Australian news website ITwire, has an article up about the MPEG’s announcement of the draft standard of their next generation of video codec, due to replace H.264 over time. Hopefully now that we’ve mostly settled on H.264 as the “one codec to rule them all” it will be a comfortable transition to the next generation.
The main benefit? The same as all codec evolution has provided: we trade off more power in the encoding and decoding end, to improve quality at ever lowering bandwidths. H.264 is two-to-four times more efficient than MPEG-2; and the proposed new codec is expected to be twice as efficient as H.264:
“There’s a lot of industry interest in this because it means you can halve the bit rate and still achieve the same visual quality, or double the number of television channels with the same bandwidth,” said the chair of the Swedish delegation and organiser of the meeting, Per Fröjdh, manager for visual technology at Ericsson Research”
Of course, nothing is too simple. In the same way that H.264 is also known as MPEG-4 Part 10, and MPEG’s Advanced Video Codec (AVC) – H.265 will also be known by then names of “High Efficiency Video Coding” (HEVC) and MPEG-H Part 2. In fact the official MPEG name is High Efficiency Video Coding. The H.2xx series is a European standard for the same thing.
How important is this? In the next year or two it will have zero effect on our working lives. Over time, as the standard moves from draft, through the patent search/pooling phase and finally through to licensing, devices will start to adopt it; brewers will gain the ability to play it; silicon will be struck for hardware decoding in future generations of mobile graphics chips (and not-so-mobile as well); and then probably cameras based on the new codec.
The standard is expected to be finalized in 2014, and that will signal the start of adoption.
Longer term, doubling the efficiency of the codec means we can half the bandwidth for the same image quality we haven now, which is what I bet most people will do, or improve the quality at the same bandwidth. It will make HD streams more viable, and an “HEVCCAM” camera (not announced by anyone ever) would be attractive as the future 24Mbit record rate would equal a 50 Mbit record rate now. Twice the image quality for half the same bandwidth.
So, be aware of it, keep tracking it through the process, and determine when it needs to have an impact on your work life. At a minimum 2-3 years. There’s always the chance the MPEG-LA will make the license terms unattractive, but to date they haven’t gone down that path.