HEVC VS The World

Be careful what you buy

What is the future of HEVC

Producers have looked forward to the promise of HEVC for several years. Its high efficiency delivers movies with higher quality at around half the bandwidth of H.264, making 4K delivery economical. It's developed by a consortium of companies, led primarily by MPEG LA, (which is not associated with the earlier MPEG formats), which have been the standard for years. But HEVC is plagued by patent fees from several companies, which made its adoption questionable by companies like YouTube, which deliver videos endlessly to millions worldwide.

"High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is a video compression standard, one of several potential successors to the widely used AVC (H.264 or MPEG-4 Part 10)." High Efficiency Video Coding

Industry adoption was expected to take years because HEVC is dependent on hardware decoding, and GPU hardware acceleration. For the industry, including cable TV, satellite boxes, set top manufacturers, and TV and computer manufacturers to make this switch, will take years and cost millions of dollars, with release targeting for 2016 and later. The broadcast industry will take many years to make the change to new hardware. Broadcast industry in HEVC investment, is momentum which counts heavily.

Then came the end run by companies who are very invested in video delivery (high bandwidth users) and decoding (hardware and software), such as Netflix and Google (YouTube). Hardware and software manufacturers for computers, tablets, game boxes, TVs, cell phones, browsers, and graphics cards, all needed a way out of the HEVC patent charge trap. So they got together and created the open source codecs that outperform HEVC by as much as 50%, with higher quality. Their savings will be enormous, and consumers will save as well.

The new AV1 codec will include Google’s VP10, Mozilla’s Daala, and Cisco’s Thor. Hardware manufacturers are in on the development process, so items like video cards will include GPU acceleration. Google is using VP9 to replace H.264 for 4K delivery.

4K resolution is well over twice the HD resolution of 1920 x 1080, comparing at 4096 x 2160, at the 16:9 display aspect ratio.

So when looking for new equipment for encoding, the best bet is flexibility. Shoot with MPEG, H.264, or other saved format. Output your edit in the H.264, HEVC or AV1 format, depending on broadcast capabilities, if for broadcast, or other venue requirements. Companies like YouTube are likely to accept many formats, then encode them in what they want to use. Stream in whatever is supported, and since streaming goes to browsers and TVs, watch what YouTube does.

Compatibility is likely to be a requirement. It's almost like Betamax VS VHS, and browser wars, the technology wars go on and on. And like the evolution of the script coding wars between Visual Basic and JavaScript, the adoption of JQuery and JQuery Mobile, and now Google's Apps Script, one of many which speed up processing. Winning depends partly on investment, but its also patent fees VS lower costs, and lower costs usually win in the end.

For more information on the status of HEVC, see this Streaming Media article: A Progress Report: The Alliance for Open Media and the AV1 Codec

- Dorian

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Movie names that are mentioned are not given reference citations. This is because numerous studios are involved in production, and they then assign distribution rights to multiple distributors, and these rights can be sold to other distributors. For production and distribution information on any movie mentioned, consult the Internet Movie Database, or other authoritative listing.

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