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HEVC Gives The Internet Video A Double Dose Of Adrenaline

by Tom Volotta on January 10, 2013

HEVCBuckle up your seat belt. Online video is about to get a much-needed jolt that will mean faster downloading and more storage space for your online videos. As an added bonus, it will deliver higher levels of video quality that were ridiculed only a few years ago.

HEVC – DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE, DOUBLE YOUR CAPACITY

One of the worst kept secrets in the digital video world is that a new video compression/decompression (codec) standard is about to emerge. Its formal name is High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), but the technical label is H.265. HEVC stems from a long line of the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) digital audio and video compression technologies going back to MP3 audio. The group has steadily advanced through a chain of products including MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 that have had tremendous impact on video.

H.265 is the successor to H.264, the Advanced Video Coding (AVC) codec. H.264 is widely acclaimed to be the most used codec on the Internet today because it can pack high-quality video into a small package. Smaller is better when it comes to video online, and even more so when playing video on mobile devices. H.264 is most often associated with the MP4 file format container, but Flash (FLV) and other file formats can also use the codec. H.264 is so versatile; it can deliver 1080p high-definition (HD) online video at 4Mbps, while also being able to crank up that bit rate ten fold to make pristine quality Blu-ray discs.

As good as H.264 is, HEVC or H.265 is being touted as having roughly double the efficiency of H.264. What does ‘efficiency’ mean? In practical terms, it means that H.265 can deliver the same quality as H.264, but at half the bit rate of H.264. Efficiency means:

  1. Faster downloading, since it takes half the time to download half the bits.
  2. Storage is cut in half for the same amount content.
  3. Twice the amount of video can be online because the Internet bandwidth doubles.
  4. Streaming video, typically delivered at a lesser quality than download, will improve greatly.

These side-by-side, comparison images (below) of H.265 and H.264, showing their respective bit rate and file size figures, illustrate this doubling of efficiency.

HEVC H.265

WHAT HEVC DOES FOR VIDEO STORAGE AND HOW IT WORKS

These features alone are welcome news for everyone, from online video platforms, content providers, hardware manufacturers, and certainly video consumers. With video predicted to account for nearly 90% of the traffic on the Internet by 2015, HEVC can act as a much needed pressure release valve. Video is a data hog, sucking up huge amounts of bits and bytes that can literally bog down the global networks.

Without getting too technical, H.265 takes a different approach to analyzing and processing images for compression. Rather than parsing the image in a uniform grid, the algorithms first determine what motion is present. It then allocates pixel blocks ranging from 64×64 to as small as 4×4 pixels, according to the amount and detail of motion with those respective sections. This variable block-size method allows larger areas to be encoded at one time.

The first beneficiaries of HEVC/H.265 will be mobile devices that support video. The combination of HEVC’s lower bit rates takes a burden off the mobile devices’ processors. It also allows twice as much video to be stored in the same limited onboard memory available on mobile devices.

NOW, SOME REALLY FANCY STUFF HEVC CAN DO

If you thought your 60” 1080p plasma display running Blu-ray discs was the end-all, be-all for HD, set that misconception aside. Yes, HEVC/H.265 will make things better, faster and smaller for the current generation of high-definition (HD) content. Built-in to HEVC’s specifications is its ability to deliver even higher quality video, called 4K and 8K Ultra High Definition.

These video standards almost make your 1080p set up look like a postage stamp in comparison.

HD Video sizes

Each jump in video standards doubles the dimensions of the image, which means it contains four times the number of pixels. Super Vision/Ultra High Definition 8K is way out there. However, the BBC used 8K projections during the recent Olympics for limited events at special venues. Digital Cinema 4K workflow has been used regularly in Hollywood for high-end digital filmmaking and effects work in recent years. Numerous digital theaters around the world are also equipped with 4K projectors.

If you think 4K Ultra High Definition is just for going to the movies, think again. YouTube actually has 4K content available online right how. Vimeo has this, and be assured others will follow. Sony’s PlayStation 4 may support 4K resolutions. That’s nice, but brace yourself for having to shell out 30-grand for their new 80-inch, 4K, XBR LED TV in order to watch.

The common denominator among these standards is HEVC/H.265. It was built not only to make the current 1080p HD technology run efficiently online and especially on mobile devices, but it also has a close eye on the current trends and requirements for even higher quality video.

