MPEG status report (Jan 2020)


In the week of the 13th of January, the Free University of Brussels has hosted the 129th MPEG meeting . Two days (11-12) were dedicated to some 15 ad hoc group meetings and 6 days (7-12)to meetings of JVET, the joint MPEG-SG 16 group tasked to develop the VVC standard.

In this status report I will highlight some of the most relevant topics on which progress was made. The figure below captures the essence of the MPEG work plan as it resulted from the meeting.

Versatile Video Coding (VVC)

VVC (part 3 of MPEG-I) is being balloted and the ballot results are expected to be received at the July meeting so that MPEG can approve VVC as FDIS.

MPEG is now working on two related standards that are important for practical deployment: Carriage in MPEG-2 TS (Amendment 2 of MPEG-2 Systems) and Carriage in ISOBMFF (Amendment 2 of MPEG-4 part 15), both expected to be approved in January 2021.

Another activity around VVC is called Multi-Decoder Video Interface for Immersive Media (part 13 of MPEG-I). This aims to support the flexible use of media decoders, for example decoding only a subset of a single elementary stream. This feature is required for processing immersive media composed of a large number of elementary streams.

Essential Video Coding (EVC)

EVC (part 1 of MPEG-5) addresses the needs that have become apparent in some use cases, such as video streaming, where existing ISO video coding standards have not been as widely adopted as might be expected from their purely technical characteristics. EVC is still under ballot and results are expected to become available at the April 2020 meeting (MPEG 130).

The group in charge of EVC has started considering Carriage of EVC in MPEG Systems.

Low Complexity Enhancement Video Coding (LCEVC)

LCEVC will provide a standardised video coding solution that leverages other video codecs in a manner that improves video compression efficiency while maintaining or lowering the overall encoding and decoding complexity. LCEVC will reach DIS in April 2020.

MPEG Immersive Video (MIV) and Video-based Point Cloud Compression (V-PCC)

Part 12 of MPEG-I Immersive Video shares with Part 5 of MPEG-I Video-based Point Cloud Coding (V-PCC) the notion of projecting a 3D scene to a series of planes, compressing the 2-D visual information on the planes with off-the-shelf video compression standards and providing a means to communicate how a 3D renderer can use the information contained in the atlases (in the case of MIV) and the patches (in the case of PCC). Outstanding convergence of the two approaches has been reached.

V-PCC will reach FDIS in April 2020 and MIV in January 2021. Both will have extensions, the latter to enable the ambitious, but needed 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) where user can move in 6 directions.

The MPEG-4 File Format is being extended to include V-PCC and G-PCC data.

Video Coding for Machines (VCM)

VCM is an exploration on a new type of video coding designed to provide efficient representation of video information where the user is not human but a machine, with possible support of viewing by humans. Possible use cases for VCM are video surveillance, intelligent transportation, automatic driving and smart cities.

MPEG has produced a Draft Call for Evidence designed to acquire information on the feasibility of a Video Coding for Machines standard. For this purpose MPEG has published a Call for Test Data for Video Coding for Machines. Test data will be used to assess the responses to the Call for Evidence.

Neural Network-based Audio-Visual Compression

VVC and EVC will support the media industry by providing more compression for transmission and storage. They are both the current endpoints of a compression scheme that dates back to the mid-1980’s. Similarly MPEG-H 3D Audio is the current endpoint of the compression scheme initiated in 1997 with MPEG-2 AAC.

Today, as a result of the demonstration provided in recent years that neural networks can outperform other “traditional” algorithms in selected areas, many laboratories are carrying out significant research on the use of neural networks for coding of audio and visual signals as well as point clouds.

MPEG is calling its members to provide information on this new area of endeavour.

MPEG Immersive Audio

MPEG has produced a Draft CfP for Immersive Audio. The actual CfP will be issued in April 2020 and submissions are requested for July 2020. FDIS is planned for January 2022.

Neural Network Compression for Multimedia

Neyral Networks are used for muktimedia applications, such as speech understanding and image recognition. Industry, however, is coming to the conclusion that the IT infrastructure can very well not be able to cope with the growth of users and that in many cases intelligence is best distributed to the edge. As the size of some of these networks is hundreds of GBytes or even TBytes, compression of neural networks can support distribution of intelligemce to potentially millions of devices. See the figure below for a view of NBMP.

MPEG is progressing its work on the Compression of neural networks for multimedia content description and analysis standard. This is expected to reach CD status in January 2021.

Network-Based Media Processing (NBMP)

NBMP reached FDIS in January 2020. The standard defines a framework for content and service providers to describe, deploy, and control media processing. The framework includes an abstraction layer deployable on top of existing commercial cloud platforms and able to be integrated with 5G core and edge computing. The NBMP workflow manager enables composition of multiple media processing tasks to process incoming media and metadata from a media source and to produce processed media streams and metadata that are ready for distribution to media sinks.

MPEG is exploring how NBMP can become an instance of the Big Media reference model developed by SC 42 Artificial Intelligence.

Compression of Genomic Annotations

At the January 2020 meeting MPEG received 7 submissions in response to the joint Call for Proposals that MPEG and ISO TC 276/WG 5 on the efficient representation of annotations to sequencing data resulting from the analysis pipelines MPEG meeting in Brussels. MPEG has started working on a set of core experiments with the goal to integrate the proposed technologies into a single standard specification capable of satisfying all identified requirements and support rich varieties of queries.

FDIS is expected to be reached in January 2021.

MPEG and 5G

MPEG compression standards are mostly designed to represent information in an abstract way. However, the great success of MPEG standards is also due to the effort MPEG spent in providing the means to convey compressed information. 5G is being deployed and MPEG is investigating if and how its standards can be affected by 5G/

MPEG-21 Contracts to Smart Contracts

Blockchains offer an attractive way to execute electronic contracts. The problem is that there are many blockchains each with their own way of expressing the terms of a contract. MPEG considers that MPEG-21 can be the intermediate language in which smart contracts for different blockchains can be expressed.

One application can be for the following use case. There is no way to deduce from a smart contract the clauses that the smart contract contains. Publishing the human readable contract alleviates the concern, but does not ensure that the clauses of the human readable contract correspond to the clauses of the smart contract.

The figure below describes how the other party of the smart contract can know the clauses of the smart contract in a human readable form.

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MPEG, 5 years from now

MPEG will soon be 32. It has produced many important standards that have changed the industry and the lives of billions of people. What will MPEG be 5 years from now?

MPEG is strong

The MPEG scope is digital media: analysis, compression, transport and consumption of digital moving pictures and audio for broadcast, broadband, mobile and physical distribution. MPEG standards have an extremely wide range of customers belonging to all industries that need digital audio and video packaged for their needs. Because of this, the MPEG brand is universally recognised, even by the public at large.

It should also be noted that MPEG has started applying its expertise to compression and transport of other data. MPEG has started working on compression of DNA reads from high speed sequencing machines some 5 years ago. The field is very active and there is no doubt that in five years it will continue to be so.

Another strength is the MPEG organisation, a flat structure based on interacting units belonging to technology-centred competence centres coordinated by a Technical Coordination Committee. It is the result of a 30-year long natural process driven by the specific needs of the group. MPEG has a large and competent membership with a full ecosystem of experts contributing to the development of technologies needed by MPEG standards. It also has a consolidated and experienced leadership team.

A third strength is the vast network of client communities, typically represented by their standards organisations and/or industry fora. This network is the result of an effective communication policy that includes liaisons letters, press communiqués released at every meeting documenting the progress of work, the MPEG website providing general information, workshop on existing or planned standards, white papers describing the purpose of approved standards, video tutorials and more.

A fourth strength is the MPEG business model. MPEG develops the best standards using the best available technologies provided by industry and academia. Good standards remunerate good IP whose holders may choose to use the revenues to develop more good IP for future standards.

MPEG has weaknesses of its own

At a speech I gave at the 100th MPEG meeting held in Geneva in 2012, I said that the MPEG area of work was so wide, so important for humans and with so many opportunities that, if in 100 years MPEG did not exist any longer, it would not be because the MPEG mission had been exhausted, but because the MPEG leaders of the time had not been able to manage the work of the group properly.

I confirm what I said, but it is a reality that digital media is a maturing business area. The most critical needs, e.g. digital television and media on mobile, have been satisfied. More needs exist but with many unknowns. MPEG is populated by excellent experts and, in the past, their expertise could cope with the need to convert to digital or mobile experiences which users were already accustomed to. Today, however, we are facing the problem that available and possible technologies may be used to offer new products, services or applications. Unfortunately we do not know what are the new products, services or applications using those technologies.

A good example is provided by the 27 year old MP3 standard. It took several years before the excellent MP3 technology found the use we all know. Other MPEG standards have not been so lucky.

The weakness is then that MPEG is a technical group almost without participation of people who can contribute the information that, merged with the existing technical information, can guide the group to develop the right standards.

MPEG has become the reference group for digital media compression and transport. As I have written several times, MPEG standards enable products, services and applications that are worth more than 1.5 T$ p.a. MPEG – a a working group – has achieved such an importance when there are Technical Committees whose economic importance is orders of magnitude less than that of the MPEG working group. So far this did not make much difference because MPEG’s client industries were keen on getting good technologies for their affiliates. In the new competitive environment the MPEG lack of status matters.

Finally MPEG suffers from its very success. Its business model has been the engine of MPEG success, but its unreviewed business model matters and more.

MPEG is threatened

The fact that digital media is maturing has creates another weakness: there is increasing competition in digital media standards. MPEG standards remain the best, but there are other groups developing competing standards with features that are at odds with the MPEG business model. Because of this the share of the client industry adopting MPEG standards is no longer as high as it used to be.

