March 13, 2020

3 New Codecs Are Coming in 2020. What Does it Mean for Creators?

Codec Header
New MPEG codecs are expected to arrive by the end of the year. What will they do for filmmakers? 

The Moving Pictures Expert Group (MPEG) plans to launch 3 different codecs in 2020, its last being HEVC (H.265/MPEG-H) back in 2013. Prior to that, AVC (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC) was launched in 2003. Both codecs have become an integral part of image capture and final delivery. 

Since then, Apple has released ProRes in 2007 and ProRes RAW in 2018. Not to be left out, we are all familiar with the available RAW or wide color gamut formats from ARRI, Blackmagic Design, Canon, RED, Sony, and others. These are generally preferred by filmmakers for a variety of reasons including the versatility in color grading. 

The new MPEG codecs include Versatile Video Coding (VVC), Essential Video Coding (EVC), and Low Complexity Enhancement Video Coding (LCEVC). Will any of them benefit creators? Let's dive into each and find out. 

Versatile Video Coding (VVC)

Versatile Video Coding, also known as H.266 or MPEG-I Part 3, is the next traditional MPEG-I codec. VVC is being jointly developed by MPEG and the ITU. The requirements behind the codec will include a 30% (or more) lower bit-rate over HEVC (H.265/MPEG-H) without the loss of quality. If accurate, that's a big improvement in file size.

On an iPhone, 60-seconds of 4K 30p HEVC footage takes up 170MB. The equates to roughly 1GB for every 6 minutes of footage or 10GB/hour. Theoretically, VVC would be 119MB for 60 seconds of 4K 30p footage. So 1GB for every 9 minutes or 6.5GB/hour. 3.5GB in saved storage space is a lot. 

How VVC compresses video is similar to HEVC, but it improves upon its partitioning, prediction, and entropy coding, among others. VVC is expected to support immersive content, resolutions from 4K to 16K, and 360° video. Developers are also aiming to support visually lossless compression and lossless compression as well. 

VVC is supposed to support: 

  • Picture formats from VGA to 8K x 4K
  • YCbCr color spaces with 4:2:0 sampling, 10-bit
  • YCbCr/RGB 4:4:4 and YCbCr 4:2:2
  • Auxiliary channels (transparency, depth, etc.) 
  • High dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut
  • Bit depths up to 16 bits per component 
  • Fixed and variable frame rates
  • Progressive scanning 

VVC requires hardware, so it will take some time before it's implemented into cameras and other devices, if at all. What's unclear is the cost of the licensing. While HEVC (H.265/MPEG-H) has better compression over AVC (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC), without going into too much detail, HEVC licensing is complex. It's why we don't see HEVC being implemented everywhere. There's a lot of red tape and IP holders to pay. 

VVC is aiming to avoid this. Will it happen? We'll have to wait and see. The codec is intended to be rolled out by the end of 2020. 

Essential Video Coding (EVC)

Essential Video Coding, also known as MPEG-5 EVC, is an alternative to HEVC (H.265/MPEG-H) and AVC (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC), but with coding efficiency similar to HEVC. MPEG-5 EVC could become a 4K alternative codec.

EVC can be looked at as a workaround to the complex HEVC licensing. It offers two profiles, a baseline that is free, and a main profile with enhanced tools that requires a license. The baseline profile includes technology that's more than 20 years old (free of patents) or is royalty-free. The main profile is isolated from the baseline profile and can be switched off to avoid licensing issues. It seems like a win-win, but it's still uncertain how much the main profile royalties will cost. However, it's supposed to be a simpler process than HEVC licensing. 

As for compression performance, the baseline profile at 10-bit aims to be as good as AVC High 10, while the main profile is expected to provide similar results to HEVC Main 10. Tests show the baseline profile of MPEG-5 EVC offers the same quality of H.264 at bit rate savings of roughly 31%. Its main profile is delivering a 26% rate reduction over HEVC. 

