January 28, 2013

H.265 is Now Officially Approved, is 4K Streaming and Broadcast Just Around the Corner?

Technology's progression sometimes moves with consistent momentum, and sometime comes in spurts. For instance, processors of mobile devices regularly decrease in size and price with relation to power -- while, at the same time, the speed of your internet connection may not change much at all for several years, and make a great leap whenever it does. Both of these tendencies of advancement seem to inform High Efficiency Video Coding, A.K.A. H.265 -- the successor to that other codec with which we're all quite familiar (H.264). Improving efficiency by around double, H.265 aims to set the standard for the next decade in video streaming and encoding -- and it's going to ease mobile data congestion and likely make 4K a reality much sooner than many would have anticipated.

We've already gone into a bit (a bit! Get it?) of detail as to how H.265/HEVC accomplishes its magical compression tricks -- it basically has a lot to do with intelligent prediction, multi-threading support, and other 'hacks' that put the weight/workload far more on your CPU than on your ethernet connection (or data bill). If you're worried about support for the codec, it may make you feel a bit better to know, as the source for our previous post about H.265 mentioned:

A tremendous amount of activity in 2012 also has taken place within video display devices. In a report released in mid-December, Multimedia Research Group (MRG) estimated that the number of shipped units capable -- with a software upgrade when available -- of HEVC decoding reached 1 billion in 2012. For so many devices to be ready and waiting for HEVC is no mean feat.

The bottom line / major selling point of this codec is that half the bit rate is necessary for equivalent visual performance; the ever-growing internet video viewership (on mobile devices* or otherwise) has a lot to do with this, and each is tied in to the other. [*TechCrunch: "Since the launch of the iPad, the percentage of video published in H.264 has climbed from less than 10 percent to more than 84 percent in less than three years, according to MeFeedia."] In 2015, while we're using about 90% of our bandwidth watching streams of moving pictures, they might as well be encoded "hard" enough to give us the most bang (or bits, I suppose) for our bandwidth-buck. Higher efficiency cuts both ways; as TechCrunch points out, low connectivity areas will benefit from equivalent quality (or much closer to it) while well-connected areas can access super hi-res content with far more reasonable stream times:

The ITU has approved a new video format that could bring 4k video to future broadband networks, while also making streaming HD video available even on bandwidth-constrained mobile networks. The H.265 standard, also informally known as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), is designed to provide high-quality streaming video, even on low-bandwidth networks.

In places where there is decent broadband connectivity, H.265 could enable even higher-quality video. With 4K TVs finally becoming available, there’s an opportunity for even greater video resolution. The only problem is that networks aren’t built to support the load that streaming that video would require. With H.265, 4K streaming could be possible with as little as 20-30 Mbps of bandwidth. Still a lot by today’s standards, but not completely unheard of.

It's also pretty amazing how well RED's specs seem to measure up to these; the REDRAY alleges a 2.5MB/sec rate for 4K playback, a figure that comes in at right about 20 Mbps -- compare that to the 20-30 Mbps mentioned above, and you can see how competitively future-braced RED is being in its own 4K home theater plans. Of course, RED isn't very likely to be licensing its proprietary 4K technology for use outside its REDRAYs -- making the widespread use of H.265 an inevitability. TechCrunch continues:

Of course, just because the format has been approved doesn’t mean that we’ll start seeing video files shrink or lower bit-rate streams anytime soon. While there will likely be software-based encoders available by the end of the year, the codec won’t see mass adoption until it gets embedded into chips and hardware. It could be 12 to 18 months, maybe longer, before the first devices with H.265 hardware acceleration make it to market.

Though with that said, H.265 has plenty of patience to go around, because according to The Verge, "The ITU said that it envisions H.265 being able to support video needs for the next decade." So: it's surely ill-advised to hold your breath waiting for full H.265 support, but once it is, it may be even less advisable to wait around for its time to be up.

Link: New video codec to ease pressure on global networks: Successor to award-winning standard to unleash new innovation -- ITU

[via TechCrunch]

Your Comment

35 Comments

I just want to see the full dynamic range of my camera online. When do you think the first dslr with H.265 codec comes out?

January 28, 2013

2
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Julian Terry

Probably 2014 at the earliest. Anything coming out this year has already been in the pipeline for at least a year, well before H.265 was settled.

January 28, 2013

1
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avatar
Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

To nowadays predict that any technology will last a decade is just wishful thinking.

January 28, 2013

1
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Álex Montoya

HD, in some form or another (720p, 1080i) has been around for close to a decade - and until this 4K thing comes to fruition, HD as we know it will be on top for probably 15-20 years in the mainstream. Hell, SD is STILL in everyones' parent's house.

January 29, 2013

0
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alex

You are stating this because H.264 was created circa 2003 and draw linear conclsuions based on that. But technological progress isn't linear, it's exponential.