So far MPEG standards have dominated the broadcasting and mobile domains and had to face competition in the “internet” domain. MPEG’s dominance is threatened by the fact that some industries may abandon MPEG standards not because they are best but because they cannot compete on other features that other groups provide. MPEG standards may become less relevant if MPEG stays exclusively with its traditional business model.

MPEG standards are synonymous of globalisation. The established broadcast business was local by definition, but MPEG standards provided an enabling compression technology ready for global adoption. The mobile industry started as local but was easily conquered by the benefits offered by the global MPEG standards. The threat today is that globalisation may no longer be MPEG’s ally because in the new environment the global MPEG brand may be replaced by some local brands.


Borrowing from and extending the actions identified by the MPEG Future Manifesto, MPEG has the following opportunities

  1. Enhance its links with the research and academic community to stimulate more research on technologies that are relevant to MPEG’s standardisation scope
  2. Review its business model, analyse its continuing effectiveness and relevance to industry, identify the need for changes and, if any identified, take action to implement them
  3. Step up communication with its client industries to identify any early needs for standards and obtain requirements
  4. Inject “market-awareness” into MPEG to sharpen the target of MPEG standards
  5. Enhance the value of MPEG standards by strengthening and expanding collaboration with other standards committees, e.g. by developing joint standards
  6. Increase promotion of MPEG standards with its client industries
  7. Dedicate sufficient resources to cover other areas in need of compressions by leveraging MPEG technologies and expertise
  8. Preserve and refine the organisation of MPEG.


Barring exogenous forces, in 5 years MPEG will still be around. However, the next 5 years will not be an easy ride. This does not mean that MPEG will not be able to deliver the results that its customers – industry and end users – expect.

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The driver of future MPEG standards


It is not by chance that the MPEG Future Manifesto has the following action points at the top of its list (italics are mine)

  • Support and expand the academic and research community which provides the life blood of MPEG standards;
  • Enhance the value of intellectual property that make MPEG standards unique while facilitating their use.

Why are these two action points so important? Because the main ingredients of the successful MPEG recipe have been so far

  1. Developing the best performing standards by accessing the best technologies produced by academia and research;
  2. Augmenting the value of the intellectual property provided, thanks to its adoption in standards deployed to billions of users;
  3. Relying on facilitated access to essential patents required to implement MPEG standards.

So as to avoid any misunderstanding, I should explicitly state that MPEG decisions only affect item 1. of the list above because MPEG decisions are made solely on the basis of the technical merits of the technologies proposed and adopted after a scrutiny that follows an established process.

Item 2. is a just consequence of decisions made by MPEG. The “just” hides the fierce discussions that happen when a decision to accept or reject a proposed technology is made.

Item 3. is entirely in the hands of the market. Users wishing to acquire the right to use the essential patent of the standards may decide to use the services offered by patent pools or proceed in other ways.

In a string of articles A crisis, the causes and a solution, Can MPEG overcome its Video “crisis”?, Business model based ISO/IEC standards, IP counting or revenue counting? and Matching technology supply with demand I have

  1. Analysed the changes that have affected the ideal model of the numbered list above by the past quarter-of-a-century application;
  2. Highlighted the risks on the adequacy of the model entailed by the progressive change of the environment;
  3. Ventured to propose ideas for improving the situation.

The very fact that myarticles have generated significant controversy and that there is a continuous flow of readers of the articles, long time after they have been published, implies that indeed there is one (or more) issue with the model as it is applied today.

In this article I intend to review the situation trying to identify the issues that MPEG Future could address in implementing its Manifesto.

How MPEG works

The figure below claims to represent with some accuracy the way MPEG acquires the necessary technologies to develop a standard and how implementors of a standard can acquire the necessary rights.

When MPEG intends to develop a standard, it solicits requirements from the industry. Three segments of the industry can typically provide requirements: eventual users of the standard, implementers of the standard and providers of technology to develop the standard. Note that a specific company may belong to one or more than one industry, in the sense that one department of a company may belong to one industry and another department may belong to a different one.

MPEG receives (step 1)), assesses, refines and harmonises the requirements received. When these have reached sufficient maturity, a Call for Proposals (CfP) is issued (step 2). Companies belonging to the technology industry submit Proposals in response to the CfP (step 3). MPEG assesses the coding tools contained in the proposals and assigns them to specific Competence Centres, say, audio, video, 3D graphics, systems etc. (step 4) who adapt and refine the tools (possibly interacting between them) and adds the selected ones to those in the MPEG Toolkit (step 5) where all the technologies adopted in past standards are contained.

When the development of the standard is completed (step 6), companies claiming rights to the tools included in the standard may decide to join one or more than one patent pool or not to join any patent pool at all. Users of the standard (e.g. implementers and service providers) get use rights from patent holders (step 7) for use in their products, services or applications (step 8).

Albeit MPEG has no role in the last step, the perceived performance of MPEG as a provider of industry standards is highly dependent on how this step unfolds.

The troubles with the situation

What has been described is the result of a natural evolution over the past quarter of a century. In MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 AVC times there was a single patent pool with a limited number of companies not joining the pool. Today, we have the example of MPEG-H HEVC for which there are ~45 known patent holders, 3 known patent pools and a number of companies who have not joined any patent pool. Patent pool members make up ~ 2/3 of patent holders, while ~ 1/3 does not belong to any patent pool.

An assessment

There is no consensus in the industry that the situation described is problematic. Roughly speaking, technology companies say that the situation is just fine, while the client and implementation companies usually complain that getting a licence is “cumbersome”, “difficult” or ”expensive”.

Save for MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Video, MPEG Video standards always had a competition. Some of those who intended to use the standard for internet streaming complained they were discouraged from using MPEG-4 Visual by some licence terms. Many turned to Real Network’s Real Video and Microsoft’s Windows Media Video. MPEG-4 AVC had competition from Google’s VP8 and VP9.

An industry forum called Alliance for Open Media (AOM) has released the specification of a video coding standard called AV1, that I call, but maybe I should not, “royalty free”. AV1 has an improved performance compared to HEVC but is less performing that Versatile Video Coding (VVC). Use of AV1 is getting significant traction in the industry for applications that used to be the purview of MPEG standards.

MPEG reacts

In the last 10 years, MPEG has tried to provide accessible solutions with its three projects for Option 1 video coding standards (Option 1 could, but should not, be considered as equivalent to “royalty free”).

All three projects have pracyically failed:

  • WebVC, the “baseline” profile of AVC, was dead at birth because some patent holders confirmed the Option 2 patent declaration (“my patents can be used, but at RAND conditions”) they had made for AVC.
  • Internet Video coding (IVC) is a published ISO standard with an attractive performance (comparable to AVC). However, it has the Damocles sword of some Option 2 declarations that do not provide any detail on what the infringing technologies are claimed to be. MPEG has declared its willingness to amend the IVC standard if appropriate information will be provided, but so far no information has been received.
  • Video Coding for Browsers (VCB) did not even reach publication because a company made an Option 3 patent declaration (“my patents may not be used for the standard”). Today it would no longer be possible to do so without identifying the infringed technologies. However, at the time the standard was developed, this was possible and MPEG could not remove the infringing technologies that had to be found in an initial list of 50 or so patents with hundreds of claims.

MPEG is currently developing MPEG-5 part 1 Essential Video Coding (EVC). The EVC CfP requested two-layer solutions where each layer had a nominal performance target with respect to AVC and HEVC. This helped the formation of a draft standard, to be promoted to FDIS in April 2020, that is expected to have a significant less complex IP context. The constarint of the CfP, however, is paid by lesser performance than VVC, a standard to be approved as an FDIS in July 2020. What will be the performance cost of the project design is not known today as verification tests for EVC and VVC have not been done yet.

Is this enough?

I cannot claim that what MPEG has done is the solution to what some perceive as a problem. The MPEG Option 1 video coding standards, for one reason or another, have failed. Without additional changes to the rules, it is hard to see how MPEG can offer an Option 1 Video Coding standard (but probably any other internally-developed media-related standard).

There is reason to believe that a standard with more performance than AV1, even if it has less performance than VVC but has a simplified access to the necessary IP will be a competitive proposal, but the jury of the EVC standard is still out and AOM may issue a more performing AV2 specification

The evolutions described above have not reached the endpoint, but MPEG needs a stable and shared approach to standardisation in an increasingly sophisticated IP environment. This is why MPEG Future has put this topic at the top of its priorities.


I think that MPEG Future should

  1. Make an objective analysis of the “difficulties” the current situation creates to users of MPEG standards;
  2. In case the existence of “difficulties” is confirmed, review the current rules and identify how they can be changed to achieve measurable results (rules have been changed once, so they could be changed a second time);
  3. Act to effect the identified changes to the rules.

Caius Julius Caesar said “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicions”.

Caius Julius Caesar said “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicions”. The guide to carry out the steps should not deny a priori the existence of a problem and not be suspected to be influenced by “the competition”.

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The true history of MPEG’s first steps


Purely based on logic, MPEG should not exist.

In the 1980s the Galactic Empire of media standardisation was firmly in the hands of ITU (videocommunication and speech), IEC (audio and television) and ISO (photography and cinematography), not to mention its kingdoms and duchies – the tens of regional and national standards committees.

How could this little Experts Group, not even recognised in the ISO hierarchy, become the reference standards group of the media industry (and more to come)?

Like the Mule in Asimov’s Foundation, MPEG came to the fore with unstoppable force. In this article I will tell the (short) story of how the impossible happened.

