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Thread: h264 (x264) vs Theora

  1. #1
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    Question h264 (x264) vs Theora

    Hi all,

    Today I was testing some HD (720p, 1080p) video compression with:
    - h264
    - Theora
    A lot of people are boasting about Theora effectiveness, so I compressed some short HD videos with the same bitrate with above codecs and the results of Theora (1.1) were a bit appalling compared to h264.
    I've used HandBrake 0.9.4, both codecs with 2pass encoding and same bitrate.
    Apart that libtheora was monothread while x264 is multithread, really one could tell the difference between the two videos.
    Am I the only one experiencing this?
    Which codec do you use to save your HD videos?

    I know h264 is patent protected and in US is possibly illegal to use it without paying a fee to someone, but Theora is a bit behind.
    What do you think?

    Cheers,

  2. #2
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    From what I have seen (around the internet), theora seems pretty close to h264. Could you post the videos, supposing it is legal to do so and they are not too big, for me to compare? Are you sure handbrake is using libtheora 1.1? I am extremely interested in this comparison.

  3. #3
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    From what I have seen (around the internet), theora seems pretty close to h264.
    The theora zealots would like you to think that. But I've never seen the claim backed up with real data. Every fair comparison I've seen places x264 far ahead of theora. Here's one of my favorite comparisons.
    http://saintdevelopment.com/media/

  4. #4
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    Theora is nowhere near x264. The only reason why people use it at all is because they believe it's not covered by patents.

  5. #5
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    Quote Originally Posted by VertexPusher View Post
    Theora is nowhere near x264. The only reason why people use it at all is because they believe it's not covered by patents.
    It is not covered by any patents, though, is it?

  6. #6
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    Quote Originally Posted by patrickaupperle View Post
    It is not covered by any patents, though, is it?
    That's the problem with patents: There is no way to tell.

    The only way to be sure is to wait until the technology is older than any patent that could possibly cover it. If you are concerned about patents, use MPEG-1.

  7. #7
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    That is interesting. I think (this is without much backing) that Theora is safe, though. Isn't the whole point behind it that there are no patents? I just finished encoding Harry Potter and the Half Blood prince in h264 and Theora. The Theora file, despite my settings, came out 50 megs smaller (658 to 708). Unfortunately, the quality difference is pretty large. What are the restrictions on h.264? Could I use it to stream over the net without paying? If I couldn't, is that not enough reason to use theora for many purposes? I think that we will probably see another improvement to theora soon, we just have to hope that it is enough to make it more comparable.
    Last edited by patrickaupperle; January 20th, 2010 at 12:00 AM.

  8. #8
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    I just did another similar test, this one is more promising for Theora. I downloaded a video off of youtube (1080p). I then ran it through ffmpeg2theora and mencoder to resize to 720 vertical lines. I see no quality difference between the two output files.
    Here are the files if you want to compare (sorry, I have low upload speeds) :
    Source:
    http://74.192.55.127:1024/4N2YWRJ-ppo.mp4
    Encoded to mp4:
    http://74.192.55.127:1024/4N2YNew.mp4
    Encoded to theora:
    http://74.192.55.127:1024/4N2YWRJ-ppo.ogv
    Tell me if my server works, I just set it up yesterday.

    Edit:
    The commands I used where:
    for the mp4: mencoder 4N2YWRJ-ppo.mp4 -vf scale=1732:720 -ovc x264 -oac faac -o 4N2YNew.mp4
    for the ogv: ffmpeg2theora 4N2YWRJ-ppo.mp4 -y 720
    I hope those where the proper commands to use. I really had no idea what oac to pick (though, I figured it was unimportant).
    Last edited by patrickaupperle; January 20th, 2010 at 04:57 AM.

  9. #9
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    Quote Originally Posted by patrickaupperle View Post
    That is interesting. I think (this is without much backing) that Theora is safe, though. Isn't the whole point behind it that there are no patents?
    You can't prove that there are no patents that cover Theora. Nobody can.

    That is exactly why the EFF and others fight software patents: You can prove the presence of patents but not their absence. Patent trolls have turned this into a profitable business: They aquire patents which vaguely describe some fundamental technology (e.g. browser plugins, see Eolas vs. the rest of the world), then they wait until the technology becomes popular. Finally they send everyone the bill or take them to court.

    Theora isn't safe. In fact it is more unsafe than H.264 whose patent holders are well known. If you need something safe and free, MPEG-1 is your only option because its patents are expired.

  10. #10
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    Re: h264 (x264) vs Theora

    Quote Originally Posted by VertexPusher View Post
    You can't prove that there are no patents that cover Theora. Nobody can.

    That is exactly why the EFF and others fight software patents: You can prove the presence of patents but not their absence. Patent trolls have turned this into a profitable business: They aquire patents which vaguely describe some fundamental technology (e.g. browser plugins, see Eolas vs. the rest of the world), then they wait until the technology becomes popular. Finally they send everyone the bill or take them to court.

    Theora isn't safe. In fact it is more unsafe than H.264 whose patent holders are well known. If you need something safe and free, MPEG-1 is your only option because its patents are expired.
    True, we do not know, I did not suggest otherwise. I simply am guessing (something we can always do, regardless of situation), without any backing nor a great understanding of the situation, that Theora is safe. Back to the original questions, though. Is h264 really far superior? Did I use the best commands above? I do not notice a difference between those two files. One, the h264, is 4/5 the size, but does that make a huge difference? Is the comparison fair? Do results on a single file matter at all?

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