Friday, November 15, 2013

MPEG Internet Video Coding

MPEG is working on a standard for Internet Video Coding. The aim is to develop a standard that includes a royalty free Baseline Profile, with performance that is comparable to the Baseline Profile of H.264/AVC.

The plan is to develop a final draft of the standard by July 2014. You can read the Call for Proposals here:

and a draft of the Test Model (an early working version of the proposed standard) is available here:

The Test Model includes familiar elements such as 16x16 macroblocks, a DCT-like transform and motion compensated prediction, with multiple reference pictures, bidirectional prediction and multi-hypothesis prediction.

We'll keep you posted as the IVC standard continues to develop.

- Iain Richardson

Monday, August 19, 2013

Visiting DC this week

Delighted to be heading to Washington DC this week to give an invited talk to technical staff at the Smithsonian Institution. I'll be talking about recent developments in video coding formats, including the new HEVC standard, and what implications these developments might have for the Smithsonian.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Video: introduction to coding video

A short, easy introduction to video compression or video coding, by Iain Richardson, author of "The H.264 Advanced Video Compression Standard". Find out:
- why video coding is important
- why video codecs keep getting better
- what are the building blocks of a video codec
- how do partitioning, prediction, transform and entropy coding work
- how much can HEVC compress a video clip.

Play on Youtube

Monday, June 24, 2013

HEVC resources: update

Recent HEVC / H.265 resources:

1. An introduction to High Efficiency Video Coding (PDF)

2. HEVC walkthrough: taking you through some of the features of HEVC 
using the Elecard HEVCAnalyzer (Youtube or Vimeo).

High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) Walkthrough by Vcodex from vcodex on Vimeo.

3. Getting started with HEVC : how to download + play back HEVC clips

Comments and feedback are always welcome.

- Iain

Friday, May 31, 2013

The next book : Coding Video

My next book on video compression, with a working title "Coding Video", is due to be published in late 2014. I'll be posting news and updates here, plus you can give my author page on Facebook a "Like" to keep up with the latest developments:

Click here to Like on Facebook

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tech talks on video compression

I enjoyed giving two invited talks on video compression in Washington DC last week. The first was for patent examiners at the US Patent and Trade Mark Office (USPTO) and the second was for patent attorneys and associates at Sterne Kessler Goldstein Fox.

Many thanks to both organisations for making me feel so welcome.

If you'd like to book me for a specialist talk on video coding, HEVC or related topics, please get in touch and I'll do my best to accommodate you.

- Iain Richardson

Thursday, May 9, 2013

HEVC Tutorial and Video Walkthrough

I've posted the first in a series of tutorials and resources for the new HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) standard.

1. An introduction to High Efficiency Video Coding (summary version)

2. An introduction to High Efficiency Video Coding (full version): coming soon

3. HEVC walkthrough: taking you through some of the features of HEVC using the Elecard HEVCAnalyzer (Vimeo).

High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) Walkthrough by Vcodex from vcodex on Vimeo.

Comments and feedback are always welcome.

- Iain

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Visiting Washington DC in May...

I'll be visiting Washington DC from 20-24 May 2013. If you're based in the area and are interested in meeting up to talk about video compression, HEVC, intellectual property or anything else, please drop me a note.

- Iain Richardson,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Comparing HEVC and H.264 quality: see for yourself

HEVC playback / H.265 playback

Now that the GPAC / Osmo4 player supports HEVC decoding and playback, it's becoming easier to compare the quality of the new High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard with its predecessor, H.264/AVC. I've uploaded three versions of the same sequence:
a. Encoded using HEVC / HM10
b. Encoded using H.264 / x264 at twice the bitrate of a.
c. Encoded using H.264 / x264 at the same bitrate as a.

To compare H.264 and HEVC / H.265:

1. Download and install the latest version of GPAC, which includes the Osmo4 player:

2. Download the following test sequences:
a. Kristen and Sara, 720p, 10 seconds, 60 frames per second, HEVC / HM10 Anchor (Random Access, QP=32), approx 420 kbps.
b. Kristen and Sara, H.264 / x264 / veryslow preset, QP=31, approx 810 kbps.
c. Kristen and Sara, H.264 / x264 / veryslow preset, QP=37, approx 440 kbps.

3. Play back each test sequence using the Osmo4 player.

Things to look out for:
- At the same bitrate (~420kbps), is the quality of the HEVC sequence (a) significantly better  than the H.264 sequence (c)? In my view, yes.

- At half the bitrate (420kbps vs. 810kbps), is the quality of the HEVC sequence (a) as good as the H.264 sequence (b)? In my view, the HEVC sequence displays smoother motion, but loses some fine detail.

To experiment with other test sequences:

1. Download + install GPAC, as described above:
This package includes the Osmo4 player and the MP4Box utility.

2. Download an encoded HEVC anchor bitstream (.bin) from:

3. Rename the downloaded bitstream: from (name).bin to (name).265

4. Package as an .mp4 file. Open a command prompt and type:
mp4box -fps (fps) -add (name.265) (name).mp4
- where (name.265) is the renamed bitstream file and (fps) is the number of frames per second of the original sequence.