Video coding in the 1970’s and 1980’s

I was hired to do research on videophone at CSELT, the research center of Telecom Italia (at that time STET/SIP) and in 1978 I joined the European Action COST 211. The Action’s goal was to specify, implement and trial a 2 Mbit/s videoconference system based on DPCM and Conditional Replenishment. In those years that was as much as sparse electronics and MSI chips could implement.

In 1984 the results of the project were standardised as ITU Recommendation H.120 – Codecs for videoconferencing using primary digital group transmission. A few industrial implementations were made (one from my lab prototype, at that time reduced to 2 16U racks), but the service had a limited use.

COST 211 was followed by COST 211 bis which became a European coordination forum for next ITU-T project. I attended the first few meetings of what was then called the Okubo group, from the name of its chairman. The group developed the specification that in 1988 became H.261 – Video codec for audiovisual services at p x 64 kbit/s.

I discontinued my participation because I did not agree with some of the decisions that were made by the group. My bête noire was the Common Intermediate Format (CIF). As the name implies, CIF was a video format defined as a sequence of frames with a resolution of 352×288 pixels, (1/4 of a PAL frame) at a rate of ~ 29.97 frames/s (the NTSC rate). I failed to convince my colleagues that defining video formats was history – an encoder issue. A decoder designed for flexibility could handle different spatial and temporal resolutions.

In 1984 the European Commission (EC) launched the trial version of its research program Research & development on Advanced Communication for Europe (RACE). I set up a consortium called Integrated Video Codec (IVICO) which was awarded a 1 year grant. The project, a scaled-up version of the COMIS projects, came up with a work plan based on a general coding architecture – DCT + motion compensation, at that time not a discounted solution.

At the end of the year funding of the project was discontinued, I believe that was done because a project whose aim was to design VLSI chips for a consumer market of video decoders was at odds with the EC policy of that time: analogue HD-MAC as the next television format, and digital for the next century (the one we live).

In December 1986 I went to Globecom, held in Houston, TX, to present a paper on the IVICO project. At the conference I met Hiroshi Yasuda and other University of Tokyo alumni I had known during my PhD there. Hiroshi invited me to attend the next meeting of the Joint ISO-CCITT Photographic Coding Experts Group (JPEG) in March.

Learning from JPEG

Going to JPEG meetings made sense to me because my group at CSELT was involved in another European project called Photographic Image Compression Algorithm (PICA). This had been launched by British Telecom to coordinate European participation in JPEG. So, in March 1987 I went to Darmstadt where the FTZ research centre of Deutsche Bundespost hosted the JPEG meeting that finalised the procedure to test proposals to be submitted in July 1987.

I was favourably impressed by the heterogeneous nature of the group. Unlike the various European standards groups I had attended since the late 1970s – all composed of telecommunication people – JPEG was populated by representatives of a wide range of international companies such as telecommunication operators (British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, KDD, NTT), broadcasting companies (CCETT, IBA), computer manufacturers (IBM, Digital Equipment), terminal equipment manufacturers (NEC, Mitsubishi), integrated circuits (Zoran) and others.

The reality of a multi-industry standards group resonated well to me because the idea of a group on video coding standards not uniquely connected to telecommunications had been stuck in my head for a long while. I worked for a telecommunication company and I realised that the time scale of the telecom infrastructure did not match the scale of the media market and that the industry that provided equipment to the telecommunication industry followed the same reasoning as its customers.

In those years I was particularly attracted by the project announced by Philips called CD-i (compact disc interactive) that targeted interactive video on compact disc, hence for a bitrate of ~1.5 Mbit/s. I thought that consumer electronics (CE) should be the industry developing the video equipment that the telecom industry could use, if only the CE industry could be convinced that it was in their interest to develop products based on international standards, instead of proprietary solutions.

At the July meeting, hosted by Kjøbenhavns Telefon Aktieselskab (KTAS) in Copenhagen, one of the PICA proposals coordinated by Alain Léger of CCETT, with the participation of my group, performed the best and became the basis on which the well know JPEG standard was developed. At that meeting I proposed to Hiroshi, who was the convenor of SC 2/WG 8, of which JPEG was an Expert Group that he chaired, to create another Experts Group on Moving Pictures in WG 8.

The birth of MPEG

In January 1988, at another meeting hosted by KTAS in Copenhagen, WG 8 established two more Experts Groups: the Joint ISO-CCITT Binary Image Coding Experts Group (JBIG) and the ISO-only Moving Picture Coding Experts Group (MPEG). The latter had the mandate to develop standards for coded representation of moving pictures (audio and systems came later).

The first project concerned video coding at a bitrate of about 1.5 Mbit/s for storage and retrieval applications “on digital storage media”. It was the realisation of my idea of an international standard developed by the researchers of all industries, implemented by the consumer electronics industry and exploited by the telecommunication and broadcasting industries for audio-visual services.

Having achieved this result, I set up a European project called COding of Moving Images for Storage (COMIS) where I called European telecom companies, CE companies, chip manufacturers, Universities, etc. The intention was not only to create a forum for a more effective participation in MPEG, but also to give more visibility to the MPEG group. Hiroshi did the same in Japan with its Digital Audio Pictures Architecture (DAPA).

The first MPEG meeting took place in Ottawa in May 1988 with 29 people in attendance. At the 4th MPEG meeting in December 1988 in Hannover, the Audio group was established. In a few meetings, the Video, Test, Digital Storage Media, Systems, VLSI groups were also established. The responses to the MPEG-1 Call for Proposals were considered in November 1989 in Kurihama, hosted by JVC, where the attendance reached 99.

I am pleased to say that, at the following Eindhoven meeting (February 1989), MPEG introduced Source Input Format (SIF) obtained by sampling the 625 lines and 525 lines frames yielding 288×352 pixels and 240×352 pixels, respectively, at different frame rates. Simulation results could be shown with the 625 or 525 version of the format. Making decoders disconnected from the video format of the encoder has been an MPEG constant ever since.

The creation of SC 29

In Kurihama the Multimedia and Hypermedia Experts Group (MHEG), an ISO-only group,  was added to WG 8. This meant that in less than two years after adding JBIG and MPEG to JPEG, the membership of WG 8 was already exceeding 150.  I assessed that WG 8 was too small a container for all the activities that were booming and pushed Hiroshi to create a Subcommittee out of WG 8.

At the Washington, DC meeting of SC 2 in April 1991, a coalition of National Bodies approved the secession of WG 8 from SC 2 and SC 29 held its first meeting in November 1991, just after the MPEG-2 tests, where the MPEG attendance reached 200.


MPEG “happened” against all odds, like the Mule in Foundation. My idea of combining the manufacturing capability of the consumer electronics industry to the needs of telecom and broadcasting services succeeded. Today the CE industry of the MPEG-1 times no longer exists as it has largely merged with the IT industry/ However, thanks to its MPEG-4 project, MPEG has been able to continue to play the role of reference standards body also for the “extended” media industry.

The successful MPEG story is a reminder that standardisation has all to gain from fostering the birth of “Mules”. Within MPEG everybody has the chance to become the next Mule. They just have to bring a plan (and convince the rest of MPEG ;-).

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Let’s put MPEG on trial


An Italian proverb says “those who do things make mistakes” to mean that only if you are inactive you don’t make mistakes. According to that proverb, then, MPEG, who has done a lot of things, must have done a lot of mistakes.

So, in this article I imagine there is a prosecutor making charges to MPEG and a defence attorney speaking on behalf of the defendant. Whoever wants to be part of the jury is welcome to join.

Charge #1: MPEG standards are losing market share

Prosecutor: In several markets the importance and adoption of MPEG standards is decreasing.

Attorney: MPEG standards has never been “catch all” solutions. Originally MPEG-1 Video went nowhere because interactive video went nowhere. MPEG-1 Audio layer 2 had a very slow adoption, but MP3 was a huge success. When some Far East markets needed disc-based video distribution without using DVD, MPEG-2 Video and Audio layer 2 became a huge success (1 billion Video CD players). MPEG-2 Video was universally adopted but Audio faced strong competition from proprietary solutions. The 4:2:2 profile of MPEG-2 Video faced strong competition from a market solution. Companies vying for video distribution on the nascent internet turned their back to MPEG-4 Visual and looked at proprietary solutions when they learned that they would have to pay for the amount of video streamed. A more market friendly licensing of MPEG-4 AVC gave a big boost to the adoption of the standards.

Conclusion? As the then candidate Bill Clinton said: “It’s the economy, stupid”.

That was a conclusion, but maybe too hasty. It is true that, with MPEG-2 Video and MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG standards have dominated the video distribution market. Things, however, are changing. The appearance of bigplayers on the internet distribution market has favoured the appearance of proprietary solutions. VP8, VP9 and AV1 had/have millions of users, while the penetration of MPEG-H HEVC is still low. Some, including myself, think that a confused HEVC licensing situation, not the usability and quality of HEVC, is the cause of this situation. MPEG has nothing to say or do about licensing or about the rules that originate the current state of affairs, but MPEG-5 EVC, a standard due to be approved in 4.5 months, can unlock the situation. EVC is expected to have significant more compression performance than HEVC (still less than VVC), but a more streamlined licencing landscape.

Obviously MPEG cannot be involved in the MPEG Future initiative, but one of its action points reads:

Enhance the value of intellectual property that make MPEG standards unique, while facilitating their use

Conclusion: MPEG has its hands tied but the market has not. The people of good will who are part of MPEG Future need not have their hands tied, either, when they operate within the initiative.

Charge #2: too many standards are less than successful

Prosecutor: in 30 years the defendant has produced some 180 standards, but the really successful ones out of these are maybe 1/6 of the total. This has been a waste of resources.

