A brand-new high speed, high quality video format could save consumers, broadband costs while delivering faster streaming of content for providers such as Netflix, Foxtel, and Binge, it also opens the door for 8K streaming by TV networks.
The new format will also make it possible for people with slow connections to stream footage in higher quality than before, without pauses for buffering.
Called both H.266 and Versatile Video Coding (VVC) the new format, which is backed by several big players including Apple, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Ericsson, Intel, and several leading TV brands was announced by Germany’s Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute overnight.
It hopes that in time, smartphones and other cameras will be able to automatically record and play back footage in the format.
At this stage, the codec will not be available until new processors have been manufactured with the codec built in.
In the interim, recordings will need to be re-encoded to take advantage of the extra compression made possible by the new video structure.
Developers claim that H.266 is designed to require half the bitrate – the amount of data transmitted per second – as today’s standard H.265.
The H.265 codec itself halved the bitrate requirement of its predecessor H.264, which is still widely in use.
“H.265 requires about 10 gigabytes of data to transmit a 90-minute ultra-high definition [4K] video,” claims developers.
“With this new technology, only 5GB are required to achieve the same quality.”
Some experts believe VR headsets will only be able to match reality when they can display 16K or higher resolutions.
Currently several brands are trying to develop their own video streaming technology in an effort to improve quality while also speeding up downloads.
Google has previously opted to use a format it developed itself – VP9 – instead of H.265 to encode YouTube videos.
A consortium – which includes Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Samsung – has already developed a successor called AV1.
The video-game streaming platform Twitch has already said it intends to switch “100%” to the format by 2024.
In order to stream 8K video reliably, tests have indicated that homes would require internet connections capable of more than 85 megabits per second (Mbps), which is beyond what many properties have today. However, that has the potential to drop to a more manageable 40-50Mbps if H.266 takes off.
A big benefit of the new streaming technology is that users should be able to save double the amount of footage on the same amount of storage, assuming they do not take advantage of the codec to capture it in higher quality.
Many people’s homes are not big enough to house a television that is large enough to appreciate the four-times boost in the number of pixels that 8K offers over 4K.
However, the jump in resolution has big advantages for virtual reality, which fills the user’s field of view.
In addition, it offers a more efficient way to stream higher-resolution 360-degree footage to next-generation headsets, where the extra detail can make a big difference as users are only ever seeing a section of the recorded image at a time.
Google avoided some of the licence fees involved with H.265 by using a different codec for YouTube.
“The codec story is always the same: everyone always wants to get better-quality video in a more efficient state, but the challenge is getting people to adopt it,” commented Ben Wood from the CCS Insight consultancy.
“To be successful, a codec has to get broad adoption from all the key players. And deciding to back one can be somewhat of a religious decision.”