Choosing the Right Video Compression Format: A Comparison of H.264, H.265, and MJPEG

Table of Contents

1: Introduction

Embedded vision and camera systems play a crucial role in the today’s technology landscape with numerous applications across diverse sectors. The demand for high-quality video content is also increasing in such advanced applications. However, with limited memory capacity, the storage of high-quality video content is a real challenge. This is where video compression steps in as a game changer for the storage and processing of high-quality video content in embedded vision applications.

In this article we will explore different video compression formats and will help you choose the right compression format for your video application.

1.1: Explanation of video compression

The process of reducing the size of a video file while preserving its quality to a reasonable extent is known as video compression. Since video data files tend to have very large sizes, therefore video compression is an essential technology for the efficient storage, transmission, and processing of video content.

1.2: Importance and benefits of choosing the right video compression format

High definition and real-time video processing systems rely heavily on video compression techniques for the reduction of video file size. Examples of such systems include video streaming platforms, video conferencing applications, and content management systems. Video compression is of prime importance in embedded vision applications as the storage capacity and processing capabilities are limited. Some of the important aspects regarding the selection of appropriate video compression format are listed as following:

  1. Video Quality: Efficient video compression algorithms ensure significant reduction in file size while maintaining high quality. Video quality is an important consideration in the selection of video compression format as it directly affects the user experience.
  2. Storage Space: Storage space is a precious resource and therefore, is an important consideration in the selection of compression format. Efficient compression techniques reduce storage costs and enhance data processing speeds.
  3. Real-time Processing: Real-time processing is another important factor in the selection of video compression format for embedded vision applications. The right compression format ensures that video data is processed quickly without draining the system resources. This is an important consideration for applications like surveillance, robotics, and autonomous vehicles.
  4. Device Compatibility: Devices from different manufacturers support different video codecs. Therefore, it is important to select a video compression format which is supported by a large number of manufacturers and software platforms.

1.3: Overview of H.264, H.265, and MJPEG

H.264, H.265, and MJPEG are three different video compression formats, which are widely used in different video applications. The purpose of these compression formats is to reduce the video file size while maintaining the quality. Let’s discuss and understand the key differences, features, limitations, and applications of each of these three formats.

h.264 h265 mpeg

2: H.264 video compression format

2.1: What is H.264

The H.264 is a video compression format developed by Joint Video Team (JVT) of the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group and the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group. H.264 is one of the most widely used video compression format. This standard is also known as MPEG-4 Part 10 or AVC (Advanced Video Coding).  H.264 standard uses both inter-frame and intra-frame compression techniques to achieve reduced file size and high video quality. H.264 standard is used and supported by many popular platforms including: YouTube, Netflix, Zoom, and Skype.

2.2: Video quality and compression performance

H.264 is well-known for its excellent balance between video quality and compression efficiency. It offers reduced file sizes while maintaining high video quality. H.264 achieves this performance by utilizing various advanced techniques such as motion compensation, spatial/temporal estimation, and entropy coding. These techniques help in reducing redundancy in the video data, resulting in smaller file sizes without significant loss in visual quality.

2.3: Advantages and disadvantages of H.264

Advantages of H.264 standard are as following:

  1. High compression efficiency
  2. Broad compatibility
  3. Streaming optimization
  4. Real-time encoding and decoding
  5. Supports a wide range of video resolutions and frame rates accommodating different quality requirements

Disadvantages of H.264 standard are as following:

  1. Less efficient than H.265 in terms of compression efficiency and performance
  2. Limited Support for Ultra HD
  3. High computational complexity for high-resolution or high-frame-rate content
  4. 264 is subject to patent royalties, which can add costs to devices and services that use this codec

3: H.265 video compression format

3.1: What is H.265

H.265, also known as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), is a video compression format and advanced version of H.264 (AVC). It was developed to provide significantly improved compression efficiency compared to H.264 format. H.265 achieves this improved performance through advanced coding techniques such as enhanced motion compensation, improved prediction algorithms, and entropy coding. These techniques allow H.265 to reduce video file sizes by up to 50% while delivering better video quality as compared to H.264. H.265 is particularly suitable for high-resolution video content, such as 4K and 8K, as it can smoothly handle larger data volumes. Major applications of H.265 include streaming, broadcasting, and video surveillance.