Attorney: it is a matter of where you stop. MPEG could have decided to place the bar of acceptance of new standard work higher and would thus have produced a smaller number of less successful standards. If it had done so, however, most likely MPEG could also not have produced some of its successful standards. Which is better: more attempts or lost opportunities?

One should not forget that, if making a market-ready product costs 1000, designing a product costs 100, making research for a product costs 10 and making a standard for that product costs 1. Companies should concentrate on the 1000s and 100s, not on the 1s.

This does not mean that MPEG has not been aware of the need to increase the number of successful standards. In 2014 MPEG did try to address the problem. It dreamed of a new structure where communication with the the world was not only at the end of the process (“look, this is the standard we’ve developed for you”) but also at the beginning (“look, we plan to develop this standard”).

Figure 1 – The MPEG organisation designed in 2014

The plan went nowhere. As it is perceived as a technical body, MPEG was unable to find the leader of the industry liaison subgroup, never mind the members.

The problem of raising the rate of successful standards, however, does not go away. The MPEG Future initiative has this as a key element of its proposal to make MPEG a subcommittee. Unlike the structure of Figure 1, however, the Industry Liaison and Requirements functions are no longer sequential. They operate in co-competition to provide proposals for action that take into account the unique positioning of MPEG as the body producing standards that are anticipatory but aim to address markets of million or billion products, services and applications. It does that by blending technology evolution trends (as assessed by Technical Requirements) against the expected market need (as assessed by Market Needs).

Figure 2 – The MPEG organisation proposed for MPEG as an SC

Conclusion: applying the English proverb “you cannot have your cake and eat it”, one can say that if you want to have many successful standards you must make many attempts. Nevertheless, injecting market awareness in the standards process will help.

Charge #3: the MPEG structure is too static

Prosecutor: In the last ten years, the organisation of MPEG has not changed appreciably.

Attorney: I am not sure that an organisation that changes its structure frequently is necessarily a healthy organisation. There are many companies out there who are in constant restructuring and their performance can hardly be described as excellent. In the last few years, however, MPEG has concentrated in making its organisation more flexible and suitable for the development of its standards.

Since its early days MPEG had Subgroups and, within it, Units addressing specific areas who are typically temporary, but can also be permanent. Today MPEG can claim to have a flat organisation whose elementary Units belong to specific Subgroups and carry out work for a particular standard interacting with other units under the supervision the Technical Coordination made up of Convenor and Subgroup Chairs. This is represented in Figure 3 where the letter before the Unit indicates the Subgroup the Unit belongs to.

Figure 3 – The flat MPEG organisation

This organisation is functional to the development of the highly integrated MPEG standards.

Conclusion: an organisational chart is typically viewed the sexy part of a company. In MPEG it is not necessarily the most important one.

Charge #4: MPEG does not collaborate with JPEG

Prosecutor: a sizeable part of MPEG deals with (moving) pictures and JPEG deals with (static) pictures. There are a lot of technical commonalities, still the two groups do not collaborate.

Attorney: Collaboration and brotherhood are nice words. Both, however, have to be put in a concrete setting to give them a practical meaning. Here I will only talk about the former.

The word collaboration can be easily applied to a group of researchers belonging to different organisations when they write a paper where each author brings different contributions.

The raison d’être of a standards committee is, well, … making standards. Therefore, “collaboration between two standards committees” can only be invoked when there is a need for a standard serving the constituencies of both committees. MPEG serves the industries engaged in the “distribution of moving pictures and audio on broadcast, broadband, mobile and physical media” while JPEG serves the industries engaged in “digital photography and distribution of still image sequences”. There is little intersection between the two as I am going to explain.

MPEG and JPEG may very well share some technologies, but the needs of their constituencies are different. For instance, JPEG is close to approving the FDIS of a standard for compression of light field images because its industries feel that they are ready to implement such a standard. On the other hand MPEG is just carrying out an exploration on dynamic light fields, because its industries are nowhere ready to do the same. If and when MPEG will develop a standard for dynamic light fields, it will most likely use a different capture format (JPEG has used plenoptic 1 in its standard and MPEG is using plenoptic 2 in its exploration). Therefore, little if anything of what has been developed by JPEG for its light field image compression standards, will be used by MPEG.

This is not a new story. In all 6 generations of MPEG moving picture coding standards no need or significant benefit has ever been found that justifies the adoption of a JPEG standard as the still picture coding mode of an MPEG standard. This assessment holds also for point clouds and, as said above, is expected to hold for other digital moving picture representation technologies such as light fields.

On the other hand MPEG has developed the ISO Base Media File Format (ISOBMFF), a standard used also by several non-ISO bodies such as 3GPP and AOM. Collaboration has happened because JPEG, too, is using ISOBMFF for its standards.

Collaboration need not be the exception. It is an undertaking to reach a common goal – when it exists. Otherwise it is just a way to further knowledge. This is certainly a useful thing, but not if it is done within a standards committee, because it becomes a distraction.

Collaboration is important and if it is to happen successfully, the following steps are needed:

  • Verify the joint industrial interest in the common project
  • Define requirements of the potential common standard
  • Draft the Terms of Reference for joint effort
  • Agree on
    • Work plan and timeline of the joint effort
    • Who lead(s) the work: just one or one from each committee
    • Independent or collocated meetings with either parent committee
    • Which committee provides the secretariat
    • How ballot comments are resolved

Conclusion: collaboration must be done for what it means ethymologically – doing work together.


The prosecutor and the defence attorney have made their pleas. Now it is for the jury to reach a verdict.

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An action plan for the MPEG Future community


A group of people caring about the future of MPEG has established MPEG Future. According to the MPEG Future Manifesto, the group plans to

  1. Support and expand the academic and research community which provides the life blood of MPEG standards;
  2. Enhance the value of intellectual property that make MPEG standards unique while facilitating their use;
  3. Identify and promote the development of new compression-related standards benefitting from the MPEG approach to standardisation;
  4. Further improve the connection between industry and users, and the MPEG standards group
  5. Preserve and enhance the organisation of MPEG, the standards group who can achieve the next goals because it brought the industry to this point.

In this article I would like to contribute to item 4 “Further improve the connection between industry and users, and the MPEG standards group”. I will examine what MPEG currently does or plans to do in the area of Video and Point Cloud compression and will solicit feedbacks and comments from the MPEG Future community.

Video and Point Cloud compression in MPEG

Video and Point Cloud compression are two of the most important MPEG work areas. In MPEG Video and Point Cloud compression is quite articulated because 6 ongoing projects. Tn temporal order of standard approval they are:

  1. Video-based Point Cloud Compression (V-PCC), part 5 of MPEG-I. This standard, to be approved by MPEG in April 2020, will provide a standard means to compress 3D objects whose points on the surface are “densely” captured with (x,y,z) coordinates, colour and depth (and potentially other attributes as well). V-PCC is the natural response to market needs for a standard that compress point clouds without requiring the deployment of new hardware. Here you can see an example of a dynamic point cloud suitable for V-PCC compression.
  2. Essential Video Coding (EVC), part 1 of MPEG-5. This standard, to be approved by MPEG in April 2020, will provide an improved compression efficiency over HEVC, that is less than VVC’s, but with promises to offer a simplified IP landscape. EVC is thus designed to provide a solution to those who need compression but are not ready or capable to access the powerful but sophisticated VVC technology.
  3. Versatile Video Coding (VVC), part 3 of MPEG-I. This standard, to be approved by MPEG in July 2020, is expected to provide the usual improvement of an MPEG video coding standard over the next generation’s. VVC natively supports 3 degrees of freedom (3DoF) viewing (HEVC did already), especially in conjunction with Omnidirectional Media Format (OMAF), part 2 of MPEG-I. VVC is the latest entry of the line MPEG video compression standards and crowns 30 years of efforts by reaching a compression of 1,000 over uncompressed video.
  4. Low Complexity Enhancement Video Coding (LCEVC), part 2 of MPEG-5. This standard, to be approved by MPEG in July 2020, will specify an enhancement stream, suitable for software processing implementation, that enables an existing device to offer higher resolution at competitive quality and with sustainable power consumption.
  5. Geometry-based Point Cloud Compression (G-PCC), part 9 of MPEG-I. This standard, to be approved by MPEG-I in October 2020, will also provide a standard means to compress 3D objects whose points on the surface are “sparsely” captured with (x,y,z) coordinates, colour and depth (and potentially other attributes as well). G-PCC, is designed to compressed point clouds that cannot be compressed satisfactorily with V-PCC. Here you can see an example of a dynamic point cloud suitable for G-PCC compression.
  6. MPEG Immersive Video Coding (MIV), part 12 MPEG-I. This standard, to be approved in January 2021, will provide an immersive video experience to users when they navigate the scene with limited displacements (so-called 3DoF+) because the reduced number of views compressed with standard video coding technologies sent by the encoder are supplemented by the specific view requested by the view synthesised by the decoder.

Why is MPEG engaged in 6 visual coding projects?

In 30 years, the audio-visual market has evolved a lot and the mantra of “one single video compression (albeit with profiles and levels) fits all needs” no longer holds true. Users have different and often incompatible requirements:

  1. High quality is desirable, and you get more quality by increasing bitrate or the amount of technology. Bitrate has a cost but technology, too, has a cost. Therefore, users should be able to achieve the quality they need with different combinations of bitrate and technology,
  2. 2D video has always been the bread and butter of visual applications, but 3D is an attractive mermaid that continuously morphs depending on the capturing technology that becomes available.
  3. Silicon has always been considered a must for constrained devices. This statement continues to be true but using software that implements clever technology allowing the extension of the basic silicon capabilities without changing the device (e.g. V-PCC and LCEVC).

More to come

In 12 months the 6 MPEG projects described will all gradually achieve FDIS level and industry will take over. But MPEG does not only have these 6 projects in store. In the exploration pipeline MPEG has 4 more activities that may become projects.

