The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently approved the next generation video format known as H.265, which would be the successor to the current H.264 standard. H.265, also informally known as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), is supposed to be twice as efficient as H.264 in terms of compression. H.265 relies on the fact that processing power is increasing on our devices, and uses more processing power to achieve better compression. Now how will this affect our lives? Is this just an algorithmic improvement or will it have a tangible impact?
HD video streaming to mobile devices
The H.264 video standard has been around for many years and it has become the de facto standard. Nearly every video publisher currently uses it, even more so after the release of iPad and other multimedia rich mobile devices. The good thing about H.265 is that it will enable publishers to stream 1080p video with about half as many bits as required today. This is a huge gain! That should make true streaming HD video available not just for computers on the broadband networks, but also on smartphones and tablets where networks are a lot more bandwidth-constrained. This would make online video more easily accessible in markets with poor connectivity.
I have bandwidth, do I get more?
Definitely! We will be able to push the boundaries of video resolution with this development. As mentioned earlier, H.265 reduces the number of bits required in half. This means that given more number bits, we should be able to transmit higher quality video. More the bits, higher the quality! So if the bandwidth is constrained, you only send the few bits necessary to decode the video. In places where there is good broadband connectivity, more bits can be sent, which would mean that H.265 could enable even higher-quality video. With 4K TVs finally becoming available, there’s an opportunity for even greater video resolution.
What would this mean for the end user?
The biggest advantage would be lesser file size for videos. Smartphone manufacturers can add capabilities to shoot even higher resolution videos from the camera without a lot of concerns about storage. Before we get all excited, it’s important to know that just because the format has been approved, it doesn’t mean that it will be available right away. People might release software-based encoders soon, but that won’t have the above mentioned features. The standard won’t see mass adoption until it gets hardware-accelerated. This process usually takes around 18 months. The availability of a more efficient codec will more likely mean higher quality rather than smaller video files. Going by the trend in the last few years, consumers want more value for the same amount of money rather than same value for a lesser amount of money. Either way, it’s a sweet deal and we stand to gain from it!