HEVC video compression halves bitrate, keeps quality the same

H.265 or HEVC means more easily delivering HD and Ultra HD video content

By Nick Barber
Mon, April 08, 2013

IDG News Service (Boston Bureau) — HEVC or H.265 video compression will affect all stages of video content creation and delivery, and possibly let providers deliver Ultra HD video over existing infrastructure, according to Motorola Mobility.

To see more about HEVC, watch a video on YouTube.

"Since it will take half the bit rate for similar quality, HEVC can be used for many different applications that are not feasible today or very expensive," said Ajay Luthra vice president of advanced technologies for Motorola Mobility at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

Ultra HD or 4K video content typically needs to be delivered at 50 or 60 megabits per second, he said. For reference, the highest quality 1080p YouTube videos top out at about 2mbps. Delivering Ultra HD content has been a challenge for content creators and, more importantly, makers of Ultra HD televisions. Currently, Ultra HD videos are played off a hard drive for Sony televisions. The content can't be streamed or played from a Blu-ray disc.

With HEVC, Luthra said Ultra HD can be delivered at less than 20 megabits per second.

"If you go on the lower side you can do streaming video," he said. "For example, you can do 720p [video at 30 frames per second] at around 1.5mbps." That's half the bit rate that video usually consumes.

"You can use existing home networking technology to efficiently distribute HD video wirelessly inside the home," he said.

At its booth at NAB Motorola Mobility showed two tablets, one with video encoded using H.264 and the other with video encoded using H.265. The very slight difference in quality favored the new standard; it looked clear and less pixilated.

For mobile users H.265 means using less bandwith and computing power to watch videos. For cable and content providers, it potentially means providing more content using their existing infrastructure. And for consumers it means seeing no degradation in picture quality.

The standard is still being finalized, but HEVC should be in use early next year.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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