What is HEVC / h.265? Why would I migrate from x264?

November 18, 2013 4:15 pm Tags: , , , No Comments 3 karma points


The H.265 standard, also informally known as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), is designed to provide high-quality streaming video (HD and 4K video for instance), even over low-bandwidth networks.

Overview of HEVC / H265

HEVC / H265 is a video format that is the successor to the H.264 codec, the codec that has kinda sorta, but not really, standardized video on the web (after Apple pushed h264 + mp4 forward, along with HLS). Just a few years ago, Apple’s embrace of H.264 and insistence on HTML5-based video players woke up video publishers. The streaming video landscape at the time was dominated by Adobe, WMS, Quicktime. All of that has certainly changed:Adobe and Apple don’t like each other anymore.

Why does anyone care about this HEVC at all? Isn’t video on the web already super awesome all the time cuz of YouTube?

A big leap forward in compression techniques will set some ‘codec’ adaptation wheels in motion. The streaming media industry right now seems ready and able for a mass migration to a new set of codecs. I wonder if we’re going to see a cyclical 5 year pattern of codec adaptation. Innovation in the streaming video world is exciting for everyone (Except broadcast TV stations … but they have ‘local’ content). H.265 video might be able to stream 1080p video with about half as much data transferred that we need today. Maybe. Streaming HD video could theoretically be accessed both on broadband connections, and also on phones, tablets, and slower broadband (like rural DSL or LTE from the cell towers). Online video, the thinking goes, would become much more available in markets with poor connectivity … like developing nations. Because they need our video.


Wrap it up so I can watch the video below. What’s in HEVC video for ME?

In developed broadband networks, e.g. places like Japan, Europe, and yes, even North America, H.265 / HEVC video could stream even higher-quality video. With 4K TVs (Super HD*) hitting the market, opportunities for ridiculously high quality video streaming through to your home (without making everyone else in your household mad that the ‘internet is slow’) is on the horizon. The only problem is that networks aren’t built to support the load that streaming 4k video to 10’s of millions would require. The theory is that via H.265, 4K streaming might be standard with “as little as 20-30 Mbps of bandwidth”. Still a lot by today’s standards, but so was the proliferation of cable modems and DSL when I was still rocking my 56.6k dialup.


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