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Nokia plays role in HEVC codec that will replace H.264/AVC

Right now, H.264/AVC is generally regarded as the king of codecs. It’s been on the hill since around 2003, but Nokia has collaborated on a new codec that promises higher quality video at half the bit rate. H.265/HEVC is that codec that could be the next king of the hill.

Around 2010 is when development of the H.265/HEVC codec began in earnest. However, proposals for the next generation of codec started in 2004 by the Video Coding Experts Group. In 2007 the Moving Picture Experts Group began their own project, and 2010 is when the two different groups agreed to take the same path. The Nokia Research Center was involved from the beginning and contributed throughout the development of the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) video compression standard.

So what? Why’s a site about Windows Phone talking about video codecs? Lots of reasons, mostly how the new codec will save you time and money in the future. While the H.264/AVC codec has served us all honorably in the past and still today, it’s not as efficient as it can be. That’s where H.265/HEVC comes in with its super-efficient compression. Dr. Kemal Ugur, the principal researched at Nokia Research explained the difference between the two on the Nokia Conversatiosn blog:

“H.264/AVC is the dominant video codec now, but it’s not very efficient when coding high-resolution video. To support the emerging applications requiring high-resolution pictures, we contributed on developing H.265/HEVC. Compared to earlier standards, H.265/HEVC delivers similar, if not better quality video, at half the bit rate. Essentially, that means transmitting half the amount of data you’d normally receive from a video coded using the H.264 video codec.”

Here’s an example from Nokia – A video encoded with H.264/AVC will give you a file that’s 1GB in size. However, if you encode that same video with H.265/HEVC you’ll get a file about 500MB. That’s about half the size for those of you keeping track at home. So if you’re trying to download a video to your mobile device, you can get similar if not better quality video at half the rate and time. It’s a win-win for consumers.

Another advantage of the new codec, is its support for 8K ultra-high definition content and resolutions up to 8192x4320. Holy Pixels Batman!

They stressed we won’t be seeing an immediate benefit since the rollout will be gradual. Some devices will begin supporting it in the coming months.

Source: Nokia Conversations

  • So is this a sign of Xbox video/iTunes video support coming soon?
  • Most likely! The standard was approved back in January, so now its up to everybody to implement/support the codec. 
  • High compression is good, but what about decoding?
    Will it take double the CPU cycles to decode the same Video?
  • I think the tick was to split the bit rate in half while looking good and not extra compression.
  • That is an amazing development! I hope Windows Phone will be leading in this as the first mobile OS supporting this new codec so others will follow. Let's hope this will be the next standard too in Web applications streaming video.
  • One Word - Netflix
  • Yes. Yes please. Netflix has consumed many a months data plan for me.
  • Will it play mkv files tho?
  • mkv is just the container. This is about the video codec.
  • Sam, might just wanna fix the first sentence in the 5th paragraph. Anyway, good stuff Nokia & co, more efficient codecs in this age of video storage will be most welcome!
  • I agree, it made it a little confusing at first.  It should say: "The example they used is that a 1GB file coded with the current H.264/AVC standard will yield a file that’s about 500MB in size with H.265/HEVC."
  • I'll clean it up for you guys. 
  • Good news all round.
  • Hopefully the next Xbox will incorporate H.265 into the next Xbox.  They should still have time, right?
  • Absolutely, even the XBox 360 could incorporate the standard.  Due to the changes in Microsoft codec media technologies that are in Windows 7 and Windows 8, which are also in the XBox 360 and will be in the next Xbox, any codec can simply be added and have the advantage of being fully hardware accelerated even if there is no direct hardware codec support.  (This is why various codecs on Windows 7/8 when using the newer media frameworks get full GPU assistance that is independant of the codec technologies in the video card.).
  • Good stuff...but how about fixing the WAV file problems first...
  • The upcoming WP8 update will bring back expanded WAV support, plus a lot of other features.
  • Commented for the "Holy Pixels, Batman!"
  • Exciting times to say the least.
  • So will it just be a software upgrade to support this or will it require new hardware?  I can't imagine that being the case, but I figured I'd ask.
  • Should all be software, unless there is some really crazy dedicated processor requirement.
    With  (Media Foundation) technologies Microsoft uses, there is no longer a need for dedicated hardware codecs.  Any codec 'properly' implemented using Media Foundation turns over codec processing to the OS, which has mechanisms to use the GPU and/or additional CPU cores transparently to provide full hardware assistance.  This is how and why codecs in Windows 7, Windows 8, WP7, WP8, and the XBox 360 can offset codec processing to any GPU technology that has no understanding of specific codecs.
  • I know of topic, but whatever has happened to the flv player development?
    L820, UK
  • So how long till support for this codec hits my Ativ S?
  • Any word on WP8 getting Ogg Theora support?
  • Hope it happens