(Here's an example of the command line for the Mac, your path may be different: /Applications/ -fps 24 -add Kimono1_qp32.265 Kimono1_qp32.mp4)

5. Open with Osmo4 and play back.


Windows: Playback of 720p HEVC sequences is a little jerky but works reasonably well. Playback of higher-resolution sequences is very jerky on my PC.
Mac : Playback of 720p and 1080p HEVC clips on my Mac (10.8.3, 2.9GHz) is reasonably smooth.

Quality is subjective

Video quality is, of course, highly subjective. I'm interested in your feedback. Do you think the 420kbps HEVC sequence (a) is as good as, or better than, the 810kbps H.264 sequence (b)?

- Iain Richardson

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Busy day in Washington DC yesterday...

Giving evidence at the US International Trade Commission in the morning and visiting the US Patent and Trademark Office in the afternoon. Very impressed by the USPTO - over 10000 patent examiners and support staff, in a campus that's bigger than many Universities, dealing with thousands of applications per month.

- Iain.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Vcodex is recruiting

We're looking for an experienced software developer / consultant to work on video coding software and analysis. If you're interested in challenging work at the forefront of video compression, please get in touch. For more information, please contact Ruth Easton: quoting reference VCODEX01.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

HEVC: is it really twice as good as H.264?

The new standard for video compression, High Efficiency Video Coding or HEVC, is claimed to require "half the bandwidth for high quality video transmission", compared with the older H.264/AVC standard. What does this mean? If the same video clip is encoded with H.264 at a particular bitrate, and with HEVC at half the bitrate, then the quality of the decoded HEVC video should be at least as good as the decoded H.264 video.

Here's an example. This is a close-up of a frame from the sequence "Kristen and Sara", 720p resolution. On the left, the sequence has been encoded at 800kbps using the x264 video encoder, a popular H.264 implementation. On the right is the same frame from the sequence encoded at 420kbps using the HEVC Test Model encoder, HM10.0. The frame on the right was decoded from one of the HEVC Anchor Sequences (Kristen and Sara, QP=32) which you can download here: The original YUV test sequences are available here:

Left: x264 at 800kbps. Right: HM10 at 420kbps.
The two frames look very similar. However, some detail is lost in the HEVC version. You can see this more clearly here:

x264 at 800kbps: extreme close-up
HM10 at 420kbps: extreme close-up
Neither of the images is perfect, but the x264 version retains more detail than the HEVC version. The HEVC output looks smoother, but this actually means that some important detail has been removed during encoding.

Here's another example, this time a close-up from a frame of the Racehorses sequence, originally 480p resolution:
x264 at 1.8Mbps : extreme close-up
HM10 at 960kbps: extreme close-up
Once again the x264 version retains more detail than the HEVC version. Notice the over-smoothed appearance of the horse's face in the HEVC / HM10 close-up.

HEVC will give a clearer, higher quality image than H.264 at the same bitrate. But is it really twice as good as H.264, i.e. does it give the same quality at half the bitrate? These still frames imply that HM10 does not perform as well as H.264 at half the bitrate. However, recent research by Wang et al indicates that HEVC has bigger performance gains for moving image sequences than for still images taken out of a sequence.

It's also worth noting that x264 is a highly efficient implementation of H.264 that has been optimized over a period of years. As HEVC and its implementations mature, we can expect improvements in performance and image quality.

I'll be posting more results soon and explaining exactly how to test this for yourself. To download the HM reference software, visit this page.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

HEVC : how long before it hits the mainstream?

Analysts are beginning to argue about when HEVC will reach the mainstream market. Frost and Sullivan thinks that a critical mass of adopters could take 3 years and that it may be at least 5 years (2018) before consumers see widespread HEVC support in their electronic devices. On the other hand, Ryan Lawler of Techcrunch expects devices with HEVC support to become widely available in around 18 months, with rapid adoption thereafter.

Many chip manufacturers have been closely involved in the standardisation process for HEVC and are already gearing up for production of HEVC-compatible devices. Will the performance gains offered by HEVC be enough to prompt device manufacturers, service providers and users to switch over to the new standard? If so, how quickly will the shift happen? What do you think?

Monday, January 28, 2013

The HEVC standard has been approved

"Geneva, 25 January 2013 – A new video coding standard building on the PrimeTime Emmy award winning ITU-T H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC was agreed by ITU members today".

The ITU-T has announced approval of the new High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard. The new standard will be co-published as Recommendation ITU-T H.265 and ISO/IEC 23008-2.

HEVC is intended to be a successor to the popular H.264 / Advanced Video Coding standard, first published in 2003. As with every video coding standard, the performance of HEVC depends on the way it is put into practice. The developers of the standard, a consortium of ITU-T VCEG and ISO MPEG known as the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding, are expecting HEVC codecs to offer around twice the compression efficiency of H.264/AVC. That means approximately half the bandwidth for the same video quality.

You can download a draft of the HEVC standard and the reference software codec here.

- Iain Richardson