It's simply impossible to predict where we will stand in a decades' time:

http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns

January 29, 2013

-1
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"When people think of a future period, they intuitively assume that the current rate of progress will continue for future periods. However, careful consideration of the pace of technology shows that the rate of progress is not constant, but it is human nature to adapt to the changing pace, so the intuitive view is that the pace will continue at the current rate. Even for those of us who have been around long enough to experience how the pace increases over time, our unexamined intuition nonetheless provides the impression that progress changes at the rate that we have experienced recently. From the mathematician’s perspective, a primary reason for this is that an exponential curve approximates a straight line when viewed for a brief duration. So even though the rate of progress in the very recent past (e.g., this past year) is far greater than it was ten years ago (let alone a hundred or a thousand years ago), our memories are nonetheless dominated by our very recent experience. It is typical, therefore, that even sophisticated commentators, when considering the future, extrapolate the current pace of change over the next 10 years or 100 years to determine their expectations. This is why I call this way of looking at the future the “intuitive linear” view."

January 29, 2013

1
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I don't have to intuitively predict technological curves. I can look at my wallet. My HD tv cost a lot of money and I was only able to afford it when HD was so widely adopted that the prices came down drastically. Even then, a significant portion of the population is still in SD. So I can tell you right now that it makes no difference how rapidly 4K gets adopted by others. Millions of people like me will be quite content with the HD sets we've already got instead of tossing them in favor of yet another super expensive set.

January 29, 2013

0
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Damon

Well, I'm going to buy a 2,5K monitor in less than two months. Anyway, I thought we were talking about H.265.

I certainly can't predict the future (as can't they) but I'd be surprised if H.265 is of any relevance by 2017.

January 29, 2013

2
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H.265/HEVC was in development from 2004 to this day(thats 8 years btw) by joint collaboration of experts from whole world which designed all previous generations of video codecs, yet another year or more of development is needed to adopt it for hardware. Also thay actually "only" added new features to h.264 which was their base.
I really doubt somebody can make something, what kills HEVC in next 5 years :)

May 21, 2013

0
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Typo, i mean 9 years obviously...and I would be careful with kurtzveil stuff generally, even thought that article is quite reasonable, its full of his tranhumanistic tendencies, singularity and stuff, IMO futuristic slavery...im going to make movie about what i mean, hopefully sooner then singularity itself :)

May 21, 2013

0
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Would this be an option that can be addressed in firmware for current cameras?

January 28, 2013

2
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Ranger9913

Who cares if it's UltraHD rez. on paper if it's compressed all to hell and still only 8 bit? I'd rather use the efficiency to add 10 bit, 4:2:2 and even greater bit depths to the UHD specs. even if it means raising the bitrates a bit higher than what they are advertising to eliminate visible compression artifacts.

Let's face reality... something the content providers don't seem to be able to do... our ancient ARPANET infrastructure can't even handle single digital "1080p" without buffering or lag (with no lossless audio). It will still take decades more to allow for quality, on-demand UHD video services to be a realized. There still needs to be an interim disc based medium. Maybe a higher capacity Blu-ray? They're already a reality.

But, we all know it was never about quality, and all about PPV services and that's why the studios want streaming rather than a physical medium. DIVX, anyone?

And you still want to have cameras with intermediate grade codecs, not this MPEG stuff. That's fine for consumer content delivery after the fact.

January 31, 2013

1
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Dan

So does this mean, we will see better quality than h264 for online videos? Im tired of my 5d footage falling apart online. The camera is all ready soft as it is and Vimeo ruins the footage for full screen viewing.

January 28, 2013

-1
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Caleb

This really looks like the missing piece of the 4K puzzle. Say what you want about whether people need it, 4K will be sold and this looks like the way it will get to the consumer space. If someone can manage a professional implementation of H.265 - intraframe with a good bit depth and reasonable sub-sampling - that would be great too.

January 28, 2013

2
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Yes, people will get your 4K eventually and they will pay for it, but the vast majority will not be able to see it http://prolost.com/blog/2013/1/22/4k-in-the-home.html. When at home, the Emperor has got no clothes.

January 29, 2013

0
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PeterK

Wow, the graph in that article is super handy and worth clicking through all on its own. Thanks for the link.

January 29, 2013

-1
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Really sweet news. I'm hoping that current AVCHD cameras on the market can implement this new technology via a firmware update or something similarly "simple." If not, I wonder if current camera prices will drop as new cameras come in, or if the new cameras will simply be more expensive.

January 29, 2013

1
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Kenneth Merrill

it seems as though this will have to be implemented more on the hardware end of things, so I don't foresee any firmware updates on older cameras. I'm willing to bet that cameras that do use this new codec in the future won't be adding any cost with the codec, but it will probably take some time for the technology to drizzle down the pipeline from the higher end cameras.

I am also willing to bet JVC will be the first to implement h.265 in a prosumer camcorder that no one will like or buy.

January 29, 2013

-1
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alex

LOL @alex: "I am also willing to bet JVC will be the first to implement h.265 in a prosumer camcorder that no one will like or buy."

Probably.

