Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections

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MPEG-1 Video Coding (H.261)

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Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name ISO/IEC 11172. Information technology -- Coding of moving pictures and associated audio for digital storage media at up to about 1,5 Mbit/s (formal name), MPEG-1 (common name)
Description Compression encoding for video that may be accompanied by audio, identical to ITU-T (International Telecommunications Union-Telecommunication Standardization Sector) recommendation H.261. Low bandwidth, originally developed to store video on media like CDs; later widely used in online environments.
Production phase Generally a final-state (end-user delivery) format.
Relationship to other formats
    Has subtype MP3_ENC, MP3 audio encoding
    Used by QTV_MPEG, QuickTime MPEG
    Has subtype MPEG_layer_2_audio, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 Layer II Audio Encoding

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings Used extensively for access copies of American Memory reformatted moving image content, ca. 1990-2010.
LC preference For preservation reformatting, the Library of Congress' Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation has chosen MPEG-2, Main Profile (lossless JPEG 2000 wrapped in MXF operational pattern 1a).

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms

Disclosure Open standard. Developed through ISO technical program JTC 1/SC 29 for coding of audio, picture, multimedia and hypermedia information by Working Group 11 (WG11) aka the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).
    Documentation ISO/IEC 11172; first approvals in 1991. Five parts have been published; parts 1, 2, and 3 are central. See list of ISO documents in Format specifications below.

Widely adopted for filemaking and World Wide Web access. Many software tools exist for encoding and decoding.

    Licensing and patents None known
Transparency Depends upon algorithms and tools to read; will require sophistication to build tools.

Technical (coding) information is contained in the MPEG-1 bitstream in various headers. Image height and width, for example, are embedded within the sequence header.

The lack of metadata of the type called descriptive by librarians motivated the MPEG group to develop MPEG-7, a separately standardized structure for metadata to support discovery and other purposes.

External dependencies None
Technical protection considerations None

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Moving Image
Normal rendering Good support.
Clarity (high image resolution) Moderate. Typical files have a picture size of 352x240 pixels (non-square pixels) and a data rate of 1.5 Mb/s, which means that only field of each video frame is captured. One commentator ( reports that the source input format (SIF) for MPEG-1 "is CCIR-601 [component video] decimated by 2:1 in the horizontal direction, 2:1 in the time direction, and an additional 2:1 in the chrominance vertical direction. And some lines are cut off to make sure things divide by 8 or 16 where needed." Outcome will depend on the type and extent of compression, and the encoder used.
Functionality beyond normal rendering None
Normal rendering Good support.
Fidelity (high audio resolution) Moderate, given that this is a format for compression. Audio layer three encoding in the standard is also known as MP3_ENC. Outcome will depend on the type and extent of compression, and the encoder used.
Multiple channels MP3 supports five main channels and an optional LFE (Low Frequency Encoding or Effects) channel, i.e., 5.1 surround sound.
Functionality beyond normal rendering None.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension mpg
There is no explicit MPEG-1 file format; MPEG-1 content "ready to be delivered" is exchanged in a de facto file format that may carry one of these extensions.
Internet Media Type video/mpeg
From IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) RFC 2046
Internet Media Type video/mpv
From IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) RFC 3555; these subtypes are glossed as "MPEG-1 or -2 Elementary Streams" and "MPEG-1 Systems Streams."
Internet Media Type video/mpg
Additional examples selected from The File Extension Source.
Magic numbers Hex: 00 00 01 Bx
ASCII: ....
From Gary Kessler's File Signatures Table.
Pronom PUID fmt/649
See for MPEG-1 Elementary Stream.
Pronom PUID x-fmt/385
See for MPEG-1 Program Stream.
Wikidata Title ID Q336284

Notes Explanation of format description terms

History MPEG stands for the Moving Picture Experts Group, which began developing video compression standards in the 1980s. The group was founded by two men described by one commentator as "the fiery Leonardo Chiariglione (CSELT, Italy)" and "the peaceful Hiroshi Yasuda (JVC, Japan)." MPEG's initial development was partly inspired by the H.261 video coding standard published by the ITU (International Telecom Union).

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Books, articles, etc.

Last Updated: 12/27/2022