3.2: Video quality and compression performance

H.265 delivers similar or better video quality as compared to H.264 standard at the same bit rate. Salient features of H.265 include: finer details, reduced artifacts, sharper resolution, and vibrant colors. H.265 also offers superior compression efficiency which allows for increased reduction in file sizes while delivering superior video quality. H.265 achieves up to 50% higher efficiency compression as compared to H.264 standard. Hence, H.265 is better suited for applications with limited bandwidth and storage capacity.

3.3: Advantages and disadvantages of H.265

Advantages of H.265 standard are as following:

  1. Improved compression efficiency as compared to H.264
  2. High quality video content at lower bit rates
  3. Support for high-resolution video formats such as 4k and 8k
  4. Offers wide range of encoding options

Disadvantages of H.265 standard are as following:

  1. 265 format might not be supported by older and less capable hardware devices
  2. 265 is subject to patent royalties like H.264. This increases the cost for using this codec
  3. Some devices and systems might face interoperability issues while using H.265 standard

4: MJPEG video compression format

4.1: What is MJPEG

MJPEG or motion JPEG is a video compression format based on the JPEG image compression format. This standard is developed by JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group). Unlike H.264 and H.265, MJPEG compresses each video frame as a separate JPEG image. This technique results in a relatively larger file size as compared to the inter-frame compression formats.

4.2: Video quality and compression performance

MJPEG standard offers higher video quality as compared to other formats as it treats each frame as a separate JPEG image. This compression technique leads to better video quality due to the absence of inter-frame dependencies or artifacts.

The compression performance of MJPEG is inferior to inter-frame compression standards like H.264 and H.265. The absence of inter-frame compression technique results in larger file size. Therefore, MJPEG format requires more storage space and higher streaming bandwidth. MJPEG is suitable for certain applications such as surveillance systems, medical imaging, and machine vision.

4.3: Advantages and disadvantages of MJPEG

Advantages of MJPEG standard are as following:

  1. Requires minimal computing resources due to simple decoding scheme.
  2. Minimal latency during video streaming due to absence of inter-frame dependencies.
  3. High quality frame extraction which is suitable for applications requiring precise analysis.
  4. Lower susceptibility towards data corruption and transmission errors. Corrupted frame does not affect other frames.

Disadvantages of MJPEG standard are as following:

  1. MJPEG format results in larger file sizes as compared to other compression formats.
  2. MJPEG requires higher data rates for maintaining comparable video quality.
  3. Lack of inter-frame compression means that this standard does not take advantage of temporal redundancy between two frames which leads to lower compression efficiency.
  4. MJPEG is not suitable for streaming applications due to larger file size and lower compression efficiency.

5: Comparison and Analysis

5.1: Comparison of H.264, H.265, and MJPEG based on video quality, compression performance, compatibility, and other factors


Video quality


Compression EfficiencyModerateHighLow

Resolution Support


4K8K and beyond4K, 8K
CompatibilityWidely supportedIncreasingly supportedLimited support
Decoding complexityModerateHigher than H.264Low

Real-time Support


SuitableMore demandingNot suitable
Bandwidth EfficiencyGoodExcellentHigh
Storage RequirementModerateReducedHigh

5.2: Factors to consider when choosing the right video compression format

Following are the main factors which need to be considered while selecting a video compression format for your application:

  1. Video quality
  2. Compression efficiency
  3. Supported resolution
  4. Compatibility
  5. Decoding complexity
  6. Real-time application support
  7. Bandwidth requirements
  8. Storage requirements
  9. Hardware support
  10. Cost and licensing

5.3: Use cases and scenarios for H.264, H.265, and MJPEG


  1. Video streaming
  2. Video conferencing
  3. Surveillance systems
  4. Mobile streaming


  1. Video archiving
  2. High-resolution surveillance
  3. Ultra-high definition broadcasting
  4. High-resolution streaming


  1. Medical imaging
  2. HQ video capture
  3. Specialized surveillance
  4. Visual inspection systems
  5. Machine vision

6: Conclusion

Video compression is a crucial technology for the modern video streaming, archiving, and processing systems. The importance of video compression in embedded vision systems increases manifold as the storage space and computing power is limited. In this article we have discussed the three most commonly used video compression formats: H.264, H.265, and MJPEG. We have discussed the history, features, advantages, and disadvantages of each of these three compression formats. We have also provided a detailed comparison between these three video compression standards so that you can easily select a compression format for your video application.

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