Report: Flash, H.264, Windows Media trail RealVideo quality

“StreamingMedia.com today announced publication of two new research reports, ‘Proprietary Streaming Codecs, 2006’ and ‘Flash Codecs, 2006.’ The first report compares RealVideo and Windows Media with top Flash and Apple’s H.264 codecs, while the second compares the quality of Flash video codecs and encoding tools. The company found that quality of the best Flash and H.264 codecs still trailed RealVideo, often by a significant margin. ‘While the progress of H.264 and Flash codecs has been impressive,’ quipped report author Jan Ozer, ‘rumors of the demise of all other codecs have been greatly exaggerated.’ To research the reports, Ozer produced a 6-minute test file composed of 38 scenes representing typical business, sports, and entertainment videos, along with several animations and still image pans and zooms,” MacNN reports.

Full article with more info and links here.

“StreamingMedia.com on Monday announced the publication of two new reports that suggest that Apple’s QuickTime H.264 video encoding has gained ground on Microsoft Windows Media. The winner, however, was RealVideo,” Peter Cohen reports for MacCentral.

Full article here.

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37 Comments

  1. Y’all are confusing a couple things: Encoding and playback.

    What those godawful expensive reports are saying is that if you start with the her master test file, when encoded as a Real Media file it had a smaller file size and fewer artifacts.

    Her report said nothing (at least in the abstracts I’ve read) about the streaming quality of the file or of the playback software.

    Since the researcher only used one test file I would have to say her data is suspect. You need at least 16 different files to make a good test (at least two samples each of video dark, video medium, video light, text/presentation graphics, CGI dark, CGI medium, CGI light, and combo text/video). Also she neglected DivX encoding altogether…Hmmmm…

    (With suspicion) I can buy her file size argument. I’m sure that Real made her file the smallest.

    (With suspicion) I can buy her file artifact argument. I’m sure that with the settings she used that Real’s encoder left the fewest artifacts.

    Maybe across a range of files Real’s encoder does produce smaller files and fewer artifacts. Again, she didn’t use enough test files, left out a major encoder, and I’m not gonna blow $400 to parse her methodology.

    But, as everyone else has pointed out we all know that Real Player/Mac sucks at playing streaming media. I’ve never used it under Windows. My test with Windows Media suggest that it sucks on both platforms, though it is much more reliable at streaming than Real. Flash video is damned near bulletproof (as anyone who has visited YouTube.com can attest), though I take off points for user friendly.

    Overall QuickTime Player is my favorite for overall experience. I’m happy that DivX plays inside QuickTime so the DivX and QT experience are one and the same. Now if Flip4Mac would just support all WMVs inside QT then I’d be really happy.

  2. On a T1, they all seem quite similar in my experience. However, the settings used to produce streaming content have a major impact on quality. More subjectively, Windows Media and Real often seem more prone to visual artifacts, and QuickTime more prone to hangs (I don’t mean crashes, but movies that partially download, stop, and cannot be resumed).

  3. It’s about waaaay more than just the codec. H.264 is not universally the best codec out there. It’s got some really great key advantages, but codecs can be measured by quality/data rate across a spectrum, with some being top at different levels.

    Other considerations also include computing resources required to encode and computing resources required to decode, again across the spectrum of quality/data rate.

    And all of the above can vary based on what the video actually is to begin with…talking heads versus action, or color differences.

    After all of this is evaluated, I think one would find the top codecs in the same ballpark. So then other considerations should be made.

    The RealPlayer and transport protocols SUCK. This is readily apparent when there is heaver server load or bandwidth issues. QuickTime simply blows away the competition in this regard.

    While QuickTime and Real work well across platforms, Windows Media sucks harder on non WIndows platforms.

    Finally, there’s the issue of what can be done with the media. QuickTime is a container format which can be used for editing. Real and Flash are end-file formats. You can still edit and work with them, but they suck in this regard.

    Overall, across platform, I prefer QuickTime.

  4. Yeah, but can you pause, fast forward, backup, and resume play? WMV sucks so bad in that respect. I can not think of a single instance where I could pause a WMV files, then resume play without the player restarting from the beginning. Quickytime has always been my favorite media player/format even before I was ever a Mac user because the pause, forward, and reverse buttons have always worked as I expected.

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