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ITU Approves H.264 Video Standard Successor H.265 182

Posted by timothy
from the looks-so-much-like-his-brother dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The H.265 codec standard, the successor of H.264, has been approved, promising support for 8k UHD and lower bandwidth, but the patent issues plaguing H.264 remain." Here's the announcement from the ITU. From the article: "Patents remain an important issue as it was with H.264, Google proposing WebM, a new codec standard based on VP8, back in 2010, one that would be royalties free. They also included it in Chrome, with the intent to replace H.264, but this attempt never materialized. Mozilla and Opera also included WebM in their browsers with the same purpose, but they never discarded H.264 because most of the video out there is coded with it. MPEG LA, the owner of a patent pool covering H.264, promised that H.264 internet videos delivered for free will be forever royalty free, but who knows what will happen with H.265? Will they request royalties for free content or not? It remains to be seen. In the meantime, H.264 remains the only codec with wide adoption, and H.265 will probably follow on its steps."
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ITU Approves H.264 Video Standard Successor H.265

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  • Several companies made proposals for what would eventually become H.265.
    Who won?

    • Re:So who won? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Goaway (82658) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @09:40AM (#42700325) Homepage

      Nobody "won". Companies weren't making proposals for complete replacements for h.264. They were making proposals for incremental improvements on h.264. h.265 is a collection of those different improvements. Each one is small in itself, but they add up.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Then whose patents have now become gold mines and/or roadblocks?

        • Re:So who won? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Kjella (173770) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @01:17PM (#42701579) Homepage

          Then whose patents have now become gold mines and/or roadblocks?

          The H.264 patent pool has 30 licencors and the list of patents is 59 pages long, so the short answer is: Most of the industry. Apart from Google with WebM and previously Microsoft with VC-1, there is surprising unity. My predictions are as follows: HEVC is as dominant in hardware as H.264, there will be an open source encoder like xvid/x264 and those who can't or won't use that will use WebM despite the somewhat larger size because Google will probably fight to back it as a free codec. Anything else will be never go anywhere outside geek circles like Vorbis or Theora.

          • by Guspaz (556486)

            As it stands, WebM is somewhat less effective than h.264, and as such, it will never be competitive with h.265... No more so than MPEG-4 ASP is competitive with h.264.

            WebM completely failed to gain any traction whatsoever against h.264, so why should it do any better against h.265?

            • Re:So who won? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Divebus (860563) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @04:15PM (#42703185)

              You're being very kind by saying WebM is "less effective" compared to H.264. I'd put it closer to "why in the hell would I want crummy looking compression unless I use at least twice the data rate?" This from someone who's livelihood partially comes from putting compressed streams on the Internet. WebM isn't good enough and just got lapped again.

              • by Kjella (173770)

                Well if you're rendering some cutscenes for a game and want a codec that is free to use and better than MPEG1 - MPEG2 and all newer ones are still patented - then WebM might fit the bill. I'll agree it doesn't take much to win that category though.

            • Re:So who won? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Goaway (82658) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @05:43PM (#42703729) Homepage

              Google is already working on VP9, so they aren't giving up quite yet. Whether they'll manage to be competitive is another matter, but at least they're trying.

            • WebM completely failed to gain any traction whatsoever against h.264, so why should it do any better against h.265?

              Well, if WebM were as good as h.265, then we'd be a in a place where no hardware supports either standard and new hardware could support both standards. Right now, h.264 has hardware support and WebM doesn't, putting it at a large disadvantage.

          • Re:So who won? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Tough Love (215404) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @04:28PM (#42703303)

            Anything else will be never go anywhere outside geek circles like Vorbis or Theora.

            Please watch those overly broad claims. Vorbis is now well established in a number of niches, notably video game sound content.

  • by h8mx (2713391)

    Mozilla and Opera also included WebM in their browsers with the same purpose, but they never discarded H.264 because most of the video out there is coded with it.

    What? Firefox didn't have H.264 support until late 2012.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And I believe Opera still doesn't, except on Unix where it'll use the installed GStreamer plugins where available.

    • Mozilla and Opera also included WebM in their browsers with the same purpose, but they never discarded H.264 because most of the video out there is coded with it.

