What is the difference between Baseline, Main and High h264 mpeg4 / mp4 profiles?


So what is the difference between using baselinemain or high profiles when encoding video?


I did a little video transcoding to find out with my own eyes. I used x264 and transcoded the same 15s video into a 1000Kbps video at 512×288. The shared specs that the test uses are:


2-Pass CBR (using CBR or committed bit rate seemed more consistent for testing, but we recommend VBR)
512×288 video transcode resolution
1000 Kbps (nice round number)
x264 codec
level 3.0


You’ll find a precise definition of the baseline, main, and high profiles directly below each video.  Learn more about the difference between mp4 and h264 (offsite link)


Quality, especially during high motion frame changes, varies. I will let you draw your own conclusions in the differences between the video profiles. As a general rule, use the Main Profile Level 3.0, 3.1 for the widest cross platform compatibility. Enjoy!

Baseline Profile:

The baseline profile supports intra and inter-coding (using I-slices and P-slices) and entropy coding with context adaptive variable length codes (CAVLC).


Ideal application of ‘baseline’ profile include:

  • videotelephony
  • videoconferencing
  • wireless communications


iPhone 3G supports H.264 Baseline Profile Level 3.1. If your app runs on older iPhones, however, you should use H.264 Baseline Profile 3.0 for compatibility.



Main Profile:


The ‘Main’ or Mainline Profile includes support for interlaced video, inter-coding using B-slices, inter coding using weighted prediction and entropy encoding for using context-based arithmetic coding (CABC).


Ideal application of the Main Profile:

long term video archival storage (SVOD)
television broadcasting

Features included in the Main Profile not included in the Baseline profile are:

  • CABAC entropy coding
  • B Slices
  • Interlaced coding (PicAFF, MBAFF)



High Profile:


The High Profile is used as the preferred choice for HD broadcast and disc storage applications, adopted by the Blu-ray Disc storage format and HDTV broadcast service)


Features included in the High profile (that are not included in the Main Profile) include:


  • Quantization scaling matrices
  • 8×8 vs. 4×4 transform adaptivity



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