… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1408: A Quick History of HEVC

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

HEVC was designed to create smaller files, with quality equal to H.264.

The HEVC logo.

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I got into a conversation with Birdie about the uses of HEVC, which lead me into doing some more research.

In an earlier article, I wrote that HEVC was invented to decrease the load on cell networks, which was what I was told at the time. However, in reading Wikipedia, the initial development work for HEVC was done by NHK (a Japanese broadcaster) and Mitsubishi Electric (a consumer electronics manufacturer).

The work was started in 2004 to find a way to improve H.264 to support larger frame sizes than 4K and the greater grayscale and color range of HDR. A further goal was to cut files sizes by 50% while maintaining image quality equal to H.264. The tradeoff, though, was a more complex encoding/decoding process.

After several years of research, formal work on a spec began in January, 2010, with a request for proposals. 27 different proposals were submitted.

The standard was formally published by the ITU-T on June 7, 2013. Since then, it has been modified/upgraded five times, the last being version 4 on Dec. 22, 2016.

More than 12,000 patents are involved in this codec, in fact the MPEG LA HEVC patent list is 164 pages long! Making the roll-out more difficult was that several patent holders couldn’t agree on a royalty stream, so manufacturers were required to license from two different patent holding groups, with significantly different pricing, and unit sales requirements.

EXTRA CREDIT

Here’s a Wikipedia article to learn more.


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