Tip #282: When to Use HEVC vs. H.264

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #282: When to Use HEVC vs. H.264

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Which to choose and why?

Topic $TipTopic

As media creators, there’s a lot of confusion over whether we should use H.264 or HEVC to compress our files for distribution on the web. Here’s my current thinking.

The big benefit to HEVC is that it achieves the same image quality with a 30-40% savings in file size.

The big disadvantage is that HEVC takes a lot longer to compress and not all systems – especially older systems – can play it.

If you are sending files to broadcast, cable or digital cinema, they will want something much less compressed than either of these formats. So, for those outlets, this is not a relevant question.

For me, the over-riding reason to use H.264 instead of HEVC is that YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and most other social media sites recompress your video in order to create all the different formats needed to them to re-distribute it. (I read somewhere a while ago that YouTube creates 20 different versions of a single video.)

For this reason, spending extra time creating a high-quality HEVC file, when it will only get re-compressed, does not make any sense to me. Instead, create a high-bit-rate H.264 version so that when the file is recompressed, it won’t lose any image quality.

Where HEVC makes sense is when you are serving files directly to consumers via streaming on your website. And, even in those cases, HTTP Live Streaming will be a better option to support mobile devices.

HEVC is mostly a benefit to service providers and social media firms.

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3 replies
  1. Mike Janowski
    Mike Janowski says:

    Anybody else think HEVC color looks better? I’ve been doing a little family archiving, and did both HEVC and h264s of a couple of movies. I thought the HEVC, in addition to being way smaller, had more fidelity to the original (admittedly, DV) video.

  2. Loren Miller
    Loren Miller says:

    Everything in the tip is true. The use of HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec, AKA H.265) has the advantage of accommodating very large screens such as wall-size custom museum displays, which on one assignment were specified to be HEVC, not H.264, due to its better quality at lower bitrates. Premiere Pro has supported HEVC export for several years now.


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