Comparing Different Video Compression Standards

by Samuel Bochetta 

Nearly everyone who has watched a video stream online has certainly encountered issues such as freezing or buffering.

But far fewer understand the technology that directly impacts how well their videos stream, and this is where video coding formats (also known as compression standards) come into play.

In this article, we will specifically focus on the compression standards of H.264 and H.265.

What is High Definition Video Coding (HEVC), AKA H.265?

H.265 is a video compression standard created to greatly improve the performance of video compared to the previous standard “Advanced Video Coding” (AVC), or also known as H.264.

A major advantage of H.265 over H.264 is that HEVC provides about 2x the compression with no change whatsoever in video quality.

Another advantage of H.265 is that it has considerably enhanced video quality at precisely the exact same bitrate as H.264. The H.265 codec also supports resolutions up to 8192×4320, such as 8K UHD.

As technology continues to progress, the standard will move away from current HD standards and go to something more modern such as 4k UHD or 8K UHD. You can easily expect the norm to be 4k or higher for the future.

The main advantage of HEVC is that it guarantees a 50% decrease in storage space required to store the video all while maintaining a better picture and recording that its predecessor. A major trade-off, however, is the amount of processing power required, which is 10x more than H.264. You also will see a 50% decrease in bandwidth over the network because of this compression.

It is obvious that H.265 is going to be the go-to for the foreseeable future. For online video, this means better resolutions and frame rates that will allow you to capture and stream video.

Additionally, as far as processing goes H.265 allows parallel processing, meaning that even slower computers will be able to decode and process video with the H.265 code.

Comparing H.265 and H.264

Both H.265 and H.264 both operate by assessing different frames of the video and finding out which ones it can remove.  When either of these codecs remove the frame, it replaces it with a piece of information that is a placeholder or a compressed representation of that frame.

H.265 uses tiles and slices which can be decoded independently from the rest of a frame. This means that the decoding process can be split up across multiple parallel process threads, taking advantage of more efficient decoding opportunities on now-standard multi-core processors.

With video resolutions getting higher, this kind of improved efficiency is required to decode video at a watchable pace on lower-end hardware.

It’s pretty apparent at this point that H.265 compression will start to be the primary compression used in industries where security is a concern for the next several years.  

The main reason this is better is that you will be able to save recordings with a smaller file size, meaning that even with your current storage set up by using H.265 codec, you can store more video on the current storage system you have.

AV1

An alternative to HEVC is AV1, also known as AOMedia Video 1 standards. While HEVC and AV1 are very similar in multiple ways, the purposes they fulfill a very unique form one another.

Basically, AV1 is an open source and free codec, making it significantly less expensive than HEVC. Developed by AOM (Alliance for Open Media), the goal with AV1 was to create an HEVC alternative with the same level of compression efficiency as HEVC, but that would also be free and licensed to anyone.

Many major companies have turned to AV1 as their primary streaming technology, including Netflix, Vimeo, Hulu, and Apple.

You can expect to see H.265 used more in the future.  Companies that you may be familiar with such as Netflix and Hulu use H.265 as their video compression method.  Another example is Microsoft recently released and the software update that enabled H.265 on Windows 10. Even Apple will be using H.265 to store and decode video on all of their new iPhones and iPads.

HEVC/H.265 not only has a greater visual quality in a minimal storage and bandwidth, it additionally has a dexterous programming algorithm by dialing movement vectors with substantially greater precision and nominal remaining errors. Overall, we are quite excited to see constant improvement in the industry!

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