H.264 (also called H.264/MPEG-4 AVC) is a video compression standard commonly used for recording, compressing, and distributing high definition video. The standard was completed in May 2003, as a first draft version. The goal of H.264 was to create a standard for high-quality video with lower bit rates than other standards, including MPEG-2, H.263, and MPEG-4 part 2.
The H.264 standard is used in many programs, including Internet video streaming and Digital Cinema applications. Blu-ray and HD DVD both used H.264 as one of the mandatory video compression formats. It was approved for broadcast HDTV in July 2008 by the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee), although it is not widely used for ATSC broadcasts as of yet.