H.265 – Double or Nothing

4K Retina resolution wallpaper 16:10 - Eye

4K Retina resolution wallpaper 16:10 – Eye (Photo credit: Latente (Michele M. F.) 囧 http://www.latente.it) CC BY-SA 2.0

A new article by Bryan Bishop on The Verge highlights the recently approved H.265 standard for video compression. This may sound ludicrously boring and technical, but will have an impact on everyone who interacts with video content, especially on the web:

‘It brings with it one very specific benefit: the ability to reproduce quality imagery at half the bitrate required with H.264.’

— Bryan Bishop

H.264 is the current standard most people will be familiar with, even if they haven’t heard the name. It is the video compression format used by YouTube, Vimeo, Blu-ray Discs, Apple products, most other web video, and even HDTV broadcasts. Imagine the video you watch now, on any of these services, but with a twofold increase in quality. This doesn’t refer to resolution, but rather the amount of detail retained, and the reduction in compression artefacts (including banding, ‘blockiness’, and motion artefacts). That’s H.265.

English: Back of a Blu-ray Disc. I took this.

Back of a Blu-ray Disc. (Photo credit: Cdnomad)

Of course, this also means footage at twice the resolution of the current standard, ie. 4K (4096 × 2160), can be compressed to the same file size as 2K (or 1080p HD) video in H.264 – theoretically anyway. This is especially important when considering future 4K and 8K (Ultra HD) TV broadcasts and Blu-rays, essentially offering resolution matching or surpassing (at least perceptually) 35mm and 70mm film. The logistics and infrastructure necessary for Ultra HD is now more manageable with the new standard.

Lower-end digital video cameras, such as many DSLRs that don’t shoot ProRes, MotionJPEG or RAW video, will now be able to double the quality of their files whilst maintaing the same file size, and data rate (important for data cards that simply can’t record quickly enough after a certain rate is reached). Again, this also makes 4K in lower-end cameras easier to implement.

Essentially, because of how integral H.264 is to modern video compression, H.265, as a natural progression, could be the leap that makes everything look so much better, and eases us into what can only be described as genuine digital moving pictures; 4K and 8K Ultra HD.


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