Improved H.264 Compression Holds Down File Sizes on 1080p iTunes Store Content

Ars Technica takes a look at the new 1080p content available on the iTunes Store, showing how a "High" compression profile for H.264-encoded content on the iPhone 4S and new iPad and Apple TV are minimizing the increase in file size needed to move from 720p to 1080p.

itunes 720p 1080p comparison
Comparison of 720p (left) and 1080p (right) video quality in iTunes Store content

In a survey of several titles now available in 1080p on the iTunes Store, the report found that file sizes generally increased by 15-25% over their respective 720p versions, despite the number of pixels more than doubling to reach the higher standard.

The reason that the 1080p versions of the iTunes Store videos can be a good deal better without doubling the file size—or worse—can be found in the tech specs of the new AppleTV and the new iPad. The AppleTV now supports H.264 compression for 1920x1080 resolution video at 30 frames per second using High or Main Profile up to level 4.0, the iPad and the iPhone 4S the same up to level 4.1. The profile indicates what kind of decompression algorithms the H.264 decoder has on board—the "High" profile obviously has some tricks up its sleeve that the "Main" or "Baseline" profiles known to previous devices don't support. The level value indicates how many blocks or bits per second a device can handle.

The report also offers a comparison of video quality between the 720p and 1080p formats on the iTunes Store, noting that the increase in image quality for 1080p content is minor in many cases, but more significant in brighter scenes.

Top Rated Comments

studentmac Avatar
123 months ago
Howaaaarrrd!!!
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
theMaccer Avatar
123 months ago
Pic of Penny would be much better.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SB27 Avatar
123 months ago
The Hidden Side of Apple Value

The press mainly focuses on the hardware, sales figures, etc. What people miss about the value that Apple is delivering to customers can be found in this story. At every turn and in every nook and cranny of the Apple ecosytem, their engineers are finding ways to deliver better bang for the buck. Video compression is just one of thousands of ways that Apple thinks completely differently about the user experience than anyone else. This is why they are a $500B company.

I was also struck while watching the keynote for the iPad by the amount of energy and focus put into iLife and iWork. That stuff is simply amazing for only $4.99 a copy (and with mostly free upgrades).

Yes, we are trapped in a closed Apple ecosytem. I like to think of myself as "happily trapped" given the sheer amount of energy, dollars, focus and excellence being delivered in every aspect of their ecosystem.

I will put the pom-poms down now, but this story prompted a visceral reaction and I felt it was worth noting.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr. Retrofire Avatar
123 months ago
At every turn and in every nook and cranny of the Apple ecosytem, their engineers are finding ways to deliver better bang for the buck. Video compression is just one of thousands of ways that Apple thinks completely differently about the user experience than anyone else.
Not really. Apple use(d) their own H.264-encoder, which produces larger files with worse quality, compared to the open source x264-encoder (the command line version). The picture below shows how efficient the x264-encoder is (just an example):



They should work together with the x264-developers (http://www.videolan.org/developers/x264.html). They know the best settings and encoding strategies [1]. x264 is the H.264-encoder with the best visual quality. Warner Brothers use the x264-encoder to encode commercial BDs.

More info:
Seventh MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Video Codecs Comparison (http://compression.ru/video/codec_comparison/h264_2011/)

Btw:
Apples uses still BZIP2 and ZLIB, which use 10-20 year old compression algorithms (BWT & deflate), to compress the file system, disk images, installer packages, software downloads (Mac App Store), software updates and so on. The newer LZMA and LZMA2 algorithms are not only faster (decompression), the resulting files require also 30 percent less disk space (faster file transfers (downloads)). Apple does not like & use good compression algorithms.


[1]
http://doom9.org/
http://doom10.org/
http://mewiki.project357.com/wiki/X264_Settings
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Deadman64 Avatar
123 months ago
I downloaded 1080P versions of my movies from iTunes and played them on my system (have a 1st gen aTV with a Crystal HD card for 1080P/DTS content on my 60" Pioneer Elite). Truthfully, I saw little difference between the 1080P and 720P iTunes versions, yet a major difference between my 1080P handbraked encodes and direct Blu-Ray movies.

I think that would be a good comparison.

1080P iTunes/Apple TV vs. a 1080P Blu-Ray.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
luke.mac1 Avatar
123 months ago
noting that the increase in image quality for 1080p content is minor in many cases, but more significant in brighter scenes.

