The video ecosystem is evolving, and the hot topic right now is the shift from AVC to HEVC. H.265 / High Efficiency Video Compression (HEVC) is the newest video compression standard that technology has been gradually shifting towards, and while the standard isn’t exactly new by any means (it was first ratified in 2013), the past year has seen a more impactful shift towards HEVC-compatible playback and wider market adoption.
But rumor has it the video ecosystem isn’t ready for the new compression standard yet. If so, are there any real advantages to transitioning now? Yes - quite a lot actually. Shifting to HEVC technology puts you ahead of the game as the video market plays catch-up. But while the rest of the world slowly adopts new standard, many advantages can actually be had now. So what are these advantages and how can we deploy HEVC workflows today?
HEVC vs AVC
HEVC is the next generation compression standard that offers a number of enhancements over AVC. HEVC compression is 50% more efficient than AVC, which translates into maintaining the same video quality at half the bitrate or double the video quality at the same bitrate. The figure above represents the resolution:bitrate ratio of different output qualities. In all categories, bandwidth costs are significantly reduced while resolutions remain identical.
Let's take a look at some reasons why shifting to HEVC now is an excellent idea.
1. Less Cost and More Overhead
Streaming live with an HEVC-enabled encoder means spending only half the bitrate compared to an AVC encoder. Say you’re doing a 1080p livestream on YouTube at 8Mbps via AVC. With an HEVC encoder, that 1080p feed will stream at just 4Mbps. Same quality, less data.
Since less data is being used in the transfer, more data is saved. This is especially important for users with data-capped devices like cellular 4G and on-demand subscription plans. Say your workflow uses a 4G LTE USB modem as a primary Internet source. With AVC, streaming at 1080p resolution will cost an impractical amount of bandwidth to create a lossless feed. With HEVC, those bitrate demands are reduced in nearly half, bringing 1080p resolution back to the table. Alternatively, you could stream at a lower quality and save the extra bandwidth cost.
2. Better For Data-Strapped Locations
Ever connect to a WiFi network only to find out it’s slower than your 4G? In order to save money, many places opt for cheaper Internet plans with their ISPs which result in slow upload speeds. This forces many livestream operations at locations like schools and churches to stream at lower bitrates and resolutions, resulting in a low-quality feed not very appealing to viewers.
With HEVC though, streaming high-quality video from these areas will be a lot easier. Where a school could only push 480p at 1.5Mbps, now it could push 720p at 1.5Mbps, giving viewers a better visual experience. Overall, HEVC will help produce better quality in all avenues of digital media.
3. Prepared For Universal Adoption
All studies indicate that while playback support and global demand for H.265 are still developing, it will inevitably be the future of video compression. As TVs, computers, OTT devices and other consumer content devices adapt to the emerging standard, having H.265 devices now helps to future-proof encoding productions down the line. When universal adoption of HEVC occurs, you’ll already be ahead of the game. And don’t worry, all Teradek HEVC-enabled devices contain the option to switch to H.264 encoding.
4. You Can Start Using HEVC Today
You might be wondering: those reasons are great, but how can I stream my content in H.265 when CDNs have yet to support it? Luckily, we have a solution for that.
Because H.265 adoption in the video ecosystem is still slow, we’ve developed an efficient alternative to utilizing the codec now. Through our cloud-based management platform Core, you can send a H.265 video stream into Core and use its cloud-based transcoding feature, turning the H.265 stream into H.264 and broadcasting it to your destination(s).
By transcoding through the cloud, Core allows you to transport low-bitrate, high-quality HEVC video to Core’s infrastructure. This saves tons of bandwidth from streaming but delivers the same high-quality results.
The drastically improved efficiency of HEVC compression makes standardization imminent. Its ability to make high-quality content affordable and deliverable for distributors and consumers makes it attractive to everyone. Once support for HEVC codecs becomes universal, it will open new opportunities in video creation. For Teradek, the future is now.