More Point Cloud Compression

The release of V-PCC and G-PCC does not mean that point cloud compression activitieswill stop. MPEG must listen to what industry and users will say about the first release of these standards and will add what is required to achieve more satisfactory user experiences.

As MPEG in Point Cloud Compression is still in the learning curve, expert more breakthroughs.

Six Degrees of Freedom (6DoF)

With this standard MPEG expects to be able to provide “unrestricted” immersive navigation where users can not only yaw, pitch and roll their heads (as in 3DoF) but move in the 3D space as well. The project is connected with the current 3DoF+ project in ways that are still to be fully determined.

Light fields

MPEG has been exploring the use of light field cameras to generate light field data. Technology, however, is evolving fast form plenoptic-1 cameras (microlens array placed at the image plane of the main lens) to plenoptic-2 cameras (microlens array placed behind the image plane of the main lens to re-image the captured scene). Read here about the challenges light field compression has to overcome for the technology to be deployable to millions of users.

Video coding for machines (VCM)

This exploration is driven by the increasing number of applications that capture video for (remote) consumption by a machine, such as connected vehicles, video surveillance systems, and video capure for smart cities. The fact that the user is a remote machine does not change the fact that transmission bandwidth is often at a premium and compression is required. However, unlike traditional video coding where users expect high visual fidelity, in video coding for machines, “users” expect high fidelity of the parameters that will be processed by the machine users.  The bold idea of VCM is to have a unified video coding system for machines, where one type of machine is human. Technology is expected to be uniformly based on neural networks.

As noted here, however, VCM is not an entirely new field for MPEG. Twenty years ago, MPEG was working on MPEG-7 (multimedia description) and a figure of that time (below) clearly depicts what MPEG had in mind: MPEG-7 was eminently targeted to searching and browsing applications but the users were both humans and machines.

The same figure with minor modifications can be used for VCM. Feature extraction is probably going to be automatic (but manual feature extraction is not excluded because this is an encoder matter). Storage is probably not needed but cannot be excluded either. Search/query and browse are not specifically the target of VCM but cannot be excluded either.

The MPEG Future community should react

MPEG Future participants have a role to play in providing feedbacks on the future of video and point cloud coding. They can be in 3 different directions

  1. Feedbacks on the suitability of the 6 standards that MPEG will release in the next 12 months to market needs;
  2. Comments on the current explorations that will hopefully be converted to MPEG standards, Comments can be on 1) the identified applications, 2) their requirements and 3) the technologies most suitable to support them;
  3. Proposals of new applications.

This will not be the end of the involvement of the MPEG Future community. However, it will be a big step forward.

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Which company would dare to do it?

To get an explanation of the question in the title and an answer, the reader of this article should read the first 5 chapters. If in a hurry, the reader can jump here.

  1. MPEG is synonym of growth
  2. Manage growth with organisation
  3. MPEG does not only make, but “sells” standards
  4. A different approach to standards
  5. Interoperability is not just for commercials
  6. Time to answer the question

MPEG is synonym of growth

MPEG is a unique group in the way it has grown to what it is today. Thirty-one years ago it started as an experts group for video coding for interactive applications on compact disc (it became a working group only 3.4 years after its establishment). A few months after its establishment it added audio coding and systems aspects related to the handling of compressed audio and video. Two years later it moved to digital television (MPEG-2) shedding the “interactive applications on compact disc” attribute, and then it moved to audio-visual applications for the nascent fixed and mobile internet (MPEG-4), then to media delivery in heterogeneous environments (MPEG-H), then to media delivery on the unreliable internet (MPEG-DASH), then to immersive media (MPEG-I), then to genome compression (MPEG-G).

The list of MPEG projects given above is a heavily subsampled version of all MPEG projects (21 in total). However, it gives a clear proof of the effectiveness of the MPEG policy to extend to and cover fields that are related to compression of media. Now MPEG is even working on DNA read compression and has already approved 3 parts of the MPEG-G standard.

The MPEG story, however, is not really in line with the ISO policy on Working Groups (WG). WGs are supposed to be established and run like projects, i.e. disbanded after the task has been achieved. MPEG, however, has been in operation for 31 years because the field of standards for moving pictures and audio is far from being exhausted.

Today MPEG standards cover the following domains: Video Coding, Audio Coding, 3D Graphics Coding, Font Coding, Digital Item Coding, Sensors and Actuators Data Coding, Genome Coding, Neural Network Coding, Media Description, Media Composition, Systems support, Intellectual Property Management and Protection (IPMP), Transport, Application Formats, Application Programming Interfaces (API), Media Systems, Reference implementation and Conformance.

Manage growth with organisation

The MPEG story is also not really in line with another ISO policy on WGs. WGs are supposed to be “limited in size”. However, MPEG counts 1500 experts registered and an average 500 experts attending its quarterly meetings, These last one weeks and are preceded by almost another week of joint video projects and ad hoc group meetings.

The size of MPEG, however, is not the result of a deliberate will to be outside of the rules. It is the natural result of the expansion of its programme of work.

Since the early days, MPEG had a structure: first a Video subgroup, then an Audio subgroup, then a Systems subgroups. The Test subgroup was formed because there was a need to test the submissions in response to the MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 Video Calls for Proposals, the Requirements subgroup came with the need to manage the requirements of all industries interested in MPEG-2 and the 3D Graphics subgroup came with MPEG-4. The Communication subgroup came later prompted by the need to have regular communication with the outside world.

The MPEG organisation is not the traditional hierarchical organisation. Inside most subgroups there are units – permanent or established on an as needed basis – that address specific areas. Units report to subgroups but interact with other units, inside or outside their subgroups, prompted by a group that includes all subgroup chairs.

This unique flat organisation allows MPEG’s 500 experts to work on multiple projects, while allowing those interested in specific one to stay focussed. At the last October 2019 meeting experts worked on 60 parallel activity tracks and produced ~200 output documents. This is also possible because, since 1995, MPEG has been using a sophisticated online document management system now extended to make available information on other parallel meetings, to support the development of plenary results, to manage the MPEG work plan etc.

MPEG not only makes, but “sells” standards

Formally MPEG was not the result of a conscious decision by National Bodies (eventually it became so) but it was prompted by a vision. Therefore, MPEG never had a “guaranteed market”: its standards had to “sell” for MPEG to continue to exist. For that to happen, MPEG standards had to be perfectly tuned to market needs. In other words there had to be a closed relationship between supplier (MPEG) and customers (industries).

Therefore, searching for and listening to customers is in the MPEG DNA:

  1. For its first MPEG-1 standard MPEG found as customers consumer electronics (interactive video on compact disc and eventually Video CD), telcos (video distribution on ADSL-1), radio broadcasters (digital audio broadcasting). MP3 is a different story…
  2. For its MPEG-2 standard MPEG had to convince all types of broadcasters – terrestrial, cable and satellite – all consumer electronics companies and the first IT companies
  3. For its MPEG-4 standard MPEG has to convince the first wave of IT companies and to start talking to mobile communication companies
  4. And so on… Every new subsequent MPEG project brought some new companies of existing industries or new industries.

Above I have used the verb “brought”, but this is not the right verb, certainly not in the early years. MPEG made frenetic efforts to talk to companies, industry fora and standards organisations, presented its plans and sought requirements for its standards. The result of those efforts is that today MPEG can boast a list of several tens of major industry fora and standards organisations such as (in alphabetic order): 3GPP, ATSC, DVB, EBU, SCTE, SMPTE and more.

A different approach to standards

This intense customer-oriented approach is not what other JTC 1 committees do. If you want to build Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and you turn to standards produced by JTC 1/SC 41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, you are likely to only find models and frameworks. If you want to implement a Big Data solution and you turn to JTC 1/SC 42 – Artificial intelligence, you will find again models and frameworks but no trace of API, data formats or protocols.

Both MPEG and other JTC 1 subcommittees develop standards before industry has a declared need for them. However, they differ in what they deliver: implementable standards (MPEG) vs models and frameworks (other committees).

MPEG commits resources to develop specifications when implementation technologies may not be fully developed. Therefore, MPEG can assemble and possibly improve its specifications by adding more technologies to the extent it can be shown that they provide measurable technical merits.

The danger is that MPEG may very well spot the right standard, but its development may happen too early with the risk that the standard may be superseded by a better technology at the time industry really needs the standard. Conversely, the standard may arrive too late, at a time when companies have made real investments for their own solutions and are not ready to discount their investments.

This is one reason why, within JTC 1, MPEG (a WG) has produced more standards than any other subcommittee (note that a subcommittee includes several WGs). MPEG’s policy is to try and develop a new “business” area with a standard that may turn out not to be adopted by industry, not to risk losing an opportunity.

By providing models and frameworks, other committees take the approach of creating an environment where industry players share some basic elements on top of which an ecosystem of solutions with certain degrees of interoperability may eventually and gradually appear.

It is very difficult to make general comparisons, but it is clear that MPEG standards create markets because industry knows how to make products and users know they buy products that provide full interoperability. A proof of this? In 2018 MPEG-enabled devices had a global market value in excess of 1 T$ and MPEG-enabled services generated global revenues in excess of 500 B$. In the same year MPEG standards had a far reaching impact on people at the global level: at the global level there are 2.8 billion smartphones of which 1,56 billions were sold in 2018 alone (see here) and there are ~1.6 billion TV sets in global use by ~1.42 billion households serving a TV viewing audience of ~4.2 billion in 2011 (see here).

