Emerging Issues in Security

What is H.265, and Will It Be a Better Compression Standard?

Conceived to boost video streaming, High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), or H.265, is the predecessor to the current H.264 video compression standard. Will H.265 gain wide acceptance or will the technology be on hold until the industry catches up?

video streaming

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With an increasing growth in the market of high-definition and 4K video surveillance cameras as well as video streaming on the Internet, a considerable amount of storage and bandwidth can overwhelm a network’s infrastructure. H265 promises better image quality and a 50% bandwidth and storage reduction compared to the widely used H264.

H.265 is a new video compression standard developed by the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC). The JCT-VC brings together image and video encoding experts from around the world, producing a single standard that is approved by two standards bodies.

An incredibly popular codec that forms the basis of most online video, H.264 is the video compression format used by most companies today. In many ways, H.265 is an extension of the concepts in H.264.

Both codecs work by comparing different parts of a video frame to find areas that are redundant within a single frame and subsequent frames. These areas are replaced with a short information description instead of the original pixels. The codec helps a computer understand how a stream of data can be displayed as a video file.

What differs between H.265 and H.264 is the ability to expand the size of these areas into a larger block size from 16×16 pixel to sizes up to 64×64. The H.265 coding algorithm uses efficient coding by encoding video at the lowest possible bit rate while maintaining a high image quality level. The H.265 coding algorithm also offers improved “intra” prediction within the same picture, improved motion vectors and motion region merging, improved motion compensation filtering, and an additional filtering step called sample-adaptive offset filtering.

The result is H.265 offers better visual quality with lower storage and bandwidth requirements. Less bandwidth reduces overall costs of system ownership. The lower bit rate than H.264 reduces strain on hardware and can lower playback issues.

A compression format needs to be supported by all the different components of the system. The H.264 compression standard provides very good quality at acceptable bit rates for most systems in use today. H.264 is supported by every major video device manufacturer and HDTV broadcasts. It may take a while for H.265 components to be ready to streamline video or download a film and TV show or watch a Blu-ray.

In an effort to incorporate H.265 enhancements, several video surveillance manufacturers are also layering their own compression algorithms on top of H.265 to optimize storage and bandwidth by recording higher-resolution video only where certain activities are detected. These enhancements analyze which parts of an image are most important and adjust levels of compression accordingly.

H.265 is growing in popularity. Once hardware and operating system support is in place, time will tell how well H.265 can improve efficiency and if it will have a significant impact as a leading compression standard.