Industry Blog

H.265 – Creating Disruption in the Video Space

High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC or H.265) is a new standard for video compression that has the potential to deliver far greater performance than earlier standards such as H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding).

HEVC was designed to substantially improve coding efficiency compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. The target is to reduce bitrate requirements by half with comparable image quality, at the expense of increased computational complexity. Depending on the application requirements HEVC encoders can trade off computational complexity, compression rate, robustness to errors, and encoding delay time. Two of the key features where HEVC wins compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC are support for higher resolution video and improved parallel processing methods, together with efficient parallel processing [1].

HEVC is targeted at next-generation HDTV displays and content capture systems which feature progressive scanned frame rates and display resolutions from QVGA (320×240) to 4320p (8192×4320), as well as improved picture quality in terms of noise level, color gamut, and dynamic range.

The result is a video coding standard that can enable better compression and store or transmit video more efficiently than with earlier technologies such as H.264. This means that, at the same picture size and quality, an HEVC video sequence will occupy less storage or transmission capacity than the equivalent H.264 video sequence. Also at the same storage or transmission bandwidth, the quality and/or resolution of an HEVC video sequence should be higher than the corresponding H.264 video sequence. H.265 also opens the way for reaching a new level of video quality envisioned with 4K and, eventually, 8K ultra-HD on ever larger screens with minimum impact on existing bandwidth allocations.

H.265 is the reference codec from ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) as ISO/IEC 23008-2 MPEG-H Part 2 and ITU-T H.265.

The biggest evolution from AVC to HEVC is that it breaks video frames up into blocks of 64×64 pixels compared to 16×16. Another is that it can divide frames into multiple tiles so multicore processors can spread decoding across parallel subtasks. This will give additional advantage in terms of throughput in parallel processing.

HEVC can be very useful for small vendors eg those working with network-constrained mobile phones or considering the Broadcasting business area. HEVC will significantly reduce bandwidth requirements for video conferencing and streaming, which can be used either to reduce bandwidth costs or to increase video resolution and quality.  Success for HEVC means that organizations including Mozilla and Google, which have been fighting an uphill battle to encourage instead the VP8 royalty-free codec from Google, will have apotentially even steeper hill to climb. Despite support from major players — others include Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Samsung — it’s not very clear when and how HEVC will revolutionize the world..

“According to a presentation by Google, VP9 is ~7% behind HEVC/H.265 in terms of quality/bitrate when they tested VP9 in Q4 of 2011 (They started developing VP9 in Q3 2011). Their goal is to become even better than HEVC”[2].

For information:

VP8 is a video compression format owned by Google and created by On2 Technologies as a successor to VP7. After the purchase of On2 Technologies, Google added the reference implementation of VP8, under a BSD license [3].VP8 is currently supported by Opera, Firefox and Chrome [4].

VP9 is an open and royalty free video compression standard being developed by Google. VP9 had earlier development names of Next Gen Open Video (NGOV) and VP-Next. VP9 is a successor to VP8.

VP9 has a better future than VP8 in chipset adoption.

H.265 and VP9 are starting at similar times, which means H.265 will probably get to chipsets first (due to its current ecosystem), but VP9 won’t be far behind. If Google starts down VP8 as the mandatory codec for WebRTC, you will see faster and wider adoption of VP9 as well by chipset vendors.

The main themes around this fight can be summarized as:

  1. Paid versus free
  2. Interoperable versus new

Comparison of video coding standards based on equal standard quality measure i.e. PSNR [3].

Video coding standard Average bit rate reduction compared to

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Video_Coding

Looking more closely at some reality checks, lots of companies including Qualcomm already showcased there Preliminary version of H.265 video on an Android tablet at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year.

Some fundamental issues companies need to take care of while going for HEVC support are:

  1. Encoder and decoder vendors (hardware and software) are in a battle to innovate and deliver real time, power-efficient solutions to the market
  2. Vendors of other components in the end to end value chain need to be innovating now to incorporate HEVC into their product roadmaps
  3. Service providers, on the other hand, need to carefully evaluate all options available to them for optimizing bandwidth, and develop an ROI-centric strategy to adopt and deploy HEVC.

While companies are fighting this round with no apparent winner so far, there’s another round brewing, just around the corner. You can find additional information and recent updates about HEVC at http://streamingcodecs.blogspot.com/2013/01/high-efficiency-video-coding-hevc.html

Actually the specification only deals with the file format even though it provides reference implementations for encoder/decoder that are easy to read but not designed for optimum performance.

It is up to enterprising companies to come up with better encoders/decoders and this is not a problem of the specification.

Openwave Mobility (www.owmobility.com ) is committed to provide best video quality and user experience to manage and monetize the growth in mobile video and web traffic. We are committed to developing video optimization solutions for HEVC which will provide the best user experience at half the bandwidth with greater savings for Carriers. Our solutions achieve greater efficiency with the best user experience in the mobile and over-the-top video domains. At the same time, the emergence of HEVC provides a way for content suppliers to deliver video at far higher quality than before over the broadband Internet.

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[1] Source: http://iphome.hhi.de/wiegand/assets/pdfs/2012_12_IEEE-HEVC-Overview.pdf

[2] Source: http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/156365/google-admits-its-vp8-webm-codec-infringes-mpeg-h-264-patents

[3] Source: http://infoscience.epfl.ch/record/180494/files/hanhart_SPIE2012_1.pdf

[4] Source: http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-alvestrand-rtcweb-vp8-01