Interoperability is not just for commercials

MPEG is also unique because it has succeeded in converting what would otherwise be a naïve approach to interoperability to a practical and effective implementation of this notion. Back in 1992 MPEG was struggling with a problem created by the success of its own marketing efforts: many industries from many countries and regions had believed in the MPEG promise of a single international standard for audio and video compression, but actually industries and countries or regions had different agendas. Telcos wanted a scalable video coding solution, American broadcasters wanted digital HDTV, European broadcasters wanted digital TV scalable to higher resolutions, some industries sought a cheap solution (RAM was an important cost element at that time) while others could afford more expensive solutions.

The solution was obvious but making a standard that included all requirements for all users was out of question. MPEG learned from the notion of profile developed by JTC 1/SC 21 – Open systems interconnection (OSI):

“set of one or more base standards, and, where applicable, the identification of chosen classes, subsets, options and parameters of those base standards, necessary for accomplishing a particular function”

MPEG madeit practically implementable for its own purposes by interpreting “base standards” and “chosen classes, subsets, options and parameters of those base standards” as “coding tools”, e.g. a type of prediction or quantisation. Starting from MPEG-2 (but actually the profile and level notion – at that time not crystal clear yet – was already present in MPEG-1) MPEG standards conceptually specify collections of tools and descriptions of different combinations of tools, i.e. the “profiles”.

Next to quality, profile is the feature that has contributed the most to the success of MPEG standards. Today, OSI profiles are nowhere to be seen, but the world is full of products and services that implement MPEG profiles.

Time to answer the question

I will try now to give a meaning to “it” in the question of the title of this article “Which company would dare to do it?”

MPEG is a standards group, not a company. Still MPEG operates like a company: it produces standards to maximise the number of its customers by satisfying their needs. The measure of MPEG performance used here would probably not satisfy the criteria of an accountant, but I consider enabling a market of 1.5 T$ p.a. to be something akin to “profits” while expenses can be measured to be 500 (experts)*4 (meetings/year)*7.5 (meeting days)*1000 ($/day) = 15 M$.

What would you think of board of directors who wanted to reorganise a “company” whose Operating Expense Ratio (OER) is 0.001% (or its Revenues/Expenses ratio is 100,000)?

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The birth of an MPEG standard idea

From what I have published so far on this blog it should be clear that MPEG is an unusual ISO working group (WG). To mention a few, duration (31 years), early use of ICT (online document management system in use since 1995), size (1500 experts registered and 500 attending), organisation (the way the work of 500 experts work on multiple projects), number of standards produced (more than any other JTC 1 subcommittee), impact on the industry (1 T$ in devices and 0.5 T$ in services per annum).

In How does MPEG actually work? I have talked about the life cycle of an MPEG standard, depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1 – The MPEG standard development process

However, that article does say much about the initial phase of the life cycle, i.e. the moment new ideas that will turn into standard are generated, which is not even identified in the figure. By looking into that moment, we will see again how the way new ideas for MPEG standards are generated, makes MPEG an unusual WG.

The structure of this article is

A round up of MPEG standards

The work standard is used to indicate both a series of standards (identified by the 5-digit ISO number) and a part of a standard (identified by 5 digits a dash and a number). In this article we will use “standard” for the former and “part of standard” for the latter,

MPEG-1 and 2

The idea of the first two MPEG standards was generated in 1988 when a new “Moving Picture Experts Group” was created in JTC 1/SC 2/WG 8. The original MPEG work items were (the acronym DSM stands for Digital Storage Media):

  1. Coding of moving pictures for DSM’s having a throughput of 1-1.5 Mbit/s (1988-1990)
  2. Coding of moving pictures for DSM’s having a throughput of 1.5-5 Mbit/s (1990-1992)
  3. Coding of moving pictures for DSM’s having a throughput of 5-60 Mbit/s (to be defined).

I was the one who proposed the first work item (video coding for interactive video on compact disc) later to be named MPEG-1 while Hiroshi Yasuda added the second (later to be named MPEG-2). In MPEG-2 the word DSM was kept in order not to upset other standards groups (but the eventual title of MPEG-2 became “Generic coding of moving pictures and associated audio information”). The third standard was little more than a placeholder. The time assigned to develop the standard was definitely optimistic. It took two more years than planned for both MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 to reach FDIS (and even so it was really a rush).

The third standard was the first and an early case of the birth of a new standard idea that was “miscarried” because the third work item was combined with the second. That is the reason why there is no MPEG-3, but there is MP3 which is just something else.


MPEG-4 was born with a similar process and was motivated by the fact MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 targeted high bitrates. However, low bitrates, too, were important and not covered by MPEG standards. Eventually MPEG-4 became the container of foundational digital media technologies such as audio for internet distribution, file format and open font format.


MPEG-7 had a different story. It was proposed by Italy to SC 29 in response to the prospects of users having to navigate 500 TV channels to find what they wanted to see. The study in SC 29 went nowhere, so MPEG took it over and developed a complete standard framework for media metadata.


MPEG-21 was driven by the upheaval brought about by MP3 as exemplified by Napster. The response was to create a complete standard framework for media ecommerce. The framework included the definition of Digital Items, and standards for Right and Contact Expression Languages and much more


MPEG-A was the result of an investigation carried out by the MPEG plenary. AS a result of the investigation MPEG realised that, beyond standards for individual media, it was necessary to also develop standard combinations of media encoded according to MPEG standards.


MPEG-B, -C and -D were proposed by MPEG at a time the Systems-Video-Audio trinity appeared to be no longer a response to standards needs, while individual Systems, Video and Audio standards were still in demand. All three standards include parts that can be classified as Systems, Video and Audio. As a note the Systems, Video and Audio trinity is alive and kicking. Actually it has become a quternity with Point Clouds.


MPEG-E was driven by the idea of providing the industry with a standard specifying the architecture and software components of a digital media consumption device.


MPEG-V was probably the first standard that was not the result of a decision by MPEG to propose a new standard but the result of a individual proposals coming from two different directions: virtual worlds (the much touted Second Life of the mid-2000’s) and the enhanced user experience made possible by existing and new sensors and actuators. MPEG succeeded in developing a comprehensive standard framework for interaction of humans with and between virtual worlds.


MPEG-M was influenced by work done within the Digital Media Project (DMP) to address a standard middleware for digital media. MPEG-M became an extensible standard framework that specifies the architecture with High Level API, the middleware composed of MPEG technologies with Low Level API. and the aggregation of services leveraging those technologies.


MPEG-U was probably the first standard whose birth happened in a subgroup – Systems. Eventually MPEG-U became a standard for exchanging, displaying, controlling and communicating widgets with other entities, and for advanced interaction.


MPEG-H and DASH were two standards born out of the strongly felt need to overhaul the then 15-year old MPEG-2 Transport Stream (TS). The result was that the market 1) strongly reaffirmed its confidence in MPEG-2 TS, 2) enthusiastically embraced MPEG-H (integrated broadcast-broadband distribution over IP) and widely deployed DASH (media distribution accommodating unpredictable variations of available bandwidth) inspired by and developed in collaboration with 3GPP.


MPEG-I was the result of the drive of the industry toward immersive services and devices enabling them. This is currently the MPEG flagship project, now with 14 parts but certainly designed to compete withe the number of parts (34) of MPEG-4.


MPEG-CICP was a “housekeeping” action with the goal to collect code points for non-standard specific media formats in a single place (actually 4 documents).


MPEG-G resulted from the proposal of a single organisation for a framework standard for storage, compression and access of non-media data (DNA reads). The organisation proposed the activity, but of course the development of the standard was fully open and in line with the MPEG process of Figure 1.


MPEG-IoMT resulted from a single organisation proposing a framework standard for media-specific Things (as defined in the context of Internet of Things), i.e. cameras and displays.


MPEG-5 resulted from the proposal of a group of companies who needed a video compression standard that addressed business needs of some use cases, such as video streaming, where existing ISO video coding standards have not been as widely adopted as might be expected from their purely technical characteristics. This requirement was not met by state of the art MPEG video coding standard and the proposal was, after much debate, discussed and accepted by the MPEG plenary.

Looking at the birth of parts

From the roundup above the reader may have gotten the impression that most MPEG standards are the result of a collective awareness of the need of a standard. As I have described above, this is largely, but not exclusively, true, of standards identified by the 5-digit ISO number. But if we look at the parts of MPEG standards, we get a picture that does not contradict the first statement but provides a different view.

In its 31 years of activity MPEG has produced parts of standards in the following areas: Video Coding, Audio Coding, 3D Graphics Coding, Font Coding, Digital Item Coding, Sensors and Actuators Data Coding, Genome Coding, Neural Network Coding, Media Description, Media Composition, Systems support, Intellectual Property Management and Protection (IPMP), Transport, Application Formats, Application Programming Interfaces (API), Media Systems, Reference implementation and Conformance.

In the following we will see how the nature of standard parts influences the birth of MPEG standards.

Video Coding

Video coding standards are mostly driven by the realisation that some of existing MPEG standards are no longer aligned with the progress of technology. This was the case of MPEG-2 Video because it promised more compression than MPEG-1 Video, MPEG-4 Visual because there was no MPEG Video Coding standard for very low (much below 1 Mbit/s) bitrates, MPEG-4 AVC was developed because it promised more compression than MPEG-4 Visual, MPEG-H HEVC was developed because it promised more compression than MPEG-4 AVC and MPEG-I VVC was developed because it promised more compression than MPEG-H HEVC.

Forty years of video coding and counting tells the full story of the MPEG video compression standards.

This is not the full story, though. Table 1 is a version of the table in More video with more features, slightly edited to accommodate recent evolutions. The table describes the functionalities, beyond the basic compression functionality, that have been added over the years to MPEG Video Coding standards. The birth of each of these proposals for new functionalities has been the result of much wrangling between those who wanted to add the functionalities because they believed the necessary technology was available and those who saw the technology was immature and not ready for a standard.

