Video Essentials

Encoding for the iPad and iPhone? Better Learn About H.264 First

For those just learning about video encoding formats, we’ll keep this simple: if you want your videos to play on the Apple iPad or iPhone, you’ll need to learn about the H.264 codec first.

At the recent Streaming Media East conference in New York City, video expert Jan Ozer led a how-to presentation on encoding for Apple iOS devices. The H.264 codec is crucial for iOS support, and Ozer explained why:

“H.264 is important because it’s the only codec that plays on iOS devices. You need to know a little about how H.264 works in order to configure your video appropriately,” Ozer began.

This codec has a lot of support behind it, so it’s probably going to be around for a while.

“H.264: what’s significant about the codec is it’s the only codec that was jointly implemented by two standards bodies. So we see the ITU on the left ,” Ozer said referring to his presentation, “that’s the International Telecommunications Union, they’re in charge of telephone, radio, and TV — and ISO is the MPEG group; they’re in charge of photography, computer, and consumer electronics. What this translates to is a lot of cheap hardware support. You’ve got a lot of consumer electronics devices, a lot of cameras, a lot of computers using this, so it’s either supported very effectively in software or supported via inexpensive H.264 encoding and decoding chips. That presents a pretty big barrier of entry to new codecs coming into the market.”

That widespread adoption, in other words, will keep other codecs out of the market.

“When you see a new codec like WebM come out, the thing you think about is ‘Well, WebM is nice, Google is a really big company,’ but H.264 has all the support from all these hardware companies who really don’t care about WebM, don’t care about the internet,” added Ozer.

For much more on preparing video for iOS devices, watch the video below and download Ozer’s presentation.


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