EVC is supposed to support: 

  • Picture formats from VGA to 8K x 4K
  • YCbCr color spaces with 4:2:0 sampling, 10-bit
  • YCbCr/RGB 4:4:4 and YCbCr 4:2:2 
  • High dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut
  • Bit depths up to 16 bits per component 
  • Fixed and variable frame rates
  • Progressive scanning 

MPEG-5 EVC does require hardware to be implemented, so it will take time before we see it become part of workflows. It's expected to be released in early 2020. 

Low Complexity Enhancement Video Coding (LCEVC)

LCEVC is part of MPEG-5 standards, but it approaches encoding differently. Its main target is users in the live streaming space, so sports, news, Twitch, YouTube, immersive video, etc. The company V-Nova is developing MPEG-5 LCEVC and it's intention is to be applied at the platform level, however, it can be applied to a video codec at any stage of the workflow. It is worth noting it's not a scalable codec. 

What LCEVC does is it takes an existing codec – AVC, HEVC, VVC, EVC, etc – and improves the overall performance of the encoder. It's an add-on codec, not an alternative. You can look at it like upgrading to a large fry and large drink when ordering a value meal. The value meal is the base codec. The upgrade to the larger sides is LCEVC. But with LCEVC actual file sizes are not larger. 

LCEVC codec compression

Traditional codecs encode and decode into a single stream. LCEVC works by taking the base codec at a lower resolution and adding up to two layers of encoded residuals that correct artifacts created by the base video codec. Those layers add the additional resolution and quality. Tests show that LCEVC adds detail and sharpness to the final output video while reducing the overall processing load and memory. This allows 4K UHD to be used where only HD was possible before. Additionally, tests show the encoding time of LCEVC to be significantly faster than full resolution versions of AVC, HEVC, and VVC. 
LCEVC encoding times are expected to be faster than base codecs

LCEVC is supposed to support: 

  • Picture formats from VGA to 8K x 4K
  • YCbCr color spaces with 4:2:0 sampling, 10-bit
  • YCbCr/RGB 4:4:4 and YCbCr 4:2:2 
  • High dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut 
  • Bit depths up to 16 bits per component 
  • Fixed and variable frame rates
  • Progressive scanning 

LCEVC doesn't require additional hardware to be implemented into existing systems or platforms. Its goal is to enhance other codec standards, and therefore can be implemented on a software or application level as a company sees fit. V-Nova has yet to set licensing costs. It's expected to be released by mid-2020. 

What does it mean for creators? 

VVC, EVC, and LCEVC show promise. Especially LCEVC in the live streaming space. How it trickles down to creators all depends on capitalism. If the royalties are too costly, companies like ARRI, Blackmagic Design, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, RED, Sony, and others, will probably not implement them. Most of those companies have or are developing RAW or wide color gamut profiles, which is preferred by filmmakers over a compressed codec like H.265, H.264, or the new VVC (H.266). 

However, the prospect of VVC (H.266) is inciting. Its image quality could be on par, if not better, than ProRes 4444 since there are little to no noticeable differences in image quality with H.265 at higher bit-rates. Currently, H.265/H.264 makes it possible to easily stream 4K video over a 4G network or a relatively slow internet connection. H.266 could drastically improve upon it. 

For color grading, RAW and ProRes will be the codec of choice because of its latitude over H.265/ H.264, but it will be interesting to test how much heavier H.266 will be on CPU performance. While there is not an improvement in image quality when transcoding H.265/ H.264 to ProRes, it makes it easier to edit. Maybe H.266 will eliminate the need to transcode entirely.       

Your Comment

15 Comments

Wow

March 14, 2020 at 4:26AM

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Sửa Laptop 24h
Sửa Laptop 24h | Sửa máy tính | Thu mua Laptop cũ hỏng giá c
70

It seems that an open source codec like AV-1 because AV1 allows for manufactures to develop solutions that work best for their environment. Also, AV1 has not licensing fees and is available now. More info here: https://research.mozilla.org/av1-media-codecs/ and https://bitmovin.com/av1/

March 14, 2020 at 7:07AM

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Andy Kochnedorfer
Sr. Director, Global Production Management
162

It's interesting information for creators.

