HEVC or High-efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is a new and advanced codec. In the past, it was in the test, but now it is in the full rollout. This is the new video compression standard. It is useful for the new 4K and high frame rate videos. The latest mobiles and computer processors also support HEVC hardware decoding. Previously software like VLC was used for software decoding. X265 library is used to encode videos into HEVC (H.265). We have tested the power of this new video coding format and is absolutely amazing. In simple words, the power of x265 is revolutionary and can save a lot of space.
Currently, in 2014, the x264 library dominates the world. Now it is time for the new format. Our video resolution and displays are getting better. So to save storage and provide the best quality, we need a new format. 4K videos, HDR, and higher frame rate videos are becoming normal. These files are bigger, and we need better compression. Otherwise, we will need bigger drives for storage and higher bandwidth for online transfer. Therefore x265 library is used to encode video into HEVC or H.265 format.
x265 library is based upon older x264, and it is used to encode videos in the HEVC standard. The development was actually initiated in 2013. The public stable version was made available in October 2014. So this is a hot technology in the computers and video markets. We are always considerate of our hard disk space and internet bandwidth use. Many of us store music videos, movies, and games. Thus the new HEVC format is meant to rescue us from this issue as well. Mostly the new format helps to get higher resolutions like 4K and 8K in small sizes.
Quality, and Improvements
One of the main advantages of this new compression is the development of the high-resolution video. This encoding helps us save space while using 4K and 8K resolution videos. We are also seeing 4K HDR movie encodes in H.265. According to an IEEE paper on performance evaluation of H.265, HEVC is very powerful, and it is capable of encoding videos at about 50% more efficiency than H.264/ MPEG-AVC. The video sizes are almost half, and the quality is the same and even better. We can now get a high bit rate, high-quality videos in smaller sizes. HEVC can provide higher video quality for the same bit rate.
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Now, people can also have 4K HDR videos with 10-bit color in small sizes. 8K resolution is also coming soon, and this new library can surely help. We have seen some video samples, and the results are pretty amazing. For example, we tested two sample videos of the same show of the exact same duration. The 480p quality x264 file was 130 MB, but the 720p x265 file was just 160 MB. This shows that we can get better quality in almost the same file size. In the case of x264, the 720p file would have been almost double in size. The main thing we are getting is the best quality at the smallest size. This saves both resources and bandwidth. We can see that we get excellent quality in a small size.
A quick comparison of video quality
In the photo below we are showing a comparison of a scene of Gotham (TV Series). The left side is from x265 720p file and right one is 480p x264 file. Both files are almost similar in size. But if we compare them, the left one seems much better. There is more detail, less noise and the blacks are darker. Color is also better in the left frame. This was our actual first test and it really amazed us.
Benefits for Creators, Archivers, and Streamers
The first adopters and beneficiaries are content creators. Movie studios and video creators can save a lot of space. They can also save bandwidth with this new technology. Old x264 can’t provide 4K and 8K videos in small sizes like new x265. The encoding efficiency is also very good. The interesting thing is that with an increase in resolution, the bit rate decreases in comparison with x264. For 480p it is 52%, for 720p it is 56%, for 1080p it is 62% and for 4k it is 64%. These data show that the resulting file sizes are very small.
This is a revolutionary change for video encoding, video streaming, and storage. Streaming is also faster due to smaller sizes. However, there is a need for optimization of the x265 encoder for improving its efficiency in real-time HD streaming. There are a lot of people who collect videos and movies. The data hoarders always need a lot of space. Now they can save their hard disks and server space by moving to HEVC. We know that the H.265 saves significant space with better data compression and still gives better quality. Therefore the archivers can encode the old big videos to H.265 and save space.
Slowly, online video sharing sites and content streaming sites will also support the new format. However, this needs a bit of time. We need powerful PCs, mobiles, and software to help in that transition. But, this move can save a lot of bandwidth for companies and users. Consumers can also get better video quality at the cost of less bandwidth.
Computing Power Requirement
In the current scenario of 2014, it is hard to find a TV with HEVC decoding support. Computers also can’t play video files easily without software. The old decoders need very high computing resources. Even the 4th generation mobile Intel Core i5 processors can’t play these files easily. We see that many mobiles, computer processors, and graphics cards are not yet ready. The playback is smooth, but there is some jitter here and there. This will improve with better software and newer processors. Mobile companies, GPU manufacturers, and software developers are all building support for the new format.
The data compression for HEVC was designed to be 1000:1, which is immense. Till now, only the latest updates of the VLC player and some other decoders have supported H.265 playback. Processors and GPU manufacturers are also embedding the support rapidly. Slowly mobiles and TV are picking this feature. It is a very good sign, and we will see better improvement in video encoding technology in the future.