H.265 vs. H.264 Video Compression: How do They Differ?

Even after having access to high-speed internet, your online or live streaming can get interrupted, and the H.264 codec might be the one playing the spoilsport.

A Look at the Two Codecs

High-Efficiency Video Coding (HVEC), a video compression technology, is the solution you are looking for, enabling streaming of high-quality videos in a faster way. It is the industry standard for video compression that helps record, compress and distribute digital video content across streaming platforms.

H.265, also known as HVEC, is the latest compression standard designed for high-resolution videos. It is the successor to the H.264 codec and comes laden with some major upgradations. Developed by the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding, a group of video coding experts, the latest technology was conceived in the year 2010. 

Today, we are going to compare existing widely popular H.624 vs. latest H.265 Video Compression Standards. 

H.264 

Also called AVC - Advanced Video Coding, the process uses a block orientated, motion for compensation-based video compression technology. Each of those units is called macro-blocks and consists of 16x16 pixel samples. You can sub-divide the Marco-blocks to transform blocks, and even further to prediction blocks.

H.264 is an algorithm that can efficiently lower bit rates from popular streaming providers like YouTube, and Vimeo without losing out on the effects. 

H.265 

 There is no denying that video streaming is popular today. With Netflix and YouTube, we need larger bandwidth. The latest video compression technology H.265, claims to provide 50% storage reduction. H.265 uses an algorithm that can encode videos even at low bit rates while maintaining a high-quality display, ensuring that the video keeps on playing even if the internet connection isn’t adequate.

 There are fewer errors and you get much better precision. Statistically, you can achieve double the compression of its predecessor H.264, which means a video of the same quality and size would take up only half of its space in H.265. This improvement is the result of the macroblocks called Coding Tree Units (CTUs). Unlike its predecessor, with H.265 CTUs can process as many as 64x64 pixel blocks, offering faster encoding of videos at all resolutions.  

 H.264 vs. H.265: 

 Be it online streaming, television, or surveillance industry, H.265 is a clear winner and is sure to revolutionize video streaming and display. You get to see videos with an image resolution of up to 8192 x 4320. A recent study made between H.264 and H.265 found that the former presented a bit reduction of 52% at 480p and 64% at 4K UHD compared to the latter. In addition to that, when compressed to the same file size or bit rate, H.625 delivered better display quality compared to H.624.

 Impact on live streaming:

Apart from having larger macroblocks CTUs, H.625 comes with improved motion compensation and spatial prediction than H.624. Effectively, it means to compress data, the former will require more advanced hardware like BoxCaster Pro. Users with H.265 compatible devices will need less bandwidth – so lesser internet speed - and processing power to compress the data and stream high-quality content.

 Streaming 4Kvideo over typical internet speed will no more be an issue. To give you a better perspective, to stream a video online of 4K resolution, H.264 used to require a minimum uploading speed of 32 Mbps, whereas H.625 requires only 15 Mbps.

 Enhanced intra-frame motion prediction:

The video compression process tries to predict the motion between the different frames.  If there is no change in pixel, an H.624 video compression saves space by referencing it instead of reproducing it. H.265 also offers improved compression standards and better motion prediction.

 Intra-frame prediction:

To compress each video frame efficiently, the H.264 codec analyzes the “movement” within individual frames. The mathematical function requires less space than pixel data, which shrinks the size of the file.

 The newest standard- H.265 comes with an intra-frame prediction function, which is far more detailed than its predecessor. H.625, on the other hand, allows for 33 directions of motion. H.264 allows only nine directions. 

 What about the Processing?

 H.625 uses slices and tiles that decodes independently, which means the decoding process gets spilt up across multiple parallel process threads. Moreover, this parallel process takes advantage of better decoding opportunities to reduce file size.

 What about the Hardware support?

At present, Intel processors like the Kaby Lake line support H.265 videos. Compared to other high-resolution video compressions, it offers the much-needed speed and consistency advantage.

 However, this doesn’t limit the use of H.265 only to Kaby Lake Processors, but computers using Kaby Lake chips will play or stream H.625 video contents more efficiently. Given the significant computational overhead required for encoding and decoding of high-resolution H.625 videos, we need access to better hardware for devices – something that can only happen with time. 

 Final Verdict

While H.625 scores better on all counts, it’s yet to gain popularity compared to its predecessor. Apple’s iPhone and iPad, stores video files in H.265 from iOS 11 onwards. Microsoft has also released a free extension for Windows 10 a while back, adding in support for H.265 video decoding.

 Netflix’s 4K content too can get streamed with the H.265 video compression if you have the right hardware. That being said, YouTube does not use H.265 0 yet. Instead, the Google owned company opts for the VP9 compression scheme.

 What’s Holding Back the Adoption of H.265?

 You should remember that H.265 requires a trade-off of almost ten times of the computing power. Plus, let us not forget how it took years for H.624 to gain acceptance in the market. tHE latest standard will be on standby until the hardware market adapts to it.  Till then, there is one thing we can state for sure - H.625 has undoubtedly created a benchmark. 

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