Delivering more video, to more users – HEVC to the rescue

April 08, 2014 // By Atul Verma, Texas Instruments
No longer confined to watching video on a tethered TV set, consumers have an insatiable appetite for video and they want it anytime, anywhere and on any device. Video traffic has grown tremendously over the last several years and thanks to easy accessibility, this trend is likely to continue unabated in the near future.

Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) predicts that by 2017, consumer Internet video traffic will constitute 69% of all consumer internet traffic. Sustaining this traffic growth without sacrificing user experience will require a network infrastructure upgrade – unless we can find a way to squeeze more video in existing network bandwidth.

This is where High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) comes in. HEVC is a technology which promises to deliver the same quality video as the widely popular H.264 standard but at roughly half the bandwidth. This article will provide a brief overview of this new compression technology and its expected market adoption.

Video compression - The balancing act

Video compression works by exploiting various forms of redundancies inherent in a video stream and not surprisingly, impacts quality adversely. In general, video compression algorithms strike a balance across three dimensions: output bit-rate, computational complexity and quality – where each algorithm falls on that curve, or surface, depends upon the application.

For instance, in production environments video codecs maintain high quality or even lossless compression at expense of high bit-rate, which is not a concern over mostly-private networks. Distribution environments, on the other hand, employ codecs that tilt the balance in favour of bit-rate savings over quality. Similarly, real-time codecs have to keep computational complexity high on the list of concerns while off-line codecs do not.

For equivalent quality, HEVC aims to provide much higher compression. From the discussion above, it is clear that HEVC encoding will require substantially higher processing resources. One way to deal with this computational burden is to make use of modern multicore processors by splitting the work across multiple parallel tasks – and portions of the HEVC standard have been designed to take advantage of parallel execution.

Introduction to HEVC

Just like its predecessors, HEVC follows a predictable pattern of doubling the compression efficiency over previous generation codecs. The following description provides a high level introduction to some of the concepts that are responsible for HEVC’s coding efficiency. For a more in depth review, please see the resources section.


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