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Historical timeline of video coding standards and formats

1 Who should read this?

The majority of video codecs in use today conform to one of the international standards for video coding. Therefore, if you are learning about video codecs or into codec development, it is important to know what a video coding standard is and how the existing standards have evolved. Even the latest video codecs such as H.264/AVC and HEVC have a basic structure similar to older codecs such as MPEG-2 part-2. This white paper begins by describing a video coding standard and the need for standardisation. The process of standardisation is briefly explained. The remainder of the paper provides a timeline of development of popular video coding standards and video coding formats.

2 What is a video coding standard?

A video coding standard is a document describing a bitstream structure and a decoding method for video compression. The standard does not define the encoder; rather it defines the output structure that an encoder should produce. Video coding standards usually define a toolkit or a set of tools for compression. Not all pieces of the toolkit need to be implemented to create a standard compliant bitstream. However, decoders conforming to the standard must implement some subset of the toolkit.


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