January 29, 2013

0
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DIYFilmSchool.net

it's tradition at this point, I'd be really disappointed if it didn't happen haha

January 29, 2013

0
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alex

Hey Folks! I don't know about you but I am excited for H.265 to get get here I can't wait. So I recently wrote an article about the early adopters of UltraHD and received varied responses of like and dislike. But overall I think some people are not excited about upgrading their technology again, while others are eager for the next evolution. I am curious to see how this codec measures up with XAVC and/or AVC Ultra for that matter.

January 29, 2013

-3
Reply

Agreed. Technological progress is one thing. But the marketplace is another. It is very possible for the tech to far outpace the growth of the market and if companies get too far out ahead of their customers they could be left holding the bag.

January 29, 2013

0
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Damon

I bet content-providers will LOVE the .red format. Try to pirate that, it won't even play back at the PC!

January 29, 2013

0
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Natt

Yes but if we are talking about putting this in the next generation of low cost cameras (DSLR, FS100, C100 Territory) the question to me is: How does it grade?

January 29, 2013

1
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Dude... H.266. My grand kids are gonna stream the HELL out of some video, playboys

January 29, 2013

0
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Neil

Folks, before you get too excited about this, remember the jump in CPU power that was required with the change from mpeg2 to mpeg4 (h.264). H.265 will probably require another large jump. Custom hardware on mobile devices for decoding/playback is one thing, but decoding and encoding on a general purpose PC will be something else. There are still computers, software, and users out there struggling with h.264. Now the requirements are going to get even higher.

January 29, 2013

0
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Shenan

I forgot to add that this also probably means that most h.264 based cameras won't have the processing power to implement h.265 as a firmware update. Besides, why would the camera companies want to do that anyway? They'd much rather sell you new cameras.

January 29, 2013

2
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Shenan

I wonder how well it will edit. Will we need to transcode the footage to ProRes, like I do with h.264 footage to use in FCP 7, but do not do on Premiere 6.0?

Also, it will be nice to get twice as much footage on a 32Gig card, or finally be able to watch an HD movie on Vimeo or Youtube without frequent lag.

January 29, 2013

0
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Tom

What the inherent problem is slow internet speeds. Until ISPs step up and significantly bump up base speeds for all users without charge, 4k and all this fancy new technology will be useless. My ISP only gives me 3.5mb/*s and this is supposed to be high speed.

January 30, 2013

0
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Sid

It seems like this codec's strengths reside more in its potential for display/distribution than actually as a compression scheme to film to. Anything highly compressed, no matter how efficiently, will be lackluster compared to something captured with all the raw data and flexibility preserved for post, and output to H.265 once you've gotten the most out of the image. I'm speaking more in terms of narrative filmmaking, docs and live events could certainly still benefit, I imagine.

January 30, 2013

1
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George

Will the wonders of mankind never cease? Just as MP3 proliferation has destroyed anybody under 40's ability to know what music really sounds like, is it going to, (after destroying film for profit) to pushing even WORSE video through ancient pipes?
I know you are all slavering with anticipation of billions hooked into the Subscription Pipeline. How do you figure thats going to work? I can see the Glimmers of the plan with this idea. Who cares what it looks like ,when everyone has forgotten that it used to actually Look and Sound good. How many more times are you going to be able to push HD and BluRay scams? ( Selling the SAME thing Over & OVER).

January 31, 2013

1
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Dheep'

Hush, now, grandpa. Go clean your vinyl.

My use of MP3 is for when I'm out and about and not exactly in a high quality listening environment. A high bit rate MP3 is fine for that. At home I use uncompressed or much better codecs.

September 27, 2013

0
Reply
Pooka

Who cares if it’s UltraHD rez. on paper if it’s compressed all to hell and still only 8 bit? I’d rather use the efficiency to add 10 bit, 4:2:2 and even greater bit depths to the UHD specs. even if it means raising the bitrates a bit higher than what they are advertising to eliminate visible compression artifacts.

Let’s face reality… something the content providers don’t seem to be able to do… our ancient ARPANET infrastructure can’t even handle single digital “1080p” without buffering or lag (with no lossless audio). It will still take decades more to allow for quality, on-demand UHD video services to be a realized. There still needs to be an interim disc based medium. Maybe a higher capacity Blu-ray? They’re already a reality.

But, we all know it was never about quality, and all about PPV services and that’s why the studios want streaming rather than a physical medium. DIVX, anyone?

And you still want to have cameras with intermediate grade codecs, not this MPEG stuff. That’s fine for consumer content delivery after the fact.

January 31, 2013

0
Reply
Dan

Hi there! I know this is somewhat off-topic but I had to ask.
Does operating a well-established blog such as yours require a massive amount work?
I'm completely new to writing a blog however I do write in
my journal on a daily basis. I'd like to start a blog so I can share my personal experience and feelings online.
Please let me know if you have any recommendations or tips for brand new aspiring
blog owners. Thankyou!

February 4, 2014

1
Reply

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April 23, 2014