      What? Firefox didn't have H.264 support until late 2012.

      See? Since they didn't have it, they couldn't discard it.
      In other news, lynx also never discarded support for H.264.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706)

      What? Firefox didn't have H.264 support until late 2012.

      Unless you're talking about some non-release version of Firefox, it *still* doesn't have it. Though I think Firefox mobile does (not sure if it's the release version or not).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2013 @09:40AM (#42700323)

    Being a videophile, first I encoded everything to divx, then I transcoded to h.264. Now I suppose I'll turn them all into h.265 - it'll be the best quality yet.

    • Being a videophile, first I encoded everything to divx, then I transcoded to h.264. Now I suppose I'll turn them all into h.265 - it'll be the best quality yet.

      A videophile maybe, but a clueless one indeed. You lose quality on each transcode, you don't gain any.

    • by gravis777 (123605)

      Oh, that is not the way to go. You ought to see what you can do with VHS. Capture with MJPEG to Cinepak, then export to VCD. Rip that to Indeo 4, then convert to Indeo 5. Import into Adobe Premiere and run some filters on it. Export to SVCD. Rip and upconvert the SVCD into MPEG2 720x480 and export to a DIVX file. Convert to WMV with Windows Media Encoder. Import back into Adobe Premiere, add a few more filters, export to Quicktime. Upload to Youtube, using their video stabalizers and automatic filters. Use

  • Does this format have and built in DRM (pronounced 'Dhurum") or other nasties?
    • Re:Dhurum (Score:5, Informative)

      by rsmith-mac (639075) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @09:53AM (#42700387)

      Nothing more than H.264 had. DRM is implemented at the container level, not the bitstream level.

      • by tepples (727027)

        DRM is implemented at the container level, not the bitstream level.

        BD+ in Blu-ray Disc muddies this a bit, as it allows transforming the decompressed image based on whether or not other authenticity checks pass.

        • by nabsltd (1313397)

          BD+ in Blu-ray Disc muddies this a bit, as it allows transforming the decompressed image based on whether or not other authenticity checks pass.

          Although "transform the audio and video output" is listed as an option of BD+, it doesn't work the same way as most humans would parse that description. Based on this [wikipedia.org], it's just another way to encrypt the full .m2ts stream.

          If it actually altered the video after decompression but before output, it would be impossible to rip a Blu-Ray losslessly with that protection, as you would need to decode the H.264 stream, apply the BD+ operations, then re-encode those frames to put back into the ripped stream. Note t

          • by tepples (727027)

            If it actually altered the video after decompression but before output, it would be impossible to rip a Blu-Ray losslessly with that protection

            Exactly as planned.

            In addition, in order to alter the uncompressed data, it would require that every Blu-Ray player use exactly the same H.264 decoder with exactly the same options and only apply video alterations after BD+ is done with the data.

            I was under the impression that the transformations didn't need to depend on bit-perfect output from the video decoder. Just guessing, but they could involve color space modification, rotation, flipping, cutting and pasting, bending (remember old scrambled channels from the VideoCipher II era?), and the like.

            • by nabsltd (1313397)

              If it actually altered the video after decompression but before output, it would be impossible to rip a Blu-Ray losslessly with that protection

              Exactly as planned.

              Since this would effectively stop ripping, I'm pretty sure if it were possible while still letting Blu-Ray players play the movie, it would already have been done.

              I was under the impression that the transformations didn't need to depend on bit-perfect output from the video decoder. Just guessing, but they could involve color space modification, rotation, flipping, cutting and pasting, bending (remember old scrambled channels from the VideoCipher II era?), and the like.

              First, they have to be simple, because of the limited power of the BD+ virtual machine, so anything that involved serious memory moves would be out. Color and pixel value would be pretty much the limit.

              Depending on much the decoding varies from the reference, there might be some seriously noticable artifacts, especially if the scrambing was enoug

        • DRM is implemented at the container level, not the bitstream level.

          BD+ in Blu-ray Disc muddies this a bit, as it allows transforming the decompressed image based on whether or not other authenticity checks pass.

          Blu-ray is generally pathetic and an altogether unpleasant experience for the user with slow startup and numerous unskippable ads and threats, just to name two deficiencies.

