The Moving Picture Experts Group

The MPEG vision

The Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) is a working group of ISO/IEC (formally ISO/IEC JTC1/SC29/WG11) in charge of “development of international standards for compression, decompression, processing, and coded representation of moving pictures, audio, and their combination, in order to satisfy a wide variety of applications”.MPEG started its activities in 1988. That was a time when there were virtually no standards or company specifications with a significant deployment in its area of work. Therefore MPEG developed its standards having in mind their widest possible applicability. MPEG employs the term “generic standard” to convey this intention. MPEG is aware that there may be substantial variations in the specific needs of different user communities and that the amount of features that the standard supports may make it impracticable for all communities to use a single generic standard. For this reason MPEG has developed and practiced over the years the “profiles and levels” approach. Profiles determine the amount of “features” that a particular subset of the standard supports while levels determine the amount of “resources” that a particular level of a particular profile requires for operation.Of course the profile/level structure in general does not provide complete interoperability. However, a successful design of the structure may maximise interoperability compared to the case where profiles and levels are defined independently by single users or communities. The involvement of user communities is vital to achieve the goal of developing generic standards with a proper profile/level structure. The involvement takes place at the beginning for the purpose of developing requirements from a broad base of prospective users and at the end, even after a standard has been developed, when user communities are invited to express their profile/level needs so that different requests can be harmonised.For this purpose MPEG has developed a network of relationships with other bodies. Whenever possible, MPEG employs the mechanisms of liaisons developed by ISO/IEC to establish working relationships with other bodies.MPEG typically develops a standard through a sequence of steps:

  1.  Identification of the need of a standard
  2. Gathering of requirements
  3. Call for proposals
  4. Evaluation of proposals
  5. Technical development

MPEG strives to make its Calls for proposals widely known and assesses submissions coming from sources that are outside MPEG with the same criteria as submissions coming from inside MPEG.Since the very beginning MPEG has been aware that industry and academia had deeply invested in the development of know how related to the MPEG area of work and that many patents had been filed to protect relevant Intellectual Property (IP). Setting aside all other considerations MPEG has made a conscious decision to develop standards that are only based on the technical merit of proposals.It is to be noted that in some cases MPEG does not issue Calls for proposals. This is e.g. the case of the Multimedia Application Formats because the standards are collections of MPEG technologies or the case of some standards for which there is no significant new technology involved.Unlike other standards committees, MPEG takes anticipatory stance vis-à-vis new standards as the only way to ensure that it has full development freedom without constraints and the need for painful transitions by those who make early decisions on new technologies.