Motion JPEG

A video compression format in which each video frame or interlaced field of a digital video sequence is compressed separately as a JPEG image.

In multimedia, Motion JPEG (M-JPEG or MJPEG) is a video compression format in which each video frame or interlaced field of a digital video sequence is compressed separately as a JPEG image. Originally developed for multimedia PC applications, M-JPEG is now used by video-capture devices such as digital cameras, IP cameras, and webcams, as well as by non-linear video editing systems. It is natively supported by the QuickTime Player, the PlayStation console, and web browsers such as Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Unlike e.g. Motion JPEG 2000 (and common video formats) that permits the carriage of audio, the older (and incompatible with) Motion JPEG doesn't code any audio, as it's simply a concatenation of still JPEG frames. In a suitable container format, e.g. AVI, audio can, however, be provided.

MJPEG was first used by the QuickTime Player in the mid-1990s.


Software and devices using the M-JPEG standard include web browsers, media players, game consoles, digital cameras, IP cameras, webcams, streaming servers, video cameras, and non-linear video editors.
Video capture and editing

M-JPEG is frequently used in non-linear video editing systems. Modern desktop CPUs are powerful enough to work with high-definition video, so no special hardware is required, and they, in turn, offer native random-access to any frame. M-JPEG support is also widespread in video-capture and editing equipment.
Game consoles

The PlayStation game console integrated M-JPEG decompression hardware for in-game FMV sequences, while the PlayStation Portable handheld game console can play M-JPEG from the Memory Stick Pro Duo under the .avi extension with a resolution of 480×272. Both can record clips in M-JPEG with its Go!Cam camera.

Nintendo's Wii game console, as well as V-Tech's InnoTAB, can play M-JPEG-encoded videos on SD card using its Photo Channel. The SanDisk Sansa e200 and the Zen V digital audio players play short M-JPEG videos. Recent firmware updates to the Nintendo 3DS can now record and play "3D-AVI" M-JPEG-encoded files, which is the same format used in the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D series, from an SD card in 320×240 resolution so long as the video duration is 10 minutes or less.

Digital cameras

Prior to the recent rise in MPEG-4 encoding in consumer devices, a progressive scan form of M-JPEG saw widespread use in the “movie” modes of digital still cameras, allowing video encoding and playback through the integrated JPEG compression hardware with only software modification. The resultant quality is still inferior compared to a similar-sized MPEG, particularly as the sound (when included) was uncompressed PCM and recorded at a low sample rate or low-compression, low processor-demand ADPCM.

To keep file sizes and transfer rates under control, frame sizes and rates, along with sound sampling rates, are kept relatively low with very high levels of compression for each individual frame. Resolutions of 160×120 or 320×240 are common sizes, typically at 10, 12 or 15 frames per second, with picture quality equivalent to a JPEG setting of “50” with mono ADPCM sound sampled at ~8 kHz. This results in a very basic, but serviceable video output at a similar storage cost to MPEG (~120 kB/s video rate, ~8 kB/s audio – or approx 1 Mbit/s at 320×240 resolution), but with minimal processing overheads. This video is typically stored in the popular Windows AVI or Apple QuickTime MOV container files, generally viewable natively (or after installation of a simple codec) in most versions of the applicable operating system.

The AMV video format, common on cheap "MP4" players, is a modified version of M-JPEG.

In addition to portable players (which are mainly "consumers" of the video), many video-enabled digital cameras use M-JPEG for video-capture. For instance:

In August 2008, Nikon announced the D90, the first D-SLR to record video. The format used is M-JPEG. The D90 uses three different motion JPEG formats: 320×216 pixels, 640×424 pixels, and 1280×720 pixels.

In June 2009, Pentax announced that the then-upcoming K-7 camera would use M-JPEG in resolutions 640×416, 1280×720, and 1536×1024. The data rate for the M-JPEG files created can be up to 74 Mbit/s.

In August 2016, Canon announced that the 5D Mark IV camera would record 4K video in M-JPEG, with a data rate of approximately 500 Mbit/s.

HDTV media players

Apple announced on September 1, 2010, that its newest version of the Apple TV would support Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbit/s, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in μlaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format.

Certain media players such as the Netgear NeoTV 550 do not support the playback of M-JPEG.

IP cameras

Many network-enabled cameras provide M-JPEG streams that network clients can connect to. Mozilla and Webkit-based browsers have native support for viewing these M-JPEG streams.

Some network-enabled cameras provide their own M-JPEG interfaces as part of the normal feature set. For cameras that don't provide this feature natively, a server can be used to transcode the camera pictures into an M-JPEG stream and then provide that stream to other network clients.


HTTP streaming separates each image into individual HTTP replies on a specified marker. HTTP streaming creates packets of a sequence of JPEG images that can be received by clients such as QuickTime or VLC.

In response to a GET request for an MJPEG file or stream, the server streams the sequence of JPEG frames over HTTP. A special mime-type content-type multipart/x-mixed-replace;boundary=<boundary-name> informs the client to expect several parts (frames) as an answer delimited by <boundary-name>. This boundary name is expressly disclosed within the MIME-type declaration itself. The TCP connection is not closed as long as the client wants to receive new frames and the server wants to provide new frames. Two basic implementations of an MJPEG streaming server are cambozola and MJPG-Streamer. The more robust ffmpeg-server also provides M-JPEG streaming support.

Client software

Native web browser support includes Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Firefox. Other browsers, such as Internet Explorer can display M-JPEG streams with the help of external plugins. Cambozola is an applet that can show M-JPEG streams in Java-enabled browsers. M-JPEG is also natively supported by PlayStation and QuickTime.

Digital video

Digital Video (DV) adopts a similar method by compressing video frames individually.


M-JPEG is an intraframe-only compression scheme (compared with the more computationally intensive technique of interframe prediction). Whereas modern interframe video formats, such as MPEG1, MPEG2, and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, achieve real-world compression ratios of 1:50 or better, M-JPEG's lack of interframe prediction limits its efficiency to 1:20 or lower, depending on the tolerance to spatial artifacts in the compressed output. Because frames are compressed independently of one another, M-JPEG imposes lower processing and memory requirements on hardware devices.

As a pure intraframe compression scheme, the image quality of M-JPEG is directly a function of each video frame's static (spatial) complexity. Frames with large smooth transitions or monotone surfaces compress well and are more likely to hold their original details with few visible compression artifacts. Frames exhibiting complex textures, fine curves and lines (such as writing on a newspaper) are prone to exhibit discrete cosine transforms (DCT) artifacts such as ringing, smudging and macro blocking. M-JPEG-compressed video is also insensitive to motion complexity, i.e. variation over time. It is neither hindered by highly random motion (such as the water-surface turbulence in a large waterfall), nor helped by the absence of motion (such as static landscape shot by a tripod), which are two opposite extremes commonly used to test interframe video formats.

For QuickTime formats, Apple has defined two types of coding: MJPEG-A and MJPEG-B. MJPEG-B no longer retains valid JPEG Interchange Files within it, hence it is not possible to take a frame into a JPEG file without slightly modifying the headers.

Adapted from content published on
Last modified on March 4, 2020, 4:36 am is a service provided by Codecide, a company located in Chicago, IL USA.