  • I want to be excited about this but people keep reminding me that software patents suck.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by loufoque (1400831)

      Good thing software patents don't exist in most of the civilized world then.

      • Good thing software patents don't exist in most of the civilized world then.

        Does "most of the civilized world" offer asylum to refugees from regimes with software patents?

  • Mp3 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bstrobl (1805978) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @09:59AM (#42700423)
    Once a standard becomes good enough, people will hang on to it for a long long time. Why bother re-encoding a complete music library from mp3 even if vorbis/aac is clearly the superior codec? Apple has enough difficulties pushing aac through, and not many hardware producers are including vorbis support. I guess the same could be said for windows xp and desktop hardware.
    • Once a standard becomes good enough, people will hang on to it for a long long time. Why bother re-encoding a complete music library from mp3 even if vorbis/aac is clearly the superior codec? Apple has enough difficulties pushing aac through, and not many hardware producers are including vorbis support. I guess the same could be said for windows xp and desktop hardware.

      MP3-files are small enough to be streamable perfectly well even on really slow connections, but video files ain't small. A 2-hour, 1080p video file with any kind of a remotely-acceptable quality will weigh in at 4GB+, and well, it sure ain't streamable over very slow connections. Not to mention the fact that bandwidth costs money. Ergo, any developments that result in higher quality at the same size or similar quality at a smaller size are certainly welcome, both for consumers and for content-producers.

      As a

      • Re:Mp3 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LordKronos (470910) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @12:19PM (#42701089) Homepage

        Once a standard becomes good enough, people will hang on to it for a long long time. Why bother re-encoding a complete music library from mp3 even if vorbis/aac is clearly the superior codec? Apple has enough difficulties pushing aac through, and not many hardware producers are including vorbis support. I guess the same could be said for windows xp and desktop hardware.

        MP3-files are small enough to be streamable perfectly well even on really slow connections, but video files ain't small. A 2-hour, 1080p video file with any kind of a remotely-acceptable quality will weigh in at 4GB+, and well, it sure ain't streamable over very slow connections. Not to mention the fact that bandwidth costs money. Ergo, any developments that result in higher quality at the same size or similar quality at a smaller size are certainly welcome, both for consumers and for content-producers.

        As a thought-experiment, let's assume that this or that TV-series I was watching on Netflix weighed in at 1.5GB for a 1h episode, and I watched 15 episodes in a month. That'd be 22.5GB of data. Now, if the move to a new codec reduced filesizes by 5% we'd end up with ~21.4GB of data -- that's already one gigabyte in savings. Now, multiply this with e.g. 200 000 users, what do you see?

        Apparently you don't remember it, but at one time, MP3 files weren't small either. I remember it taking about an hour to download a good quality MP3. And there was streaming, too. Things like Real Player provided lower quality, higher compressed versions that were more suitable for streaming. Then do you know what happened next? Did Real Player and stuff like it win out? Nope. I'll give you a hint...the MP3 files didn't get any smaller.

        Connections got faster, and bandwidth got cheaper. Much like those days for MP3, today good quality h264 files are a bit cumbersome, but I can easily download them in an hour or 2 with a typical (not even high end) consumer level internet connection. And today there are ways to get lower quality, more highly compressed version that can stream a fairly good quality HD video in real time. Give it another 5 years and the problem will easily solve itself without replacing every single piece of hardware and re-encoding every existing file.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Wow, are you saying that if I multiply 5% times 200,000 users I would get, something like at least 5% of their usage? That's amazing.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Why bother re-encoding a complete music library from mp3 even if vorbis/aac is clearly the superior codec?

      You're asking the wrong question, the right question is how many have FLAC copies of all their MP3s? Because I hope you weren't seriously suggesting they should re-encode from the MP3 files. I think you will find that many people have never even heard of FLAC and even if they did few tools have made it easy to create dual FLAC/MP3 rips of a CD, least not any the average person would have heard about. Assuming he didn't just download those MP3s in the first place and isn't about to chase down different copie

    • by Buzer (809214)
      Old content will stay in h264, new content will be released in h265. For when that switch happens depends on market. Anime fansubs have been early adopters for pretty much all new technologies relating to non-streamed video. I except them to start using it pretty much right after some kind of x265 will come out. Other markets will make the switch slower (or they will just keep using both) as it requires upgrading the consumers hardware/software.
  • by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @10:15AM (#42700487)

    They also included it in Chrome, with the intent to replace H.264, but this attempt never materialized.

