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HEVC (H.265) Webinar Summary

By: Todd Stabley

Since Jan Ozer’s Streaming Learning Center webcast I mentioned in a previous post conflicted with the DDMC meeting today, I wanted to send out a summary since I know HEVC/ H.265 is a topic that is relevant for many of you. I learned quite a few interesting things about H.265, and picked up a couple tips about buying a new TV set that you may want to note if you are in the market (see bottom):


  • The royalty structure for H.265 is generally favorable for vendors, so there is no reason for them not to hasten its arrival. However, it may exclude some of the smaller vendors, such as browser makers Mozilla and Opera, and, more significantly, Adobe with respect to their Flash player because they don’t have a way to recoup licensing costs.

  • Those who have been working with HEVC/H.265 indicate that it provides generally the same quality as H.264 but at 40-50% of the file size (~40% for 720p and ~50% for 1080p)

  • Independent testers (Harmonic, Elemental, Telestream) say testing H.265 is a moving target. Vendors are still trying to come up with optimal quality/ encoding time tradeoffs that are commercially viable. I.e., you could take forever to encode a perfect file, but that wouldn’t be viable in a commercial product.

  • Jan posed some questions around “mosquitoes”–artifacts that are produced around the edges of an in focus subject and the background. Test files that demonstrate this are available here: Bottom line is don’t count on still frame comparisons when evaluating quality.

  • Testing evaluated PSNR (Peak Signal to Noise Ratio) over various bandwidths using MPEG-2, H.264, and H.265 for sports footage. Conclusion is that you can get the same quality with a 28% lower data rate. MPEG-2 broke down quickly over lower data rates as compared to H.264 and especially H.265.

  • H.265 playback

    • Computers: Some older computers will be excluded because 1080p playback will be poor, but in general minimal problems for computers playing back H.265.

    • Mobile: New iPad and many other tablets will provide H.265 playback via software only. There are going to be lots of HEVC compatible devices coming out.  Mobile chipsets like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (shipping now) provide hardware decoding for H.265

    • HEVC can shorten battery life by up to 50% over an equivalent resolution H.264 file! So it’s really important to have hardware decoding to prevent this.

  • Encoding times–Jan’s testing showed (vs H.264):

    • ~5x encode time for 720p
    • ~13x encode time for 1080p
  • Vendors say 2-4x processing time or processing power is required for H.265 vs H.264


  • Players

    • DIVX and VLC already have support for H.265

    • No word from Apple and Microsoft or Google, but they are very likely to support in their browsers

    • Not planned or likely for Free Flash player because of licensing costs


  • Adoption

    • We are 18-36 months out before ubiquitous penetration because vendors will want to ensure users have a good experience

    • Smaller browser vendors like Mozilla or Opera? Maybe not because licensing will be an obstacle.

    • Murky playback picture in the general purpose market

    • Will win out over VPN (probably close in quality) in the standards-based space. VPN will have niche markets, such as web video conferencing, perhaps.

    • HEVC support is being announced in virtually every new chip being made as compared with 20-30% for VP9

Side notes about buying a UHD TV set

  • If you buy it now it may be obsolete sooner than you think.

  • Is it 8 bit or 10 bit? if 8 bit, 10 bit should be coming in the next 3 years. 10 bit will provide much better image quality.

  • Is the HEVC decoder Main 10 or Main compatible? If only Main, you’ll need a separate HEVC decoder some time in the future

  • If the HDMI connector 2.0? If not it won’t be fast enough for 4k 60p
Categories: DDMC Info

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