HEVC IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER

Having been in development for years, working its way through the numerous revisions and approvals, the final draft version should be ready for publication early this year. H.265 is still new, so you’re not going to be doing much H.265 encoding on your standard desktop or laptop computer right away. Many questions still surround HEVC. Will it replace H.264 as the video codec proposed by Apple and others (and opposed by Google) for use in HTML5?

How long will this halving of bit rates, giving us faster downloading, doubling storage and freeing up much needed bandwidth on the Internet will last?If we can download video faster, we will. If there’s more room on the Internet, it will be occupied. If there’s more storage available, it will be used. If higher quality videos, requiring higher bit rates are demanded, they will be created. It’s like turning a busy two-lane road into a six-lane highway. In no time, those extra lanes will too be jammed. But, for now, HEVC will turn the Internet highway into an electronic Autobahn.

Given the choice, would you rather download twice as fast at the same quality, or double the quality at your current download speed? Are you willing to allocate more storage space for even higher quality video, or save space for what’s good enough? One thing H.265 will do in freeing up bandwidth is enabling 3D TV. Is that something you’d like to have?

 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

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2 Tom Volotta January 24, 2013 at 11:46 am

Good to hear a specialist appreciates the piece.

…TV

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4 Tom Volotta January 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

“…kinda boring…” I’ll have to kick it up a notch or two.

…TV

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6 Tom Volotta January 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm

You’re welcome. We do go to some effort to deliver content both useful and interesting.

…TV

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8 Tom Volotta January 19, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Great. HEVC/H.265 is going to be a big hit. Lots of 4K televisions at CES in Las Vegas, but distribution will be over the Internet. It’ll be a long, long time before the networks and cable outlets ramp up to 4K. The Internet is made for it. In the meantime, regular 1920x1080p HD will only get better.

…TV

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10 Tom Volotta January 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Yeah, although I had zilch to do with the design and layout of the blog site, I’ve always thought it was attractive and very professional looking. The RealPlayer Blog Team will appreciate your comments.

…TV

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12 Tom Volotta January 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

You’re more than welcome. Plenty of interesting content covering a wide range of subjects. Visit often.

…TV

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14 Tom Volotta January 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

Thanks. It’s an interesting and important subject. Maybe we can work out a link connection.

…TV

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16 Tom Volotta January 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

Good. HEVC is an interesting technology. Don’t worry, others in the field definitely understand it. I just may write about it differently.

…TV

17 Tom Volotta January 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm

John,

I see you’re sending to your comment to a whole bunch of topics. Although your problem has nothing to do with HEVC, I’ll see if I can help.

You’ve got one serious pain! I was going to say “…pain in the neck.” But I wouldn’t fault you for considering it having to do with a different part of the anatomy!

Have Faith. This is not uncommon. All may NOT be lost. UNinstalling or installing new versions of RealPlayer does not necessarily trash your Library of video and audio clips. They are separate things. I’ve installed, uninstalled various versions several times, and have never lost any content from the Library.

Here’s what I’d do:

1. UNinstall any and all RealPlayer application software on your machine through the regular Widows Control Panel. This won’t touch the clips in your Library.

2. Restart the computer. I’ve developed a habit of doing this because of the “states” computer hang onto unless they have a fresh start. Gets rid of nagging bits of code from previous versions of software applications.

3. Download and install a fresh version of RealPlayer. I’m assuming you’re using the new version 16. When that’s installed and running, be sure to “Sign In” with your ID and PW to activate the PLUS features. If you have trouble with that, contact Support. You’ll have priority since you’ve already paid for Plus, so they’ll get you up and running quickly.

4. Once you’re set up with Plus, click on the “Library” tab. With a thousand clips, it’ll take a few minutes to load everything, but they all SHOULD be there. Again, uninstalling and reinstalling the RP application does NOT destroy the Library.

5. You should be all set. If you can’t access all your library clips, get back in touch with Support (emphasizing you’re a PLUS subscriber) and they should be able to guide you in reconstructing the complete Library.

Let me know if you run into any issues with this or with Support.

…TV

18 Tom Volotta January 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Thanks for the link. HEVC/H.265 will be a BIG deal.

…TV

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