Journal article

MPEG-4 natural video coding - An overview

This paper describes the MPEG-4 standard, as defined in ISO/IEC 14496-2. The MPEG-4 visual standard is developed to provide users a new level of interaction with visual contents. It provides technologies to view, access and manipulate objects rather than pixels, with great error robustness at a large range of bit-rates. Application areas range from digital television, streaming video, to mobile multimedia and games. The MPEG-4 natural video standard consists of a collection of tools that support these application areas. The standard provides tools for shape coding, motion estimation and compensation, texture coding, error resilience, sprite coding and scalability. Conformance points in the form of object types, profiles and levels, provide the basis for interoperability. Shape coding can be performed in binary mode, where the shape of each object is described by a binary mask, or in gray scale mode, where the shape is described in a form similar to an alpha channel, allowing transparency, and reducing aliasing. Motion compensation is block based, with appropriate modifications for object boundaries. The block size can be 16×16, or 8×8, with half pixel resolution. MPEG-4 also provides a mode for overlapped motion compensation. Texture coding is based in 8×8 DCT, with appropriate modifications for object boundary blocks. Coefficient prediction is possible to improve coding efficiency. Static textures can be encoded using a wavelet transform. Error resilience is provided by resynchronization markers, data partitioning, header extension codes, and reversible variable length codes. Scalability is provided for both spatial and temporal resolution enhancement. MPEG-4 provides scalability on an object basis, with the restriction that the object shape has to be rectangular. MPEG-4 conformance points are defined at the Simple Profile, the Core Profile, and the Main Profile. Simple Profile and Core Profiles address typical scene sizes of QCIF and CIF size, with bit-rates of 64, 128, 384 and 2 Mbit/s. Main Profile addresses a typical scene sizes of CIF, ITU-R 601 and HD, with bit-rates at 2, 15 and 38.4 Mbit/s.

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