    Apart from the awful English, WebM has been quite successful, too: a lot of software packages use WebM because they don't need to license H.264, and not just open source software.

    Video standards aren't replaced overnight, and in fact, in a lot of places can't be replaced at all. The best way of dealing with these kinds of compatibility issues is to offer an alternative when people need to upgrade and change hardware/software anyway. So, let's hope that WebM can compete with H.265, because then we have a real chance of largely getting rid of proprietary video standards.

    • by Rockoon (1252108) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @11:10AM (#42700737)

      So, let's hope that WebM can compete with H.265, because then we have a real chance of largely getting rid of proprietary video standards.

      WebM could barely compete with H.264, so how the hell is it going to compete with H.265 which is going to offer the same quality at H.264 but only use about half the bitrate?

      If Google could have improved WebM this much, they would have.

    • by westlake (615356)

      So, let's hope that WebM can compete with H.265, because then we have a real chance of largely getting rid of proprietary video standards.

      WebM is a distribution codec for YouTube. H.264 is core technology in digital television.

      Theatrical production. Cable, broadcast and satellite distribution. Home video. Industrial applications... The list goes on and on and on.

      The licensors of H.264/HEVC are global giants in R&D and manufacturing. Philips. Samsung, Mitsubishi. Panasonic. Toshiba. The 1181 H.264 licensees operate on more or less the same scale. The standards they adopt are the standards which stick.

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Which part of "video standards aren't replaced overnight" went over your head?

        You can look at PNG/JPEG to see how this is likely to play out, except that the incentives to move from H.264/5 to WebM are actually stronger for many people.

  • by Nimey (114278) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @10:30AM (#42700561) Homepage Journal

    The answer is some variant of "follow the money", I'm sure, but why doesn't the standards body in question require that the standard be truly open?

    • by xswl0931 (562013)

      The standard IS open in that during definition of it anyone (paying to be a member) can contribute, provide feedback, and vote. If you meant free as in beer, they could have required that, but then none of the corporations that did the R&D would have participated and we'd have many "standards" and not just one.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      Its because they want something that is near the best technology possible at this time, and that means dealing with the people that do actually have technology that is near the best possible at this time. H.265 is a very large improvement over H.264 (about 50% of the bit rate for equal quality) and nobody in the "open" world can do that.

      This is a huge upgrade for any business pushing digital video through wires and radio waves. Even in the case where encoder and decoder licenses are a large cost, they wil
      • by lingon (559576)

        All of those patents are most likely incredibly trivial and all companies and organizations that sucessfully lobbied them in, did so not for their technological benefits but to make sure their patents were as widely used as possible.

        If the ITU were to demand patent-free standards, they would be just as good but without the royalties.

        • by Rockoon (1252108)
          Did you just theorize that it was trivial to improve H.264 to use half the number of bits for a given video quality?

          I'm simply amazed at the depths of the dream world that some people live in.
      • H.265 is a very large improvement over H.264 (about 50% of the bit rate for equal quality)

        According to wikipedia, it's 35.4% smaller
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Video_Coding#Coding_efficiency [wikipedia.org]

        • by amorsen (7485)

          Anyone who believes they can describe the efficiency difference between two video codecs as one percentage with 3 significant digits needs their head examined.

          • Apparently you don't know what the word average means, or how significant digits are used. The thing being measured has no impact on the number of significant digits you can use. It's purely determined by the precision of your measurements.

            • by amorsen (7485)

              I don't have anything to add to what I wrote above. No one has defined a metric that can meaningfully distinguish between to video codecs to 3 significant digits.

  • by Danathar (267989) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @10:51AM (#42700661) Journal

    Given how widespread H.264 hardware implementations are and the fact that blu-ray does not have H.265 I'd expect to see adoption first in the video conferencing world (SIP, H.323....CISCO/Tandberg, Polycom, etc)

    For real time encoding H.265 can provide 30% reduction of bandwidth at the same bitrate. Transcoded content like what you might do at home will get some benefit but not as much as the real time stuff (streaming will benefit a lot too)

    • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @11:14AM (#42700751)

      I also think that H.265 could find its way to satellite TV broadcasting, because its lower bandwidth requirements for 720p/1080i resolution video means they can add in more channels per satellite.

