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H.265 Codec Standard Has Been Approved

by Abel Avram on Jan 26, 2013 |

The H.265 codec standard, the successor of H.264, has been approved, promising support for 8k UHD and lower bandwidth, but the patent issues plaguing H.264 remain.

ITU has announced the approval of a new standard known as Recommendation ITU-T H.265 or ISO/IEC 23008-2, setting the foundation for a new video codec standard that succeeds H.264 which is currently used for 80% of the video worldwide, according to ITU. The standard is also called “High Efficiency Video Coding” (HEVC), and its development started as early as 2004 (PDF), shortly after H.264/MPEG-4 AVC became an approved standard.

H.265 promises support for 8K Ultra High-Definition (UHD 8192×4320) using down to half the bandwidth H.264 currently uses, making it appealing for video delivery over constrained networks used by mobile devices, but anyone could benefit from it if the standard becomes widely implemented. The processing requirements are expected to be much heavier than those need by H.264, HEVC making use of a parallel architecture to encode images.

While several companies - Broadcom, Cyberlink, Ericsson, Mitsubishi, etc. - have already implemented demo H.265 devices, several years will pass until this new standard may become widely accepted and used.

Patents remain an important issue as it was with H.264, Google proposing WebM, a new codec standard based on VP8, back in 2010, one that would be royalties free. They also included it in Chrome, with the intent to replace H.264, but this attempt never materialized. Mozilla and Opera also included WebM in their browsers with the same purpose, but they never discarded H.264 because most of the video out there is coded with it.

MPEG LA, the owner of a patent pool covering H.264, promised that H.264 internet videos delivered for free will be forever royalty free, but who knows what will happen with H.265? Will they request royalties for free content or not? It remains to be seen. In the meantime, H.264 remains the only codec with wide adoption, and H.265 will probably follow on its steps.

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