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Broadcast & Distribution - IBC 2013 was the place to be to get an update on what’s happening with the new compression codec know as HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) or H.265. This codec is likely to be used almost anywhere where compression of video is needed; from contribution links, to broadcast, cable and satellite distribution and over the top (OTT) Internet streaming. HEVC is starting to roll out now in some of these platforms but it will be another year before all segments will have the ability to encode and decode at up to 4K resolution.
For contribution links, the highest quality and smallest compression ratios are desired. Typically, hardware encode and encode is used to ensure high reliability. Encoding of 4K content at 60 frames per second is still at least 6-9 months away, while decoding is being demonstrated today. Lower resolutions encode/decode was being widely demonstrated at IBC 2013 and is in various states of roll out.
The same can be said for the use of HEVC in distribution. 4K and lower resolution solutions are being demonstrated today, but implementation is still a ways offs. Most expect transition to 720 and 1080 to start next year with 4K becoming viable in 2015. Here, there will be a mixture of hardware encode and decode solutions.
Where HEVC will see early adoption is in OTT. At IBC, companies were showing how HEVC can deliver similar video quality as the current H.264/AVC standard, but at lower bit rates. For the most part, software decoding is desired for mobile platforms and HEVC promises to offer a 100% improvement in bit rates over AVC. So far, however, the improvement is more like 50% for 720p. It will take some time to fully optimize these algorithms, but all agree that progress is coming very rapidly.
While the arrival of these codecs is a much needed shot in the arm for the growing bandwidth appetite of video users, it will take many years to replace AVC. It has been about 8 years since AVC/MPEG-4 was introduced and there are still a lot of distribution systems and set top boxes running the older MPEG-2 compression scheme. Look for a lot more coverage on www.display-central.com. – Chris Chinnock