Home Technology New Codec promises to cut the cost of 4K streaming in half

New Codec promises to cut the cost of 4K streaming in half

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When it comes to achieving the dream of 4K or 8K streaming, we often look at things like our internet bandwidth, data caps and latency as key factors in determining if it’s even possible in homes (outside of having a display to do so, obviously). However, its more than just bits of data that determine your ability to stream, but software and hardware as well. And it looks like that software side of things, is about to make HD and UHD streaming a lot easier.

The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, the electrical engineering and computer science division of the esteemed German research organisation, the Fraunhofer Society, has just released a new video codec standard (H.266/Versatile Video Coding) (via The Verge) that promises to bring around 50 percent efficiency gains in streaming video compression. The new standard is designed to be a successor to the industry-standard H.264/Advanced Video Coding (AVC) and H.265/High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) formats that combined make up about 90 percent of global digital video transmission and compression on the market today, despite the former being more than 7 years old and the latter 7 years old.

One of the reasons codecs have been slow to change though has to do with licensing agreements though. Fraunhofer believes their VVC solution poses a way forward as they are looking to remove licensing with their new standards and hopefully clear the way for manufacturers to adopt these newer and faster standards:

Through a reduction of data requirements, H.266/VVC makes video transmission in mobile networks (where data capacity is limited) more efficient. For instance, the previous standard H.265/HEVC requires 10 gigabytes of data to transmit a 90-min UHD video. With this new technology, only 5 gigabytes of data are required to achieve the same quality. Because H.266/VVC was developed with ultra-high-resolution video content in mind, the new standard is particularly beneficial when streaming 4K or 8K videos on a flat-screen TV. Furthermore, H.266/VVC is ideal for all types of moving images: from high-resolution 360° video panoramas to screen sharing contents

What Fraunhofer doesn’t mention in its press release is the existence of AV1, an open-source and royalty-free competitor to the HEVC standard created by the Open Media Alliance, which includes all five major US tech giants. The format is used by YouTube and is likely to be used for many more years still.

Where the new VVC format is likely to gain faster traction is with manufacturers at a hardware level with working currently underway toward chip designs to support VVC that could then find its way into TVs and other streaming hardware in the near future. Expect it to take a few years for these new chips to find their way into many devices though.  With the promise of far more efficient streaming, hopefully, this could start the journey of better-quality streaming for many without needing to increase their internet bandwidth.

Last Updated: July 8, 2020