March 14, 2020 at 2:51PM

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Curtis Butler
Reviewer
202

It's interesting information for creators.

March 14, 2020 at 8:07PM

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Vách ngăn vệ sinh Compact HPL
Thi công Vách ngăn vệ sinh Compact HPL
115

Your copy editors let slip this "Both codecs have become an intricate part of image capture and final delivery." Instead of "intricate", the specifier you probably meant was "integral".

March 15, 2020 at 3:59AM

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I'm very thankful for the information you've provided and also to fmwhatsapp for sharing me the article.

March 15, 2020 at 4:04AM

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fmwassup
Art Director
4

It's interesting information for creators.

March 15, 2020 at 9:38PM

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Andrew J Arnold
Manager
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Tarkovsky

March 16, 2020 at 1:15AM

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It's interesting information for creators.

March 16, 2020 at 4:02AM

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K W
572

It’s interesting information for replicators

March 16, 2020 at 10:14AM

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Aaron Harper
Rental House Manager
292

It's interesting information to see who are the fake accounts run by bots, all posting identical content.

-- Damian

March 19, 2020 at 10:56AM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
790

These developments do indicate how non-proprietary codecs are the future and what the industry wants. The powerful companies (mainly Apple) that forces ProRes down our throat for personal gain (Lock out competition) I hope will be behind us soon.

Apple seem to have realised that FCP and total lock down into the Apple hardware is causing them just as much harm as good. The top end pros are integrating with cloud and other Non-Apple workflows. This artificial barrier is now turning people away not locking them in. (Why Apple has been pushing RDDs into SMPTE of there codec to reduce the push away by the larger multi nationals that make cotent)

Yes general, work for self, editors rely on the Apple ecosystem, but pretty much everyone else has good reason do not use Apple. Especially if you render a lot. Non OSX is the only way capability and cost effective wise. Also cloud integration issues etc..

The Mac Pro is amazing hardware but again the wrong move for our industry. I got hammered when I dumped on the trash can when it first came out. But look where we are now Trashcan panned for exactly the reason I stated when it was released... The new Mac Pro tower is more than we need as creators.. A generic mainboard with threadripper and general GPU cards is 1/3 as much as MacPro and far more capable. (MacPro took to long to make, and came out just before a large jump in price to performance, making it already lacking.. But if you just want something that "just works" yes good for that, but your paying for it.)

I use a lot of Linux for all the tools I develop, and man does it crank.. I just hope more tools move for Linux. Much better for enterprise level production. Easy to scale. For better performance for your dollar. (Most super computers are based on Linux kernels. and for good reasons.. With these large core count CPUs now coming to market.. Linux is the path.. We just need to get better, idiot proof implementation in Linux.. The large corporates will put up with this can can afford the technical staff to make it all work..)

March 19, 2020 at 6:49PM

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James Gardiner
CineTechGeek
194

It's creating interest for informers.
Information creating interest for performers.
Performance informs interest.
Interest drives creative information.
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March 20, 2020 at 9:14AM

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Douglas Bowker
Animation, Video, Motion-Graphics
443

Lets see...
01001001 01110100 00100111 01110011 00100000 01101001 01101110 01110100 01100101 01110010 01100101 01110011 01110100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101001 01101110 01100110 01101111 01110010 01101101 01100001 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01100011 01110010 01100101 01100001 01110100 01101111 01110010 01110011 00101110, paste into web translator...
"It's interesting information for creators"

Oh sweet lord, another evil bot...

March 21, 2020 at 7:46AM

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James Schindler
Aspiring Film maker
121

So, basically, they're going to be more of the same, CoDecs for efficient delivery that people will use for content creation because consumer cameras will pick them up.
They'll waste even more CPU and GPU cycles in opening and displaying footage then ever before (because they're compressed even more), forcing another round of GPU and set-top-box updates.
Meanwhile, content creators are stuck with ProRes in a lot of cases, or seeing products get lawsuits from Red over uncompressed recording.

March 21, 2020 at 10:35PM

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Stewart Fairweather
Cinematographer
518