So what they're saying is that the difference between 720p and 1080p in the iTunes store is almost negligible? I mean you can see the difference there on the scaled up image, but I imagine you can't really see it on a small screen. Maybe it will be better on a 27" imac or 50" HDTV.
I still think they should offer a larger, higher quality file size for people who wish to download it... maybe something to select in the preferences section of iTunes...
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Flat 2021 MacBook Pro Mockup Feature

Unreleased Apple Macs and Apple Watches Listed in Eurasian Database Ahead of Fall Product Launches

Monday August 2, 2021 9:34 am PDT by
Apple is preparing for a slew of fall product launches according to new filings that showed up today in the Eurasian Economic Commission database. There are listings for new Mac and Apple Watch models, all of which have previously unknown model identifiers that indicate that they're upcoming devices. There are six new Apple Watch identifiers, including A2473, A2474, A2475, A2476, A2477, and...
ifixit iphone12 mini

Apple to Make Space for Larger Batteries in iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks By Adopting Slimmer Peripheral Chips

Monday August 2, 2021 2:12 am PDT by
For future iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks, Apple plans to use smaller internal components in an effort to increase the size of the device's battery, according to DigiTimes. Image Credit: iFixit Specifically, Apple plans to "significantly increase the adoption" of IPDs or integrated passive devices for the peripheral chips in its products. These news chips will be slimmer in size and allow for...
Apple watch series 5 new case material made of titanium 091019

Titanium Apple Watch Series 6 Models Currently Widely Unavailable

Sunday August 1, 2021 6:21 am PDT by
Models of the Apple Watch Series 6 with titanium cases part of the "Apple Watch Edition" collection is currently widely unavailable for pick-up in several of Apple's retail stores in the United States and is unavailable entirely for delivery in major markets. Noted by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman in the latest edition of his "Power On" newsletter, titanium models of the Apple Watch Series 6,...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
iPhone 13 Wi Fi 6E feature update

Wi-Fi 6E Explained: What It Could Mean for iPhone 13 and Beyond

Monday August 2, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 is widely expected to come with Wi-Fi 6E capabilities, and while it may seem rather nuanced to the average consumer, with only improved speeds and being "up to date" in the realm of Wi-Fi technology, it's actually a fairly significant improvement, laying the groundwork for much of what we know the future holds. To truly understand Wi-Fi 6E, MacRumors sat down for an exclusive...
magic keyboard touch id

Apple Makes Magic Keyboard With Touch ID Available for Separate Purchase

Tuesday August 3, 2021 5:22 am PDT by
Apple has made the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, which previously was only available with the purchase of the new 24-inch iMac, available for purchase individually for $149. Apple also retails the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and a numeric keypad for $179. A standard Magic Keyboard without Touch ID or a numeric keypad is available for $99, and a new Magic Trackpad for $129. One major...
themorningshowcarrell

Apple Decided Not to Buy Reese Witherspoon's 'Hello Sunshine' Media Company

Monday August 2, 2021 2:02 pm PDT by
Reese Witherspoon's media company "Hello Sunshine" recently courted various buyers, and while Apple was one of parties interested in buying Hello Sunshine, the Cupertino company did not end up going through with the purchase. Hello Sunshine was valued at around $900 million thanks to its involvement in popular series like The Morning Show," "Big Little Lies," and "Little Fires Everywhere,"...
COVID19 Digital Wallet Apple Wallet

Australian Government Now Offering COVID-19 Digital Vaccination Certificates for Apple Wallet

Monday August 2, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
The Australian government has introduced support for adding COVID-19 vaccination digital certificates to Apple Wallet via the Express Plus Medicare app on iOS. Image credit: Tap Down Under As spotted by Tap Down Under, users who have received two doses of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine now have access to the digital certificate through their Medicare online account or via the Medica...
mac pro new graphics

Apple Introduces New High-End Graphics Options for Mac Pro

Tuesday August 3, 2021 7:34 am PDT by
Apple today began offering new high-end graphics upgrade options for both the tower and rack versions of the Mac Pro desktop computer. This comes on the same day that Apple started selling the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID on a standalone basis. As noted by CNN Underscored's Jake Krol, the Mac Pro can now be configured with new AMD Radeon Pro W6800X, W6800X Duo, or W6900X graphics when...