Despite having access to high internet speeds, larger videos can result in buffering or pixelation, contributing to a bad video streaming experience. As a result, video compression is a critical component of the streaming industry. Thankfully, numerous algorithms and standards are constantly being designed or developed to compress videos into smaller sizes. H.266, a recently developed codec, promises to deliver high-quality video at a significantly reduced file size while eliminating the performance restrictions of its predecessors like HEVC. Let's dive deeper into the H.266 codec.
What is H.266?
Versatile Video Coding (VVC), or H.266 as it is more popularly known, is the newest video compression standard that offers improved compression efficiency compared to its predecessors. Despite the success of H.265, also known as MPEG-H Part 2, it is quickly becoming outdated, given the recent advancements in videography and streaming.
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H.266 is designed to accommodate the latest iterations of high-resolution video assets on the internet. It is poised to revolutionize the industry with its superior performance benefits and extraordinary capabilities.
The H.266 standard was launched on July 6, 2020, as a result of a project led by the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC) — a group of experts and enthusiasts specializing in compression standards and algorithms.
Technical Specifications of H.266
What separates H.266 from its earlier alternatives is the technical specifications of the new VVC Codec. Let's look at some of them:
|Relative to the HEVC performance, the VVC Codec is capable of bringing down the data requirements for streaming by around 50% without reducing the visual quality of the digital asset. According to research, VVC can offer 27% improvement over HEVC for High-Definition content and 35% for Ultra High-Definition content. The compression techniques are specifically aimed at significantly helping the streaming and playback of 8K videos.
|Frame Rates Support
|Fixed and variable frame rates.
|Video File Formats Supported
|High-Definition and Ultra High-Definition video content, 4K to 16K videos, 360° streaming, and High Dynamic Range videos.
|30-50% reduction in bit rate as compared to earlier standards and algorithms.
|Partitioning size for the coding unit is 4x4 to 128x128, and the pipeline size is 64x64.
The partitioning technique is Quadtree plus Multi-Type Tree, or QT+MTT, (NS, QT, BTx2, TTx2 = 6 Different Partitions)
|Slices, tiles, WPP, sub-pictures
|The Encoding Complexity is around 10x of HEVC, and the decoding complexity is around 1.5x of the same figure.
|CTU Block Size
|With VVC, the size of the CTU (Coding Tree Unit) has increased from 64x64 pixels to around 128x128 pixels when compared to older alternatives like HEVC.
Coding efficiency is crucial when comparing the performance parameters of compression standards like HEVC, H.266, AV1, and more. It determines the amount of data that will be transmitted or stored, the speed at which it will do so, and the amount of information lost in the process. Higher coding efficiency facilitates more data to be transmitted with minimal loss of information using fewer resources.
H.266 can provide better output quality despite similar file sizes, making the compression significantly more effective when compared to traditional video compression algorithms:
- The coding efficiency of different standards is as follows: H.266 -> AV1 -> H.265 -> H.264.
- The encoding and decoding difficulty in each standard case is as follows: H.266 -> AV1 -> H.265 -> H.264.
- The compression rate is the highest for the H.226 codec; however, the encoding speed is also the slowest compared to the older alternatives.
VVC codec can reduce the bit rate by half without compromising video quality compared to its competitors. Here's how: There are two main elements of video compression: inter-compression and intra-compression. Intra-compression deals with reducing spatial redundancy. Inter-compression, on the other hand, is responsible for reducing temporal redundancy. Here are key improvements made in VVC's compression algorithm:
- The VVC algorithm removes spatial redundancy by initiating the block partitioning method. This involves parallel processing, where the size of CTU is improved to 128x128 pixels, as against 64x64 pixels used in H.265. These improvements in CTU size contribute proportionally to the latest codec's efficiency.
- The VVC algorithm removes temporal redundancy by using various prediction modes. It achieves this by increasing the number of samples in prediction modes and including longer interpolation filters for performance enhancements—which improves the codec's precision by a huge margin.
Therefore, we can draw the following conclusions about the VVC compression algorithm:
- Coding algorithms have improved in VVC for both intra-compression and inter-compression techniques.
- Multi-type tree partitioning has been added for improved efficiency.
- Inter-prediction precision has been improved.
Pros and Cons of H.266 Codec
Even though H.266 has made all the other codecs appear obsolete, it's not superior in all aspects. Here are the various pros and cons of the new compression standard:
- H.266 offers improved coding efficiency.
- It reduces the bit rate by 50% compared to the High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard.
- VVC encoding results in smaller video sizes and lower storage costs than the HEVC and Advanced Video Coding (AVC) standards.
- It's especially beneficial for streaming high-resolution video assets like 4K, 8K, and 16K videos.
- H.266 also supports 360° streaming and High Dynamic Range (HDR) video
- The encoding/decoding process for the H.266 standard is relatively complex.
- The encoding speed is also slow compared to other video compression standards.
- As a result, it may take some time for H.266 to become a mainstream algorithm adopted by the general internet audience.
