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H.264 vs H.265 – Whats the Difference? Specifications & Video Format

H.264 vs H.265

Have you gone through a situation where you are watching a perfectly quality video through streaming and the frame freezes for a second and next second the video is available at not so good quality? This happens when the network speed suddenly drops, and the video adjusts itself to the possible network bandwidth at that point in time. The new H.265 is a new standard that has been designed to address this issue.

What exactly is the difference between this new H.265 standard and how is it different from the old H.264 standard? Let us explore both the video coding standards (H.264 vs H.265) and understand their inherent differences for a better understanding of the technology.

Related Reading: Native HEVC Decoding

H. 264 – An Overview of the technology

H.264 vs H.265

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H.264 is the existing standard used for the recording, compression, and the distribution of a video signal in a digital format. The standard is also known as AVC or Advanced Video Encoding.

It is one of the mainstream video compression formats and fully sharing the updates for the distribution for the video content over the internet source. A few prime examples are the videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and DailyMotion or similar video sharing sites. The technology also finds an exhaustive use in HDTV broadcasts over terrestrial, cable and satellite.

How does it work? The technology or the coding standard uses frames of video that use block oriented, motion compensation based video compression. These individual blocks are referred to as Macroblocks. These macroblocks generally are made of samples of 16 x 16 pixels and are divided into transform blocks. These transform blocks are further divided into prediction blocks.

These technical details apart, it may be enough to understand that the H. 264 standard is used for enhanced performance with lower bit rates and work better than the previous standards. However, with the high resolutions and other elements – the H.264 has not been living up to the expectations of the industry at large. That is typically what has mandated the research into the H. 265 as the next standard.

H.265 – An Introduction to the Advanced Technology

The H.265 is an advanced coding technology that takes the concept beyond the H.264 technique. The standard is referred to as HEVC or High-Efficiency Video Coding and has been designed to make the functionality further ahead.

What differentiates it from the H.264 standard is the reduction in file size further and thus needs less bandwidth. Therefore your video streams will have better quality even at the lower network speeds. In sharp contrast to the H.264 technology, the new H.265 standard uses the technique referred to as Coding Tree Units or CTUs. The samples range from 4 x4 to 64 x 64 pixels sizes. The H.265 standard can process 64 x 64 blocks. Given helps you get the information handled more efficiently.

The HEVC also comes with an added better compensation and spatial prediction.

How do the two standards compare? H.264 vs H.265

What differentiates the H.265 standard from H.264 standard is it can expand the size of the pixels into bigger blocks and thus share more information. While the CTUs used in H.265 can range from 4 x 4 to 64 x 64, AVC or H.264 can only offer up to 16 x 16 pixels.

Another feature that makes the H.265 radically different from the H. 264 is the presence of Wavefront Parallel Processing (WPP) that offers an improved and more productive compression.

Here are the features that make H.265 a better standard in comparison to H.264. It cannot be considered as a comparison as the H. 265 is designed as the upgrade for the H. 264 and thus continues to have most of the features that the latter offers – although the new technology or standard comes with the advanced versions of the techniques and features. So, consider this as a natural evolution.

Better Compression

H.265 offers a vast improvement over the compression when compared to H.264. A video in H.265 can take up half of the space as taken up by the H.264 standard. This has more to do with increased macroblock size. The 16 x 16-pixel macroblocks handled by H.264 are quite inefficient in streaming high-resolution videos. Since HEVC offers the 64 x 64 pixels, this converts into a better compression without data losses.

Enhanced Intraframe Motion prediction

The success of a video codec will depend upon the capability to reference the adjacent pixels when there is no change between them. An improved prediction between the frames will ensure that there is enough saving of prediction. A capable video codec will reference a pixel when there is no change between the frames than reproducing the pixel. Thus you will experience an improvement in the compression and significant reduction in the file size.

Support for high resolution

We are moving towards higher resolutions for our screens. As the current capabilities, the H.265 standard can support up to 8K resolution. Of course, there aren’t many devices that can produce that kind of performance, but the H.265 codec is future ready and can support these resolutions when available.

Parallel Processing

The H.265 standard lets you split the processes across multiple parallel processes. This will help you make use of better decoding across multi-core processors. This efficiency can be one of the best options in view of the higher resolutions that are becoming quite vogue enough.

Network Bandwidth

Under typical conditions, an H.264 broadcast will need a higher bandwidth for a higher resolution. This can make it stutter and buffer when used for the common network speeds.

The bandwidth requirement for an H.264 standard for a 4K broadcast would be around 32 Mbps, while the standard that you will need with an H.265 standard is 15 Mbps. Given the fact that the average internet speed you can get under ideal circumstances is 15 Mbps, it is evident that the H.265 codec is way better than the predecessor.

The average bandwidth requirement for different resolutions across H.264 and H.265 standards can be best compared with the help of the following table –

480p1.5 Mbps0.75 Mbps
720p3 Mbps1.5 Mbps
1080p6 Mbps3 Mbps
4k32 Mbps15 Mbps

It is evident from the above table that the bandwidth requirement for almost all resolutions is almost half for H.265.

A few other differences likely between the two standards can be summed up through the table here below –

FeaturesH. 264H.265
The standardMPEG 4 Part 10, AVCMPEG-H, HEVC, Part 2
Date of approval20032013
4K supportYesYes
8K SupportNoYes
Frame rate supportUp to 60 fpsUp t 300 fps
Application areasHD sources for Broadcast and OnlineUltra HD, 2K, 4K for Broadcast and Online (OTT)

The H.265 is codec specifically designed for the future. Of course, it needs proper hardware support, and not many devices as of now do not support it. We would expect it to become one of the prominent options in video codec and transform into a universal codec for almost all requirements once the hardware catches up with the technology.

The Future Ahead

As we already stated, the future belongs to the new standard and H.265 is indeed the best you can opt for. However, when we compare it to the prevalence of H.264, it is quite less common concerning visibility. However, the technology has been gaining momentum with a focus on the compression and high resolution streaming requirements.

One prime example to prove that is the fact that Apple will be storing all its video files in the H.265 formats with effect from iOS 11. The new gen MacBook Pro has the support on its Kaby Lake-powered hardware support for the H.265 support. The codec will even find the support for the codec on the Apple’s tvOS and Safari browser.

Even Microsoft is not left behind. It recently launched a free extension for the Windows 10 system for adding support for H.265 decoding. Even Netflix has been streaming its 4K content through the H.265 codec if the hardware supports the standard. From those examples, it is evident that the shared will soon become the universal standard for video streaming quite more quickly.

The Concluding Thoughts

Well, with that discussion above, we assume we have been able to let you understand the importance and improvements that the new H.265 standard has thoroughly sharing the updates at providing you. We have been continuously following the developments and have been involved in sharing the updates in a thorough manner. The H.265 codec is meant to provide excellent visual performance at the lower bandwidth requirement and lower storage functionality. While those can be a few unique features making it a great choice, the codec also is designed as an option for the excellent precision and minimum errors.

Get yourself ready for the H.265 revolution. Take stocks and move ahead.

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