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Apple: H.264 codec driving QuickTime adoption

Posted by iNext - 2006-03-30

H.264 isn’t just for iTunes Music Store videos any more. More companies are looking to use Apple’s QuickTime technology to showcase their products and services and one of the major reasons is the H.264 open-standard video codec.
One of the biggest adopters is AccuWeather, the weather-forecasting service. AccuWeather has adopted the H.264 standard to produce weather videos throughout the day so users can follow weather patterns, storms or a particular city.

“We were really happy with the quality of the video and also the size — it makes it really easy for us to manage,” said AccuWeather R&D Creative Director Jay Mathieu

According to Mathieu, AccuWeather produces forecasts for 60 U.S. cities, with each video running for 90 seconds. There are also Canadian city forecasts, Spanish-language forecasts for eight U.S. cities, and breaking weather reports.

“The scale of [AccuWeather’s] operation is incredible,” said Frank Casanova, Apple’s director of QuickTime product marketing. “On any given day they produce over 30,000 weather videos, but when there is heavy weather — a blizzard or a hurricane — they will do over 100,000 videos a day.”

Producing that many videos every day is a feat for any company, but Apple points to H.264’s codec efficiencies as the reason such output is possible. “H.264 provides remarkable quality at low data rates and that’s really important to an organization producing and streaming this much content,” Casanova said.

As companies like AccuWeather adopt H.264 for its video needs, word tends to spread quickly among other companies—Mathieu said he is already fielding calls from AccuWeather’s partners wanting more information on the technology.

“More and more we are having clients come to us and asking about H.264 because they want to use it for everything from mobile devices to television video,” he added.

Web sites are not the only place users will see the Apple supported H.264 standard in the future. Apple predicts that in the coming years cable television networks will be using the technology for the same reasons Accuweather chose it—high quality video at low data rates.

Casanova explained that a lot of cable systems promoting MPEG-2 are at capacity. They don’t have any more bandwidth over the coax to push any new programming. With the advent of HD, that’s a real problem for them because HD is so much bigger than standard signals.

“H.264 is so efficient cable companies can actually add HD programming and not disrupt their standard definition cable offerings,” Casanova said. “That’s what is so remarkable about H.264.”

With its cross-platform compatibility, QuickTime, MPEG-4 and H.264 are continuing to make their mark in many different markets. With MPEG-4 at the heart of the Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats, that momentum is not likely to stop anytime soon.

“This is another vote of support for H.264, the standard and the architecture of QuickTime,” Casanova said.

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