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Difference Between MPEG1 and MPEG2


MPEG1 and MPEG2 are both standards for the generic coding of moving pictures and associated audio information. These standards describe the combined lossy compression of audio and video procedure which allows the storage and transmission of moving pictures with audio.

The compression standard for VHS quality digital video with a CD audio down to 1.5 Megabits per second is MPEG-1. In MPEG-1, the compression ratio of video without losing too much quality is 26:1 and the ratio or audio is 6:1. This type of compression makes it viable for digital audio and TV broadcasting as well as the creation of video CDs. As a consequence, this lossy audio and video format has become hugely popular due to its wide compatibility. Various products and applications use the MPEG-1 standard especially the audio format it introduced, the extremely popular MP3.

Then again, the older MPEG1 has some weaknesses that were addressed by its successor, the MPEG2. These said weaknesses are:

-The audio compression is limited to two channels.

– There is no standardized support for interlaced video with poor compression when used for interlaced video

– It has a limited standardized profile — Constrained Parameters Bitstream — which was incompatible for video with higher resolutions. MPEG1 might support 4k video but there was no practical way to encode video for higher resolutions. Identification of hardware capable of support is also limited.

– It supports only one color space — 4:2:0.

MPEG2 can be considered as an enhanced MPEG1 in terms of quality as it is used for DVD productions. MPEG2 can capture audio/video in higher resolutions and use higher bitrates, however, one won’t see much difference if the source is from a VHS type of movie quality. If one is concerned with high quality output, then, MPEG2 standard is likely to be the choice.

Officially, the MPEG2 standard adds a number of features over the older MPEG1, including Variable quantization and VBR. It is quite obvious that MPEG2 has a more complex algorithm in its encoding. MPEG2 can’t be played with MPEG1 players since MPEG2 streams are incompatible with those of MPEG1.

Basically, one may consider MPEG2 as an MPEG1 that supports higher resolutions and capable of using higher and variable bitrates. However, one can argue that MPEG1 performs better in lower bitrates than MPEG2.


1. MPEG2 succeeded the MPEG1 to address some of the older standard’s weaknesses.

2. MPEG2 has better quality than MPEG1.

3. MPEG1 is used for VCD while MPEG2 is used for DVD.

4. One may consider MPEG2 as MPEG1 that supports higher resolutions and capable of using higher and variable bitrates.

5. MPEG1 is older than MPEG2 but the former is arguably better in lower bitrates.

6. MPEG2 has a more complex encoding algorithm.

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