Table 1 – Functionalities added to MPEG video coding standards

Audio Coding

The companion Audio Coding standards had a much different evolution. Unlike Video, whose bitrate was and is so high and growing to justify new generations of compression standards, Audio Coding was driven to large extent by applications and functionality, with compression always playing a role. Thirty years of audio coding and counting talks about the first MP3, then of MPEG-4 AAC in all its shapes, and then of MPEG Surround, Spatial Audio Object Coding (SAOC), Unified Speech and Audio Coding (USAC), Dynamic Range Control (DRC), MPEG-H 3D Audio and the coming MPEG-I Immersive Audio. MPEG-7 Audio should not be forgotten even though compression is appl;ied to descriptors, not to audio itself. The birth of each of these Audio Coding standards is a history in itself, ranging from being a part of a bigger plan developed at MPEG Plenary level, to specific Audio standards agreed by the Audio group, to a specific functionality to be added to a standard either developed or being developed.

3D Graphics Coding

The 3DG group worked on 2D/3D graphic compression, and then on Animation Framework eXtension (AFX). In the case of 2D/3D graphic compression, the birth of the standards was the result of an MPEG plenary decision, but the standards kept on evolving by adding new technologies for new functionalities, most often at the instigation or individual experts and companies.

Talking of 3D Graphics Coding, I could quote Rudyard Kipling’s verse

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet

and associate West to Video Coding and East to 3D Graphics Coding (or vice versa). Indeed, it looked like Video and 3D Graphics Coding would comply with Kipling’s verse until Point Cloud Compression (PCC) came to the fore. Proposed by an individual expert and under exploration for quite some time, it suddenly became one of the sexiest MPEG developments merging, in an intricated way, Video and 3D Graphics.

We can indeed say with Kipling

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

Font Coding

Font Coding is again a new story. This time the standard was proposed by the 3 companies – Adobe, Apple and Microsoft – who had developed the OpenType specification. The reason was that it had become burdensome for them to maintain and expand the specification in response to market needs. The MPEG plenary accepted the request, took over the task and developed several parts of several standards in multiple editions. As participants in the Font Coding activity do not typically attend MPEG meetings, new functionalities are mostly added at the request of experts or companies on the email reflector of the Font Coding ad hoc group.

Digital Item Coding

The initiative to start MPEG-21 was taken by the MPEG plenary, but the need to develop the 22 parts of the standards were largely identified by the subgroups – Requirements, Multimedia Description Schemes (MDS) and Systems,

Sensors and Actuators Data Coding

The birth of MPEG-V was the decision of the MPEG plenary, but the parts of the standard kept on evolving at the instigation or individual experts and companies. Four editions of the standard were produced.

Genome Coding

Development of Part 1 Storage and Transport and Part 2 Compression of a Genome Coding standard was obviously a major decision of the MPEG plenary. The need for other parts of the MPEG-G standard, namely Part 3 Metadata and API, and Part 6 Compression of Annotations, was identified by the Requirements group working on the standard.

Neural Network Coding

Neural Network Coding was proposed at the October 2017 meeting. The MPEG plenary was in doubt whether to call this “compression of another data type” (neural networks) or something in line with its “media” mandate. Eventually it opted to call it “Compression of neural networks for multimedia content description and analysis”, which is partly what it really is, an extended new version of CDVS and CDVA with embedded compression of descriptors. Neural Network Compression (NNC) is now (October 2019) at Working Draft 2 and is planned to reach FDIS in April 2021. Experts are too busy working on the current scope to have the time to think of more features, but we know there will be more because the technologies in the current draft do not support all the requirements.

Media Description

As mentioned above, the MPEG plenary decided to develop MPEG-7 seeing the inability of SC 29 to jump on the opportunity of a standard that would describe media in a standard way to help user access the content of their interest. The need for the early parts of MPEG-7 were largely identified by the groups working on MPEG-7. The need for later standards, such as CDVS and CDVA, was identified by a company (CDVS) and by a consortium (CDVS). The need for the latest standard (Neural Network Compression) was identified by the MPEG plenary.

Media Composition

Until 1995 MPEG was really a group working mostly for Broadcasting and Consumer Electronics (but MP3 was a sign of things to come) and did not have the need for a standard Media Description. MPEG-4 was the standard that extended the MPEG domain to the IT world and the “Coding of audio-visual objects” title of MPEG-4 meant that a Media Description technology was needed.

The MPEG plenary took the decision to extend the Virtual Reality Mark-up Language (VRML) establishing contacts with that group. The MPEG plenary did the same when a company proposed a new W3C recommendation-based Media Description technology. A company proposed to develop the MPEG Orchestration standard. After much investigation and debate, the Requirements and Systems groups have recently come to the conclusion that the MPEG-I Scene Description should be based on an extension to Khronos’ glTF2.

Systems support

Systems support was the first non-video need after audio identified by the MPEG plenary a few months after the establishment of MPEG. Today Systems support standards are mostly, but not exclusively, in MPEG-B. This standard contains parts that were the result of a decision of the MPEG plenary (e.g. Binary MPEG format for XML and Common encryption), the proposal of the Systems group (e.g. Sample Variants and Partial File Format) or the proposal of a company (e.g. Green metadata).

Intellectual Property Management and Protection (IPMP)

IPMP parts appear in MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and MPEG-21. They were triggered by the same context that produced MPEG-21, i.e. how to combine the liquidity of digital content with the need to guarantee a return to rights holders.

The need for MPEG-4 IPMP was identified by the MPEG plenary, but MPEG-2 and MPEG 21 IPMP was proposed by the Systems and MDS groups, respectively.


Although partly already in MPEG-1, Transport technology in MPEG flourished in MPEG-2 with Transport Stream and Program Stream. The development of MPEG-2 Systems was a major MPEG plenary decision, as was the case for MPEG-4 System, that at the time included the Scene description technology. MPEG-2 TS has dominated the broadcasting market (and is even used by AOM). As said above, MPEG-H MPEG Media Transport (MMT) and DASH are two major transport technologies whose development was identified and decided by the MPEG plenary. All 3 standards have been published several times (MPEG-2 Systems 7 times) as a result of needs identified by the Systems group or individual companies.

Application Formats

The first Application Formats were launched by the MPEG Plenary and the following Application Formats by different MPEG groups. Later individual companies or consortia proposed several Application Formats. The Common Media Application Format (CMAF) proposed by Apple and Microsoft is one of the most successful MPEG standards.

Application Programming Interfaces (API)

MPEG Extensible Middleware (MXM) was the first MPEG API standard. The decision to do this was made by the MPEG plenary but the proposal was made by a consortium. The MPEG-G Metadata and API standard was proposed by the Requirements group. The IoMT API standard was proposed by the 3D Graphics group.

Media Systems

This area collects the parts of standards that describe or specify the architecture underpinning MPEG standards. This is the case of part 1 of MPEG-7, MPEG-E, MPEG-V, MPEG-M, MPEG-I and MPEG-IoMT. These parts are typically kicked off by the MPEG plenary.

Reference implementation and Conformance

MPEG takes seriously its statement that MPEG standards should be published in two languages – one that is understood by humans and another that is understood by a machine – and that the two should be equivalent in terms of specification. The reference software – the version of the specification understood by a machine – is used to test conformance of an implementation to the specification. For these reasons the need for reference software and conformance is identified by the MPEG plenary.


With the understanding that all decision are formally made by the MPEG plenary, the trigger of an MPEG decision happens at different levels. Very often – and more often as MPEG matures and its organisation more solid – the trigger is in the hand of an individual experts or group of experts, or of an MPEG subgroup.

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More MPEG Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats


In its MPEG and JPEG as SCs proposal, MPEG Future proposes that MPEG become a subcommittee to improve collaboration with other bodies, establish a clear reference in ISO for the digital media industry, enhance group’s governance and more. The obvious question to MPEG Future concerns MPEG’s adequacy for the new role. The first answer to this question is that, in its original proposal, the Italian National Body UNI has already carried out a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis.

In No one is perfect, but some are more accomplished than others I have started rewording, expanding and publishing that SWOT analysis and in this article I will continue the task.

The Italian National Body has identified the following Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of a standards committee like MPEG: Context, Scope of standards, Business model, Membership, Structure, Leadership, Client industries, Collaboration, Standards development, Standards adoption, Innovation capability, Communication and Brand.

In the article mentioned above I have dealt with Context, Scope of standards, Business model and in this one I will deal with Membership, Structure and Leadership.


I would like to identify four levels of members: those who actually attend MPEG meetings, those who are officially registered as members but do not attend, those who actually work in MPEG projects without being officially members and those who, even without being members, have their work significantly influenced by MPEG work plan and standards.

Membership – as defined above – is the most valuable MPEG asset. It is because of this that the MPEG Future Manifesto has identified “Support and expand the academic and research community which provides the life blood of MPEG standards” as the first of its actions.


MPEG has a level 1-2 membership competent in all areas of scope, large in number (level 1 is 500 and level 2 is 1500 experts), from many different industries with a growing role of academia and global (>30 countries). Level 3 membership is estimated at a few thousand experts and level 4 is estimated at a few tens of thousands. There is a continuous flow of level 1-2 experts leaving and being replaced by new experts, from level 3 and even from level 4.

Another strength is the fact that many level 1 MPEG members are active members of other organisations. This multiple membership facilitates understanding of other committees’ work, needs and plans. Table 1 identifies customers (those MPEG provides standards to) and partners (those MPEG works with, e.g. to develop standards).