H.266 Comparison with Other Codecs
Before H.266 reigned supreme, other codecs like H.265 and AVC dominated the field. Even today, most generic platforms still use the older alternatives as the newer technologies have not been fully adopted.
To truly view the revolution brought by the VVC codec, we must draw its comparison against its competitors.
H.266 vs. H.265
The H.266 codec outperforms the traditional H.265 across most aspects:
|Basis of Comparison
|50% more improvement in compression performance than H.265.
|The Compression performance is half as good as H.266; a video with the same apparent quality will occupy more space compared to H.266.
|Improved macroblock size of 128 x 128 pixels.
|Standard macroblock size of 64 x 64 pixels
|Intra Prediction Modes
|Massive improvement in Intra Frame Prediction with an impressive tally of 67 Intra-prediction modes.
|H.265 has a standard use of 35 intra-prediction modes.
|H.266 improved Interframe Prediction standards by incorporating MV resolution offering granularity up to 1/16 luma samples.
|Granularity supported is only up to 1/4 luma samples in the case of H.265 codec.
|Encoding and Decoding
|More complicated encoding and decoding processes.
|Less complex encoding and decoding processes.
|H.266 is used for the compression of modern video and high-resolution content
|H.265 is used by video streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, and YouTube.
While the encoding and decoding process of H.266 is more complex than traditional algorithms like H.265, it is still the more effective option of the two. The improved compression performance and enhancements in intraframe-interframe prediction modes make H.266 the ideal choice, especially when dealing with newer video standards and high-resolution digital assets.
H.266 vs. AV1
Like in the case of H.265, the classic AV1 algorithm is often outshined by H.266 on multiple fronts. But there are some exceptions:
|Basis of Comparison
|H.266 has higher compression efficiency than AV1, as tested and proven by various experts.
|AV1 is slightly behind in terms of compression performance when compared to H.266, taking its performance against HEVC as a benchmark.
|The encoding and decoding complexity of H.266 is greater than AV1, making it less speedy and time-efficient.
|AV1 coding is complicated as well, but it offers a slight improvement over H.266 in terms of encoding and decoding speed.
|H.266 is a royalty-based codec with an unclear licensing model. Many platforms believe that H.266 will follow the same licensing behavior as HEVC, making it less cost-effective.
|AV1 is free of any royalties.
Users can enjoy 30% better compression performance than HEVC (VVC offers 50% improvement) without paying any royalties. Thus, AV1 is more cost-effective.
|VVC offers better coding efficiency at higher resolutions. Plus, H.266 supports 360° video streaming and HDR video
|AV1 is more suitable for 1080p HD and lower-resolution videos
|H.266 is still a relatively new standard, so it is not as widely supported.
|AV1 is currently more widely supported than H.266 since it has been around since 2018
While H.266 takes the lead where video coding and compression capacity are concerned, AV1 has a slight edge in terms of speed, cost-effectiveness, and convenience. Overall, H.266 is the better option for raw performance and feature improvements, especially when working with high-res videos. However, for 1080p HD or lower, AV1 is the ideal alternative.
Applications of H.266
The implementation of H.266 will be a gradual process. Massive technological strides seep into general use after years of trying, testing, and improving. But there are still some major applications of the VVC codec in multiple industries. Some of them are:
- Video Conferencing: With the advent of the global pandemic, online video conferences have become a vital part of our lives. With H.266, online meetings can be conducted in high-resolution video formats, allowing seamless communication.
- Live Streaming: Streamers often look for ways to improve the quality of their videos. The VVC codec allows high-quality video content to be easily transmitted to viewers without exceeding their daily data limits.
- SCC Streaming: SSC streaming mainly covers streaming content with text, graphics, or other sorts of animation.
- VR/360 Streaming: H.266 is the most suitable standard for supporting modern video practices like 360° streaming and VR.
H.266 represents a significant leap forward in video compression technology, offering improved performance and efficiency over existing standards. Despite its advantages, the complex encoding/decoding process and relatively slow encoding speed might make its adoption by the industry less fast.
Nonetheless, with its support for high-resolution streaming, 360° video, and HDR content, it is clear that H.266 has a bright future ahead of itself, paving the way for more advanced video compression technologies to come.
1. What are the hardware requirements for VVC?
There are no specific requirements for VVC, as such. It is compatible with all devices supporting traditional and modern video formats like HD, UHD, HDR, VR, 360-degree, 4K, 16K, etc.
2. What is the VVC test model?
The VVC test model, also known as VTM, is a prototype of the latest H.266 standard used to test the coding efficiency of VVC codecs against other standards.
3. Does FFmpeg support VVC?
FFmpeg is not compatible with VVC, but developers are working to make it happen. Since the standard has yet to be fully adopted, compatibility might take some time before it becomes effective.
4. How do I play H.266 files?
You can play H.266 video files by downloading the VVC Video Codec. Alternatively, you can also view such files using professional VVC video players available on the internet.