New Technology Is Said to Require Half the Bit Rate of H.264 at Same Quality Levels

The ITU has approved the new High Efficiency Video Coding standard (HEVC) for high-quality, low-bandwidth video. The new standard, also known as H.265, will require about half the bit rate of its predecessor, H.264/AVC, the ITU said.

The H.265 standard includes a Main profile for 8-bit 4:2:0 video, a Main 10 profile that adds 10-bit support, and a Main Still Picture profile for using the same HEVC intraframe compression tools for still images.

Expect future extensions to the codec to include support for 12-bit video as well as 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 chroma sampling. HEVC is also expectde to be extended with tools for stereo-3D video encoding. The ITU said HEVC has already been implemented in technology demos from Ateme, Broadcom, Cyberlnk, Ericsson, Fraunhofer HHI, Mitsubishi, NHK, NTT Docomo, and Qualcomm.

However, the smart money is not on H.265 becoming a new universal standard overnight. For one thing, the bandwidth savings comes with an increase in computational overhead, which means that devices that support H.265 will be more costly than their H.264 predecessors. The cable TV industry, as one example, is still wrangling the transition from legacy MPEG-2 video equipment to more efficient H.264 technology.

HEVC may be crucial in any Ultra HD transmission plans, as well as for video streaming where bandwidth is at a premium. But it'll take a few years before the technology reaches a critical mass. In a posting last week at, Frost & Sullivan Principal Analyst Dan Rayburn wrote, "We believe that while token adoptions — such as incorporation into DVB standards for terrestrial broadcasting — will occur in the short-term, and a few channels may also be launched by 2015, a critical mass of adoption will not begin to occur until at least 2016."

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