I'm trying to capture various frames within a x264-encoded video files into png files (in python), and then compare the quality of them:

cap = cv2.VideoCapture(filename);
//get frame_number for saving, and save the frame
ret, frame = cap.read()

cv2.imwrite(dir_path+'uniform_frame_'+str(frame_no)+".png", frame);

Now I was wondering if I fetch an I-Frame, does it mean that it has a higher quality than other frames, e.g. P-frames and B-Frames? (inherently, keyframes are not compressed, so they must have higher quality and less noise).

  • Please don't crosspost Qs.
    – Gyan
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 4:39

3 Answers 3


"I, B and P" don't refer to the viewed frames, they refer to the encoded, stored forms of the frames. However the frame is encoded in the file or stream, when it appears on the screen or is extracted as a still it is a complete frame, reconstructed from the IBP information as needed.


Intra frames (I-frames, keyframes) are independent of other frames - they contain the complete information for reconstructing the frame's image. There is no need for reading other frames and computing from them.

So it's about a speed, not about a quality. On the other hand, more intra frames, grater size of the file. (Known tradeoff speed for space.)

Intra frames are preferably used in most media players for so called fast seek (fast because of skipping the necessity of reading other frames and computing from them) - see for example

View -> Options -> Tweaks -> Fast seek (on keyframe)

in Media Player Classic (from K-Lite Codec Pack):

enter image description here

Adding more intra frames is important for relatively slow devices (e. g. smartphones) because after jump to non-intra frame they played back ugly colored and broken video while they meet the next intra frame - so for common density of 1 intra frame for 250 frames and the 25 fps the user may wait almost 10 second for restoring the image.

  • Good piece of info. Thanks.
    – angel_30
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 15:29

I-frames are uncompressed frames and are what p and b frames reference to for compression. Yes I frames are higher quality.

  • 3
    I-frames aren't uncompressed - they simply rely on intra prediction.
    – Gyan
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 4:39
  • Sorry, tried to answer that with out getting too technical. Yes I-frames are compressed to a degree, but to answer your question Tina they are higher is quality when compared to P and B frames.
    – user23155
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 16:24

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