Which player is suitable for HEVC?

Everything about HEVC - High Efficiency Video Coding

On Movie buffs Breathtaking experiences await. The screens are getting bigger and bigger, the picture sharpness is increasing and movements are becoming more and more natural. At least that is the stated goal.

But such images need food. Data feed that can easily be in the range of over 25 megabits per second. At least according to today H.264 invoice. And that is not acceptable in terms of costs and transmission capacities in the TV sector. For comparison: investments are currently being made for high-quality HDTV broadcasts 12 megabits per second data rate, good Blu-rays come to an average of 25.

Therefore technology tries to get the Home theater needs adapt. This innovation is called High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC or H.265) - the direct successor to the tried and tested H.264 codec for HDTV.

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As with H.264, too Advanced Video Coding (AVC) called, it is a data reduction process. The goal is to have to transmit as little data as possible for a complete TV picture. AVC made HDTV possible because of its compression capabilities. HEVC should go one better and require 40 to 50 percent less data than its predecessor.

A long way

At the beginning of June, the codec was adopted as the standard. The way from the idea to the application of such a compression method is long.

AVC history

  • From 1995: First preparatory work at universities and in companies from the completion of MPEG-2
  • 1998: Start of standardization work
  • 2001: Beginning of the cooperation between MPEG and ITU on H.264
  • 2004: High Quality Extensions (Fidelity Range Extensions)
  • From October 2005: Individual AVC receivers for satellite TV reception come onto the market
  • October 2005: Implementation of the first hardware encoder for TV broadcasters; no data savings compared to MPEG-2
  • October 2005: Parallel operation of SD and HD at ProSiebenSat.1 (until February 2008)
  •  December 2005: Premiere starts three HD channels
  • August 2006: Compared to MPEG-2, data compression is around 30 percent higher
  • May 2006: Anixe HD starts
  • December 2006: First Blu-ray players hit the market
  • July 2008: ARTE HD starts
  •  2008: Implementation of a hardware encoder for the public broadcasters
  • 2008: First test broadcast on Einsfestival HD
  • From October 2009: Individual TV cable networks begin with the storage of HD channels
  • February 2010: Das Erste HD and ZDF HD start
  • 2010/2011:Compared to MPEG-2, data compression is around 50 percent higher
  • May 2011: HD can be received via IPTV (Telekom Entertain)
  • Current state: Data compression is as of 2011

The story of HEVC began 2004when other data compression options were considered. But with the adoption of the standard, the process was far from ready for the market. To put it simply, the codec describes what belongs in it and how it handles it. The way in which this data is generated in a practical manner is then the job suitable software, which has yet to be developed.

This is done by companies that offer their solutions in competition with one another TV program or Internet service provider want to sell. Program development and contact are currently taking place.

Aspiration and reality

Rainer Schäfer, Head of the Television Division at the Institute for Broadcasting Technology (IRT), shows how demanding it is to develop such software. He chats behind that one towards the end of the day H.265 development phase It took immense time to create the data required by the codec from real images: "For around ten seconds of moving images, the program took almost a whole day." In practice this is unacceptable.

Companies that rely on such "Encoding" specialized, however, can dramatically improve results. Developer Rovi is involved here. Thomas Kramer is the product manager responsible for HEVC. His department has been busy with it for about 18 months. In the race for the best values, Rovi is around 15 to 20 percent data reduction compared to AVC - still far from the targeted 50 percent.

"It is completely normal that the first encoder versions are not as efficient," explains the expert. "Little by little, the know-how grows and the goals are approached." His estimate: in three to four years you will have achieved between 30 and 40 percent data reduction compared to AVC.

Schäfer reports something similar about the HDTV introduction. At the time, it was shaped by subscription TV provider Premiere, who was under time and money pressure. The first AVC encoder produced hardly less data than that MPEG-2 predecessor. It was only about eight months later that the advantages of the new codec could be used.

The HEVC fields of application

Even today, the performance is still being improved established encoder continuously. And that on uneven terrain: It is important which devices and distribution channels a codec is used for. Rovi is mainly active in the Internet environment, in which there are different types of devices Computers, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs and smart receivers gives. Depending on the computing power of these devices, the top models could possibly already be expected to decrypt HEVC data, explains Rovi Product Manager Thomas Kramer. A corresponding program would be installed in advance to enable them to decode the data.

Such "Software decoder" however, are not adapted to the specific device. Software and hardware are independent of one another and constantly adapt to one another.

This also applies to the sender side. Want a provider of IPTV or video on demand to stream his offer with the HEVC codec, he installs the corresponding "software encoder". Device and program also come together here in retrospect.

Practice: What makes H.265 better

It is different in the television broadcasting environment. Here device and software merge and are offered as a unit. Therefore one speaks of one on the sender side "Hardware Encoder"that the respective TV station integrates into the system.

In return, the TV customer has a Set-top box, which also forms a unit of software and suitably powerful hardware. The Blu-ray camp is still divided on the extent to which the codec will find its place on disc. The official statement is that you are at one new standard work, which should be finished by 2014. Whether H.265 is part of it still seems to be open.

In the mobile communications environment, HEVC could also play a role as soon as it comes to the Transmission of moving images goes. IPTV would then be conceivable. However, there are no announcements about this yet.

HEVC is still in the development stage

Strictly speaking, not even the standard itself is completely finished. You can tell from the long, technical names for a codec Version form detect. Over time, the attachments change, which signals that further, deeper ones sufficient standardization steps were made. IRT man Schäfer knows that the HEVC codec covers all needs for TV and home cinema, but cannot yet be used in production in film and TV studios. Here, for example, is missing Integration of color depthwith whom one works in this area. Such codec parts are to be integrated in the coming months.

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Prospects seem good in terms of that TV use to pass. The IRT was already running Hardware encoder prototype from a manufacturer that produces only 40 percent of the AVC codec's data volume in a practical time. "We were quite surprised," admits Schäfer. So you can be optimistic. The product is not finished yet.

Programmers like Rovi are still in the Stage of development. So far there have only been test runs, explains Thomas Kramer. Nevertheless, the manufacturer wants to be the first to offer a solution in the Internet sector. At the end of this year, the first HEVC concept for transmitters and receivers will be available as a software solution.

Ultra HD and DVB-T2

At this point it is probably to be suspected that HEVC will require extensive changes not only among the content providers.

Wait for the consumer too Changes. While these tend to take place automatically with mobile devices and computers due to the shorter product cycles, TV viewers have a targeted one New acquisition into the house. According to current estimates, neither separate set-top boxes nor the receivers integrated in televisions have sufficient computing power for HEVC.

However, the bitter pill is sweetened a bit. Because together with HEVC, the companies always mention the in the same breath four times the full HD pixel count Ultra High Definition (4K). The HEVC codec should not only ensure lower data rates, but also enable higher-resolution images at the same time. And for this technology, new televisions and set-top boxes are necessary anyway.

HEVC could also become an occasion to introduce DVB-T2 as a transmission technology for aerial television that is already overdue in Germany. Then there would be the jump from standard to at least HD resolution finally nothing more in the way.

It seems certain that HEVC will find its way onto the Internet at the end of the year. For TV use, Rainer Schäfer points out that MPEG-2 and -4 each have approx. two years after the codec standardization the first TV receivers arrived and television broadcasting began. Transferred to HEVC, that would fit in with Sky’s plans to start broadcasting UHD as early as 2015.

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