      • I also think that H.265 could find its way to satellite TV broadcasting, because its lower bandwidth requirements for 720p/1080i resolution video means they can add in more channels per satellite.

        You might be waiting a while. We're still stuck with MPEG2 for our SD channels, over DVB-T and DVB-S.

    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @11:27AM (#42700817)

      First adaptation, as usual, will be by HQ rip groups and anime fansubbers. These people pride themselves in being on the cutting edge and implementing stuff that isn't implemented anywhere in hardware yet. They were the guys who moved from h.264 high profile to h.264 10 bit high profile when h.264 hardware support started to become prevalent. They were the ones who moved to h.264 when divx hardware support became prevalent. Etc.

      Funnily enough, it was the same for h.264, divx/xvid and so on. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if many of the guys encoding that stuff actually work in the industry and use their "hobby" as a testbed for new encoding techniques and methods before they go to mass production.

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      I expect we'll see services like Netflix jump on the bandwagon pretty fast. They already produce multiple copies of their videos in different codecs to cater to different device capabilities. If memory serves, they do VC-1 for the desktop client, low bitrate h.264 for the mobile clients, and high bitrate h.264 for the STB/console clients.

      Migrating platforms which can support it to h.265 will provide them with immediate savings. There aren't that many of them, but the PS3 happens to be their flagship and dev

  • Moronic Article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2013 @01:51PM (#42701927)

    The 'H' video encoding standards have NOTHING to do with free-to-use codecs. They are a COMMERCIAL industrial standard, designed to be reasonable and safe to license, because of the patent pool.

    Complaining that H265 will include some royalty mechanisms is like complaining that the sky is blue! Even the document that will detail the final H265 standard will NOT be free, just as today you have to pay to get a copy of the H264 standard.

    The open-source movement is not the same as demanding "death to capitalism" or the end of profit, as some very stupid people here seem to think. The 'H' standards have nothing to do with open-source. However, because the 'H' standards are not industrial secrets, open-source developers can and will develop open-source encoders and decoders.

    Talk of WebM is pure garbage, since the key developers of x264 looked at the source Google released, and discovered that VP8 had illegally ripped off the H264 standard (badly), taking advantage of the fact that VP8 was originally closed-source. In other words, Google was conned (actually, this isn't true- Google knew full well that VP8 infringed hundreds of patents, but simply wanted to transfer millions to the owners of the company).

    If people want to be activists over the royalty situation, it should be with this goal. Encoders, and encoded video (including streamed) should be royalty free. Only the decoders (hardware or software) should pay a royalty. This way, once you own your tablet, laptop, phone, or Windows, you have already paid for the licence to decode H265, allowing all apps to use this format freely.

    The advantage of H265 (and H264) to end users is clear. Tiny, extremely energy efficient, hardware circuits can handle the video decoding, providing first quality video services on devices of all kinds. The standards allow software teams (like those behind x264) to produce insanely efficient, ultra-high-quality encoding solutions, and also allow work to progress on very fast (although low quality or very high bandwidth) hardware encoders.

    H265 promises (if the encoding efficiency shown by x264 is possible for H265) 4K films on existing Bluray technology- which is essential since the collapsing market for disks means that it is most unlikely a new disk standard will ever replace Bluray.

    To conclude. Standards are good, and some standards will involve royalties.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > The advantage of H265 (and H264) to end users is clear. Tiny, extremely energy efficient, hardware circuits can handle the video decoding

      That's all well and good, but that's supposed to be what the advantages of h264 are and we've already got that and tons of legacy equipment and content.

      On the other hand, most people are going to be hard pressed to notice any reason to want 4K given that BluRay is already a tough sell with anything much beyond a 1:1 viewing distance to screen size ratio.

  • Yeah, those issues have certainly prevented h.264 from taking off. Luckily WebM adoption has roared out of the gate... *cough*

  • Barely a word about the actual nature of the codec in the summary, but lots and lots and lots about patents.

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