I'm looking for some official (or semi-official) sources for using MPEG codecs. The official standards specify syntax and semantics for code streams, and do little job teaching the production community anything useful about what they specify.

Does there exist some kind of leaflets or brochures, from the MPEG work group (or a member from the WG), intended for production professionalists, the possibly include explanation for 1) profiles and levels, 2) bitrate and quality correlation, and 3) container format usage.

3 Answers 3


I take the references from Tektronix seriously in my daily work.

Amazon has a 48-page magazine-sized technical booklet from this company or you could download it from this link

Of course, this company has other references as well

And don't miss out the posters here and here


The primary audience of MPEG video stream standards is developers of encoders, decoders, players, editors..etc so they won't be expected to have material teaching the production community, by which I assume you mean creatives or those working directly with creatives.

profiles and levels

This is specific to each codec, but in general, profile defines the set of encoding methods that an encoder may use e.g. macroblock partitioning, which in turn, defines the capabilities required of the decoder. Their definitions are motivated by various classes of target applications e.g. VoIP, editing, playback on a low-power device but it is upto industry to evolve usage guidelines. See this preface to the Profiles/Levels section within the AVC SPEC (14496-10):

This subclause does not form an integral part of this Recommendation | International Standard. This Recommendation | International Standard is designed to be generic in the sense that it serves a wide range of applications, bit rates, resolutions, qualities, and services. Applications should cover, among other things, digital storage media, television broadcasting and real-time communications.

So, don't expect to find a normative guide from a standards body.

bitrate and quality correlation

There isn't one. An efficient encoder will deliver a better quality for a given bitrate target than an inefficient one. In general, a well-engineered encoder will deliver better quality higher the bitrate, if keeping all syntax elements the same, as well encoder-specific coding algorithms (motion estimation, deblocking loops)..etc.

container format usage

Not the purview of the codec standards body. Containers come and go, and are designed by others. Again, it's upto the industry e.g. H.264/AVC is usually stored without in-band parameter sets in a MP4, but can be stored with them present. It's upto the "application".


part 1 of the answer

Usually, it's the encoder software producer that provides usage guideline documents on codec parameters.

The general idea (workflow) is that:

  • the standard developers, hardware and software developers, and patent holders gather together to produce a standard, and develop coders (software, hardware, media boxes) that're interoperable with each other.

  • the media platforms (TV stations, video sharing websites, cinema, etc.) sets requirements and specifications for deliverables, based on their technical capability and financial budget, (sometimes also technical experiments they carry out for signal quality assessment).

  • the creative people follows the specifications for deliverables and sets the parameters in their encoder accordingly.

  • the consumers watches your movies.

The OP had an implicit premise that it's the creative people that sets the requirements and the specifications for themselves. This is true majority of the time nowadays, as indie movies are delivered less formally than their commercial and professional counterparts.

This is why coders (FOSS, commercial, and proprietary) provides presets and documents for codec parameters, to save creative people the time that media platforms had already taken to assess and set coding specifications.

part 2 of the answer

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has recommendations on profiles, levels, and bitrates of codecs. I found these one year after asking this, downloaded the PDFs, and forgot them until today.

The BT (Broadcasting Service (Television)) has the following recommendation(s):

  • ITU-R BT.1737 Use of the ITU-T Recommendation H.264 (MPEG-4/AVC) video source-coding method to transport high definition TV programme material

  • ITU-R BT.1870 Video coding for digital television broadcasting emission

  • ITR-R BT.2073 Use of the high efficiency video coding (HEVC) standard for UHDTV and HDTV broadcasting

The BS (Broadcasting Service (Sound)) has the following recommendation(s):

  • ITU-R BS.1196 Audio coding for digital broadcasting

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.