The Next Big Video Squeeze

Publish date:

Digital video is in the process of
getting another major haircut — a development
that promises to provide tremendous
relief for bandwidth-constrained mobile networks,
as well as for the delivery of ultra-high-definition TV.

The High Efficiency Video Coding specification,
also referred to as H.265, will be even more
efficient than H.264 MPEG-4 Advanced Video
Coding. HEVC-based commercial products
could arrive starting in 2013.

According to industry experts, HEVC could
shave off 25% to 50% of the bits needed to deliver
video that looks as good as H.264.

“It seems like every decade we come out with
a better compression
standard,” said Sam
Blackman, CEO of
video-processing systems
vendor Elemental

HEVC is being designed
to take advantage
of increases in
processing power in
video encoders and
devices. The developers
of H.264 had elements
they wanted to
include, “but the computational
costs were considered too high 10
years ago,” Blackman said. “You’ve also had research
over that time to improve the standard
for the next time.”

HEVC is being developed by
the Joint Collaborative Team on
Video Coding (JCT-VC), which
brings together working groups
from the International Telecommunication
Union and Moving
Picture Experts Group (MPEG).

More than 130 different companies
and organizations have
participated in the development
of HEVC to date, according
to Microsoft video architect Gary Sullivan,
who is one of the co-chairs of the JCT-VC project.

The next milestone for the spec: In February
2012, a draft of HEVC is expected to be circulated
for comments, and the first edition of the
standard should be finished in January 2013.

Initially, the clear winners for HEVC will be
mobile network operators. “If you look at any
of the market data, 70% of the
traffic will be video in the next
year,” Blackman said.

HEVC will also help broadcasters
and cable ops deliver
Ultra HD formats, which provide
four to 16 times the resolution
of current 1080p HDTV.

Elemental, whose customers
include Comcast and
Avail-TVN, expects eventually
to incorporate HEVC into its
software-based encoding solution that is based
on off -the-shelf graphics processing units.

Other video-processing equipment vendors
also are tracking HEVC. Andy Salo, director of
product marketing at RGB Networks, said the
company’s engineering team is working closely
with industry engineers that are active contributors
to HEVC.

HEVC adoption won’t happen overnight. An
entire ecosystem of devices needs to incorporate
new decoder chips that support H.265.

Another caveat: New technologies often
look better on paper than in practice. It
has historically taken time with a new video
standard to gain the theoretical efficiencies,
according to Joe Ambeault, Verizon Telecom’s
director of product management for
media and entertainment.

“It’s only so good until the engineers get
into the development,” Ambeault said. “You
look at the PowerPoints and say, ‘Well, maybe
I’ll get that kind of efficiency a couple
years from now.’”


What It Is:
High Efficiency Video Coding, a.k.a. H.265

Bandwidth Gains: Between 25% and 50% less bandwidth needed
compared with MPEG-4 H.264 Advanced Video Coding standard

Key Applications: Mobile video and Ultra HD (4K and 8K resolutions)

Timeline: Initial review draft for comments targeted for February
2012, with fi rst edition of standard expected to be finished in January
2013; commercial products may appear as soon as 2013

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