H.264, also known as MPEG-4/AVC (advanced video coding), is a video compression standard created by the Joint Video Team (JVT), which consists of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).
ITU has adopted the name H.264 for the standard, while ISO/IEC refers to it as the MPEG-4/AVC (part 10) standard (document ISO/IEC 14496-10).
MPEG-4/AVC achieves a coding efficiency that is approx. two to three times greater than that of the H.262 (MPEG-2) method used in the past. However, the processor power that is required for encoding is approximately three times higher.
MPEG-4/AVC can be used in virtually all video applications. It is utilized in high-resolution television (HDTV), in the new DVB-T2 broadcasting standard for standard resolution, in the mobile reception of low-resolution video (ATSC-M/H, T-DMB, DVB-H), in multimedia applications and in videoconferencing.
MPEG-4/AVC is largely based on the two predecessor families MPEG-1 and H.261. Major changes have been made to deliver significantly higher efficiency, for example by taking special measures to make decoding faster. The resulting process makes cost-effective implementation possible for terminal equipment.
To improve interoperability, the concepts of profile and level have been introduced. A profile defines the supported features, while a level specifies a limit for a variable such as picture resolution.