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Appeared on: Thursday, December 22, 2005
Digigami Claims VBR HD MPEG-2 Encoding Competitive with H.264

US Digigami said that its new MegaPEG HD MPEG-2 VBR encoder is capable of matching and, in some cases, exceeding the picture quality while offering reduced bitrates compared to current H.264 encoders.

Recently, Sony Pictures senior VP of advanced technologies, Don Ecklund, was blasted for his assertions about MPEG-2 video quality in defense of Sony's decision to release HD MPEG-2 encoded feature films on Blu-Ray discs. Digigami claims that its own research and actual MPEG encoder output verify Ecklund's claims that MPEG-2 can and will continue to achieve quality/bitrates comparable to H.264 for the next generation of optical disc formats, including Blu-Ray and HD-DVD.

The new Digigami HD encoder can produce 720p content with an average bitrate of 3-7 mbit/s (VBR), which is equivalent to the bitrates used in today's standard definition DVD titles.

"In our tests here at Digigami, we find that our MPEG-2 encoder is actually outperforming H.264 by a wide margin on 720p/1080p film content. Typically, our HD MPEG-2 encoder can produce VBR files two thirds to one half the bitrate produced by current H.264 encoders. On our website we have compressed material which supports this assertion. A recent example is a 400MB H.264 720p video blog that we recompressed to 172MB MPEG-1 VBR. In our testing, only highly saturated, brightly colored material (atypical of most content) is improved by H.264 - owing primarily to the use of 4:2:2 color."

Digigami took a different approach to improving their video encoder technology. Firstly, the company built an analysis tool, which allows employees and customers to quantitatively analyze any existing compressed MPEG-2 footage. The results of different encoders, including H.264 encoders, can be compared quantitatively. Secondly, Digigami used these tools to analyze a large number of commercial DVD titles encoded by different encoders and mastering houses. Based on the findings, they made improvements to the company's core MPEG-2 encoder which eliminates inefficiencies of previous generation encoders - the same goal as H.264. However, these improvements require no changes to MPEG-2 HD televisions, which is the reason for having an ISO standard in the first place.

The Digigami MegaPEG HDTV VBR MPEG-2 encoder is currently shipping and is available for Mac OS X, and runs on most modern Apple hardware. The price is $995.00.

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