HEVC Encoding – Can it deliver?

High Efficiency Video Coding(HEVC aka H.265) shows a lot of promise as being a legitimate replacement for the H.264 standard. But can it live up to the expectations? Technically, we feel that the standard is capable of reducing the bit rate by 50% or more on a subjective viewing basis. In addition, the standard has paid some careful attention to parallelization. While the complexity of encoding is 6x-10x that of H.264 to achieve the better than 50% bit rate reduction for comparable video quality, the decoding complexity is higher than H.264 but only marginally so (compared to the encoding differential).

With all this in mind, we think Internet delivery applications may well adopt this standard ahead of the usual bandwidth constrained suspects such as satellite delivery. We fully expect high-quality non-real time encoding to happen cost-effectively starting late this year. Then with a good quality decoder/player, we are off to the races for VOD delivery. We also think that the next generation US terrestrial broadcast standard should be based on HEVC. So effectively, the standard would have skipped the H.264 transition (except for ATSC M/H) and will go directly to HEVC.

Most standard shifts are accompanied by new functionality (that prompts the consumer to embrace the new system). Case in point – MPEG2 enabled analog to digital transition, H.264 did the same for HD. What new functionality can we expect with HEVC? Ultra-HD is touted as a good use case. Maybe so, but this time around the new standard may just take off because it is easy to adopt for the consumer (no CE device or STB replacements) – a simple player download is all it may take!