The arrested development of HEVC

August 8, 2013 - 6:59pm

Ever since video transport researchers set about developing a next generation compression level standard to improve on that of the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC currently in general use, the discussion has focused on whether device manufacturers and content providers would switch over to the new standard. The questions have increased over the last two years, and intensified since HEVC/H.265 achieved approval as an ITU-T standard in April of this year.

For Broadcast Engineering contributor Kanaan Jemili, HEVC represents a classic chicken-and-egg paradigm. He wrote that increased deployment of HEVC compression has not accelerated due to a lack of devices, as well as a dearth of programming, that require or are optimized for HEVC compression.

"Content distributors don't want to invest in a new technology without a significant installed base, and CE vendors don't want to support a technology with very limited content available for playback," he wrote.

Another possible reason that HEVC compression has seen slow adoption in the broadcast industry is the fact that H.264 isn't an anachronism - yet. H.264 compression has so far been "a huge success," according to ExtremeTech contributor Joel Hruska. It's been a valuable codec standard for streaming services and satellite providers, and has also been able to handle Blu-ray disc needs, 3D and 4K Ultra HD TV. Because it does usually work, many broadcasters and device developers have adopted an "if it ain't broke" sentiment toward upgrading their systems. This attitude can start to create problems - while H.264 can handle these high level codecs, file sizes end up using massive amounts of bandwidth.

The benefits for consumers and broadcasters alike are potential quite high with HEVC, as video quality will improve while bandwidth and buffering will both diminish, Jemili stated. He recommended solving the chicken-and-egg problem by dismissing the idea of only satisfying one side of this perpetual dichotomy first before moving onto the other. He recommended the simultaneous delivery of next generation video broadcast equipment to content developers and the investment in future-proof video transcoders that can process HEVC outputs as well as those channels that require earlier compression methods.

Video Transcoding