg, is a working group of the ISO. The term also refers to the family of digital video compression standards and file formats developed by the group. MPEG generally produces better-quality video than competing formats, such as Video for Windows, Indeo and QuickTime. MPEG files previously on PCs needed hardware decoders (codecs) for MPEG processing. Today, however, PCs can use software-only codecs including products from RealNetworks, QuickTime or Windows Media Player.
MPEG algorithms compress data to form small bits that can be easily transmitted and then decompressed. MPEG achieves its high compression rate by storing only the changes from one frame to another, instead of each entire frame. The video information is then encoded using a technique called Discrete Cosine Transform (DCT). MPEG uses a type of lossy compression, since some data is removed. But the diminishment of data is generally imperceptible to the human eye.
The major MPEG standards include the following;
- MPEG-1: The most common implementations of the MPEG-1 standard provide a video resolution of 352-by-240 at 30 frames per second (fps). This produces video quality slightly below the quality of conventional VCR videos.
- MPEG-2: Offers resolutions of 720x480 and 1280x720 at 60 fps, with full CD-quality audio. This is sufficient for all the major TV standards, including NTSC, and even HDTV. MPEG-2 is used by DVD-ROMs. MPEG-2 can compress a 2 hour video into a few gigabytes. While decompressing an MPEG-2 data stream requires only modest computing power, encoding video in MPEG-2 format requires significantly more processing power.
- MPEG-3: Was designed for HDTV but was abandoned in place of using MPEG-2 for HDTV.
- MPEG-4: A graphics and video compression algorithm standard that is based on MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 and Apple QuickTime technology. Wavelet-based MPEG-4 files are smaller than JPEG or QuickTime files, so they are designed to transmit video and images over a narrower bandwidth and can mix video with text, graphics and 2-D and 3-D animation layers. MPEG-4 was standardized in October 1998 in the ISO/IEC document 14496. See MPEG-4.
- MPEG-7: Formally called the Multimedia Content Description Interface, MPEG-7 provides a tool set for completely describing multimedia content. MPEG-7 is designed to be generic and not targeted to a specific application.
- MPEG-21: Includes a Rights Expression Language (REL) and a Rights Data Dictionary. Unlike other MPEG standards that describe compression coding methods, MPEG-21 describes a standard that defines the description of content and also processes for accessing, searching, storing and protecting the copyrights of content. See MPEG-21.