Table 1 – Main customers (C) and partners (P)

Read Standards and collaborations to know more about the way MPEG does work with other committees.


The main weakness comes from the fact that the percentage of level 1 experts coming from companies directly using MPEG standards is shrinking. This is the result of a phenomenon that is entirely outside of MPEG control but alters MPEG’s traditional relationship with its industries.

Related to the same phenomenon is the fact that the percentage of experts working for Non-Performing Entities (NPE) is growing. Of course, all experts are motivated to develop the best possible standards, but the ultimate goal of experts is changing compared to the traditional experts’ goal.

Similar to the above phenomenon is the fact that the percentage of academic members, currently at about 25%, is growing. Of course, injection of valuable academic know how is good but again the ultimate goal of experts is changing compared to the traditional experts’ goal.

Of a completely different nature is the weakness generated by one of the strengths mentioned above: the large number of level 1 members. The ISO/IEC directives say that WGs should be “limited in size”. Limited is not defined but, when one sees ISO Technical Committees of couple hundred members, ISO Subcommittees of a few tens and MPEG (a working group) of 500, that MPEG has exceeded the “limited size” is more than a suspicion.

A final main weakness is a consequence of the fact that MPEG attracts the best experts but, being a working group, does not attract managers who care about the organisational sustainability of MPEG in a world of standards. No level 1 MPEG member attends JTC 1 meetings where important policy decisions may be made that affect MPEG’s work plan and execution.


One of the most strategically important opportunities is how to make best use of the enormous brain power that populates MPEG meetings and activities, influences research and attracts new members.

This can be achieved by exploiting the opportunities for new standards in the MPEG traditional media field. MPEG is working in several areas such as immersive media, neural network compression and video coding for machines that will require a large number of experts making substantial contributions. Additionally MPEG can offer new perspectives in compression of data other than media, e.g. genomics.

From the organisational viewpoint MPEG can comply with the ISO/IEC directives while keeping the MPEG ecosystem intact, e.g. by achieving subcommittee status.


The biggest threat is that the MPEG membership is not an asset that is granted for ever. Members at all levels can leave without being replaced because the MPEG work plan may lose its attraction, or its standards are no longer relevant or profitable. A related threat is an overshoot of the attractionm to new members that is unable to reward all members at all levels.

Another set of threats is caused by the current discussions on the future of MPEG which is shaking the confidence of industry and experts. A breakup of MPEG in disconnected working groups would dramatically affect MPEG’s ability to deliver its existing work plan. Even if delivery is assured, there will be no guarantee that the quality of standards will remain the same because the glue provided by the MPEG organisation and modus operandi will be lost.


The MPEG structure is another major asset of MPEG. It is at the root of the quality, usability and ultimate success of MPEG standards.


The biggest strength of the MPEG structure is the fact that it has not been designed by committee but is the result of a 30-year long learning process. Figure 1 depicts the structure with an indication of the flow of activities.

Figure 1 – Today’s MPEG structure and workflow

MPEG can be defined as an ecosystem of interacting subgroups developing integrated standards and, over three decades, MPEG subgroups were created and disbanded (see here for the full story) because the ecosystem shifted in nature. The subgroups in operation today are the best match to the current conditions, but may well change if the programme of work will change.

These are the main components of the MPEG ecosystem

  1. Ad hoc groups (AhG) were created since the early days (1990) because experts needed an “official” environment to continue doing work outside MPEG meetings, with the understanding that “decisions” could only be made when MPEG is in session.
  2. Break-out groups (BoG) existed since the early days because even a single part of a standard could be too complex and the work had to be split in separate activities to be merged later by the subgroup in charge of that part of the standard.
  3. Joint meetings are possible because the expertise of the MPEG membership covers all areas needed by MPEG standards. Whenever an MPEG standard needs to interface with another standard or expose an interface it is possible to get the relevant people together, discuss and take action on the issues.
  4. Chairs meetings are the place where the general progress of work is reviewed and the need for interaction between the elements of the MPEG ecosystem are identified.
  5. Finally MPEG benefits from powerful ICT tool developed by Christian Tulvan of Institut Mines Télécom to support document management, session allocation, work plan etc.

A more complete analysis of the MPEG ecosystem is found at MPEG: vision, execution, results and a conclusion.

An important strength is given by the fact the processess described above have taken root over many years and are now deeply ingrained in the collective mindset of mPEG members.

A final important strength is that, while MPEG does not have a formal strategic planning function, this is actually implemented by the diffuse structure described above.


The main weakness of the current MPEG structure is a reflection of the main strength as described above. MPEG has an enormous brain power with extremely high levels of technical excellence but has weak links with the market.

This does not mean that MPEG is unaware of the market. Its processes include the development of context and objectives for a new project, the development of use cases and the analysis of use cases to develop requirements. However, all this is done by technical experts who, as the case may be, occasionally wear the clothes of market guys.

Because of its enormous brain power, MPEG has been able to develop many standards, some of which are extremely successful and other less so. Therefore, while there is no compelling need to address this weakness  because MPEG standards are so successful, there is room for improvements.

Another significant weakness is the limitation in MPEG’s ability to initiate new collaborations with other committees because of MPEG’s inferior status in ISO.


MPEG Future’s MPEG and JPEG as SCs proposes that MPEG becomes a subcommittee with a new Market needs Advisory Group (AG). MPEG is a big thing. Can it be bigger? describes how the interaction between a technology driven Technical Requirements AG can compete and collaborate with the proposed Market needs AG to make more robust and justified proposals for new standards.

By becoming a subcommittee MPEG can also have more freedom to timely initiate collaborations with other committees and to actually establish formal collaborations with other ISO and IEC committees using the Joint Working Group )JWG) mechanism. Today, as a working group, MPEG may not formally do work with other committees if not by liaison.


The main threat is the possibility that, in the face of a large committee of 500 level 1 experts and 1500 level 2 experts, MPEG is simply broken up in its working groups or, worse, new working groups are created by recombining MPEG activities. Of course, given sufficient time and effort, a new different MPEG-like organisation may be created, but at the cost of delayed or inferior quality standards and without a guarantee that a committee-designed organisation will work as well as an organisation that is the result of a Darwinian process.


By leadership here we mean the many people who hold a leadership position in MPEG: convenor, subgroup chairs, ad hoc group chairs and break-out group rapporteurs.


Because of its oft-mentioned enormous brain power, MPEG is in the enviable position of being able to identify excellent leaders. Actually, MPEG does that for subgroup chairs but ad hoc group chairs and break-out group rapporteurs are very much the result of a bottom up process.

The main strength is given by the consolidated and experienced MPEG and subgroup leadership who is ready to delegate significant levels of authoomy to AhGs and BoGs, with the constraints imposed by the fact that formal adoption of technology is the competence of subgroups and ratification of decision is the competence of the MPEG plenary.


The main weakness, going hand-in-hand with its main strength, is that leadership of MPEG and subgroups is rather static and that new leaders identified in AhG-BoG activities are not sufficiently put to good use.


With the implementation of MPEG Future’s MPEG and JPEG as SCs proposal, MPEG has the opportunity to introduce accelerated cycles of leadership regeneration in WGs, JWGs and AGs, and in a better management of the “unit” entity described in MPEG: vision, execution, results and a conclusion.

The MPEG Future proposal also incudes suggestions on new processes to nominate candidates as chair of the proposed new subcommittee by the Secretariat could be designed that preserve the ultimate authority of the Secretariat to decide in the framework of selections made by the MPEG community.


The MPEG structure and MPEG leadership are not disconnected entities. Today’s MPEG structure with an entirely new leadership would have a hard time to work smoothly and guarantee the delivery of the standards in the work plan with the quality that MPEG’s client industries expect. This does not mean that the leadership should stay static forever, simply that changes should be implemented in a progressive fashion.


In this article we have made a SWOT analysis of three of the most critical KPIs: membership, structure and leadership. MPEG is excellent in all three, but does have weaknesses. Opportunities for improvements are offered by MPEG Future’s MPEG and JPEG as SCs proposal, but threats are lurking.

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The MPEG Future Manifesto

Communication makes us humans different. Media make communication between humans effective and enjoyable. Standards make media communication possible.

Thirty-two years ago, the MPEG vision was forming: make global standards available to allow industry to provide devices and services for the then emerging digital media so that humans could communicate seamlessly.

For thirty-two years the MPEG standards group has lived up to the MPEG vision: MPEG standards are behind the relentless growth of many industries – some of them created by MPEG standards. More than half the world population uses devices or accesses services, on a daily or hourly basis, that rely on MPEG standards.

The MPEG Future Manifesto claims that the MPEG mission is far from exhausted:

  • New media compression standards can offer more exciting user experiences to benefit consumers that the service, distribution and manufacturing industries want to reach, but also for new machine-based services;
  • Compression standards can facilitate the business or mission of other non-media industries and the MPEG standards group has already shown that this is possible.

Therefore, the MPEG Future Manifesto proposes a concerted effort to

  • Support and expand the academic and research community which provides the life blood of MPEG standards;
  • Enhance the value of intellectual property that make MPEG standards unique while facilitating their use;
  • Identify and promote the development of new compression-related standards benefitting from the MPEG approach to standardisation;
  • Further improve the connection between industry and users, and the MPEG standards group
  • Preserve and enhance the organisation of MPEG, the standards group who can achieve the next goals because it brought the industry to this point.

MPEG Future is a group of people, many of whom are MPEG members, who care about the future of MPEG. MPEG Future is open to those who support the MPEG Future Manifesto’s principles and actions.

You may:

  • Participate in the MPEG Future activities, by subscribing to the LinkedIn MPEG Future group
  • Join the MPEG Future initiative, by sending an email to

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