H.264 is still, pretty much, the de facto for online video. But there could be a shift very soon as MPEG and VCEG have announced they've got H.265 in the works (still in draft) and could see it implemented for phones next year. Why? Because it's said to be twice as efficient at H.264. So what's that mean for the industry?
H.265, MPEG-H Part 2, the High Efficiency Video Coding, is said to be 2x as effective as H.264 which pretty much means you could see file sizes half the size with the same quality soon. It could also mean upgraded resolution in the same file size. It's great news for mobile users who want to stream video but have bandwidth limitations on their data plans or are stuck at 3G speeds. That could even mean some very high quality video for tablets with the screen resolution and real estate to make it noticeable.
How high or low can you go?
H.265 is said to support resolution up to 7680 × 4320! Yowza! Meanwhile, bit rate reduction was aimed to be 50% with the same quality as it would have in H.264. It's said to be aimed as low as QVGA (320×240) up to that massive resolution above and to improve noise levels, color gamut and dynamic range.
What's it All Mean?
In a nutshell, it means you could start shooting video at a much higher resolution in the near future, 7680 × 4320 or 16x full HD (sometimes called SuperHD, 8K UltraHDTV, UHDTV2 and 4320p) is 33.2 megapixels at up to 120 frames per second. That is, if you could afford the $1 million camera! OK, so maybe not quite yet. But it's coming. The original implementation plan for 8K had a time frame of 2015 to 2020. It seems that the industry in general is trying to shorten it.
First off, there are almost no commercial displays for the format and secondly, there are only about four cameras in the world. There was an 85″ display shown off by Sharp and the NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, is working with Panasonic for a 145″ display.
So don't worry about any of that 8K stuff just yet. But if you are making SD or HD content and hoping to have it viewed on tablets and smart or superphones, then this should be of particular interest. With the plethora of TV commercials that talk about bandwidth restrictions on mobile plans, this could seriously change the game, next year. H.265 could also help the industry fight against cable companies bandwidth metering and restrictions. If files sizes drop by 50% but quality remains the same, that should help alleviate the alleged bandwidth problem that they are facing, and using as a way to hike up rates on US consumers. If H.265 delivers on its promise, it could mean some serious streaming improvements for end-users and for video content producers it could mean a great deal of savings in storage and bandwidth costs.
But it could also be a major, long-lived headache. Let's face it, H.264 hasn't exactly been controversy free. While MPEG-LA has stated that H.264 will be royalty free until the end of 2015, it could decide that H.265 requires a license fee meaning everyone, from hardware manufacturers, software and service developers all the way down to end-userscould see a price hike because of it. They've already called for patents essential to the HEVC coding.
“By starting the joint license facilitation process now, the market can enjoy the earliest opportunity to plan for deployment of this promising new technology,” said MPEG LA President and CEO Larry Horn. “MPEG LA is pleased to assist in facilitating a convenient, independently administered, one-stop patent licensing alternative to assist users with implementation of their technology choices and invites all patent holders to participate.”
In order to participate in the initial facilitation effort for the creation of a joint HEVC License, MPEG LA invites any party that believes it has patents that are essential to the HEVC Draft 7 standard (or subsequent revisions that may issue) to submit an initial patent by September 7, 2012…
So they're already working on the monetization side of the license and patents, before the standard is even in place. That's how lucrative the H.265 coding could be it seems. So it's definitely going to cost someone something. However, if they are interested in the overall progress of digital video they'll offer the same deal as they have on H.264 where they "will not charge royalties on Internet Video using the codec, when that video is free to end-users, for the lifetime of that license."
If could end up being that they decide on a licensing fee that would impact end-users and that could do things like reduce competition, because of high licensing, etc. Hopefully, they'll take it the way of H.264 and it will have the same deal.
For now, it's wait and see, but it certainly does seem quite promising for us all. Less bandwidth, same or better quality and the potential for the online video industry to continue steamrolling onward and upward.