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H.264/AVC Codec FAQ & Basic Tutorial on MP4 Conversion - Mp4 Converter

Updated September 7,2007

This article explains plainly what H.264/AVC is, and its advantages & disadvantages compared with DivX and Xvid, well-known by ordinary people. Then I will help you to make your own H.264/AVC files and play it even you only have a DVD. I'll try my best to avoid using technical terms, I know it's difficult to understand.

So are you interested? Follow my guide, let's go.

Remember, Feel free to ask me any questions.

1,What is H.264?
Well, simply speaking, it's a kind of video format, we all know video formats like  MPEG-2,DivX and XviD. H.264 turns out after them, it's more advanced codec, because it aims at achieving same video effect with DivX but in half size of DivX.

2, Then what is H.264/AVC ?
AVC is abbreviated form of Advanced Video Coding. Actually it's the same thing with H.264.we can also call it H.264/AVC,H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, or MPEG-4 Part 10.

3, I want to use it! But where can I download this H.264/AVC codec from?
There are many rippers you can choose to create H.264/AVC files. Here I can tell you some good ones.

  1. Nero Recode 2.Their H.264/AVC codec in this latest version is called NeroDigital AVC, can be also used in other video-concerned programmes.
  2. Apple Quicktime. Through Quicktime 7 Pro, you can process video files not only based on Mac OS X, but also based on Windows.
  3. X264. An open source way, you have to key in command manually. But it has one advantage, it's being used extensively in many free progammes like SUPER, Fairuse Wizard, and various other projects.

Certainly there are many others, like MainConcept H.264/AVC codec, Sorenson and VSS, but compared with rippers listed above, they are either too expensive or difficult to operate.

4,ok, which one do you suggest I use to create an H.264/AVC video?
It depends, but I strongly recommend x264. It's for free, it has the same functions with other tools costs hundreds of dollars. Furthermore, it surpasses them in some special areas.You can never find a choice better than it.
But if you want to do a simple conversion, you can use SUPER, a GUI for ffmpeg and mencoder that can use x264 to create an H.264/AVC encoded file.
If you want to convert DVD to H.264/AVC, you can choose Fairuse Wizard.There are many other free ways you can take, like MeGUI, Gordian Knot. While Nero Recode is the best one in the charged tools.We don't recommend Quicktime Pro for it has some problems in its processing speed.

5,How can I playback H.264/AVC videos?
The latest version of ffdshow supports H.264/AVC playback. You can get it from here. Remember, ffdshow is a DirectShow filter so after you install it you'll be able to play H.264/AVC in most video players you have installed before, including Windows Media Player.
Video LAN can be another choice for you, it can play H.264/AVC even without any codec or Direct Show Filter. And you can download it from here.
I don't suggest Nero Showtime or Apple Quicktime, for they have some limitations in playback all video formats.

6, The playback is slow with pauses, why does this happen?
H264 has a high-standard request for CPU and RAM, It can work well only based on CPU more than 1GHz and 256 RAM.

7,My standalone player can play DivX/XviD. Can it play H.264/AVC too?
No, the standalone MPEG4 players that are now in the market do not support H264 videos.
Hardware players will be made in the future but right now none is available.

8, What about support of H.264/AVC in mobile devices?
Both the new iPod and Sony PSP can support H264/AVC, probably Pocket PCs also can with the use of the right software, but I do not know any softwares could be used in Pocket PC.

9, What extension does H.264/AVC have ? Is it an .avi file or does it have its own extension like .divx?
H264 use many formats as its extension:
-AVI
-MP4-Nero Recode and Quicktime use this format.It's better than "avi" because it can also store AAC audio.
-MKV-Matroska container—can support many video and audio formats. Here you can get more info.
--H.264/AVC---it has't been commonly used by people. Maybe in the future.

10, Do you have any video I can see for myself the quality of H.264/AVC?
I always suggest that before selecting what codec to use it is better to do some testing and decide for youself. But we do have some small video you can download and see for yourself. You can get it from our downloads database here. There are also versions of exactly the same video in DivX and XviD to do a comparison. All videos where encoded from a DVD using Fairuse Wizard and all codec quality settings are set to maximum. The bitrate used was approximately 860kbps, an average bitrate someone uses to store a movie in one CD.

11, Can Xbox play H264 using XBMC ? What about Xbox 360?
Yes it can. However some files play pretty slow, not know the reason. (my H264 encodes work fine, 2-3 other files I tried play very slow.)I'll have to do some tests to find the reason. Remember that Xbox doesn't have the fastest CPU out there(Pentium 3 733 MHz) So actually the nice playback of most H264 files attracted me. About the new Xbox 360, I don't know.

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