ITU OKs Next-Generation Video Codec Standard

High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) Promises to Use 50% Less Bandwidth Than MPEG-4
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A study group of the International Telecommunication Union has given initial approval to the next-generation High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard, which promises to use 50% less bandwidth than MPEG-4 to deliver the same video quality and pave the way to Ultra HD.

On Friday, the Geneva-based agency of the United Nations said the ITU-T’s Study Group 16 has agreed to first-stage approval (consent) of HEVC, formally known as Recommendation ITU-T H.265 or ISO/IEC 23008-2. HEVC is the product of collaboration between the ITU Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).

HEVC will “unleash a new phase of innovation in video production,” spanning mobile devices to Ultra HD television, according to the ITU.

The current ITU H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC standard “underpinned rapid progression and expansion of the video ecosystem, with many adopting it to replace their own proprietary compression codecs,” ITU secretary general Hamadoun Touré said in a statement. “The industry continues to look to ITU and its partners as the global benchmark for video compression, and I have no doubt that this new standard will be as effective as its predecessor in enabling the next wave of innovation in this fast-paced industry.”

By 2016, more than 2 billion consumer devices -- predominantly smartphones -- will have HEVC decoding, according to a recent report by Multimedia Research Group. Only high-end set-top boxes used by pay-TV providers will add HEVC, at least initially, the firm predicts.

ITU-T H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC is deployed in products and services from companies including Adobe, Apple, BBC, BT, France Telecom, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Polycom, Samsung, Sony, Tandberg and Toshiba, the agency said.

HEVC will is designed to be future-proofed for the next decade of video, taking into account advancing screen resolutions. The standard is expected to be phased in as high-end products and services outgrow the limits of current network and display technology.

According to the ITU, companies including ATEME, Broadcom, Cyberlink, Ericsson, Fraunhofer HHI, Mitsubishi and NHK have already showcased HEVC implementations. The new standard includes a “Main” profile that supports 8-bit 4:2:0 video, a “Main 10” profile with 10-bit support, and a “Main Still Picture” profile for still-image coding that employs the same coding tools as a video “intra” picture.

The ITU/ISO/IEC Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC) will continue work on a range of extensions to HEVC, including support for 12-bit video as well as 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 chroma formats as well as the progression of HEVC toward scalable video coding. The three bodies will also work within the Joint Collaborative Team on 3D-Video (JCT-3V) on the extension of HEVC towards stereoscopic and 3D video coding, the ITU said.