Guest Editorial: HEVC – the foundation of high-quality Ultra-HD video

HEVC is coming – are you ready? With major CE manufacturers such as LG and Sharp introducing “Ultra-HD” the industry is rapidly moving towards this new compression technology that can maintain visual quality while shrinking video into nearly half the file size.

High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) was the star of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Initially a mobile and Over-the-top (OTT) play, HEVC will undoubtedly become the foundation for high-quality video and will fundamentally change the way consumers watch television.

HEVC is incredibly beneficial for video distribution. It will enable content owners to store more video for the same cost, broadcasters to stream video more efficiently across networks, and consumers to enjoy a much better entertainment experience as video is more easily streamed directly to their devices.

But is the timeframe for mainstream adoption a long-term venture or a short-term market opportunity?

The advent of HEVC

Video delivery has already seen several significant jumps in compression technology. Firstly from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 ASP, then MPEG-4 ASP to Advanced Video Coding (AVC), and now AVC to HEVC. These advancements can take the industry years to adopt. The broadcast industry for example is still largely reliant on MPEG-2 and is yet to make the switch to MPEG-4 AVC, despite the obvious compression gains.

So what makes HEVC different? The reality is that video is more important than ever before. Digital video is driving the future of communications and the Internet. A recent study conducted by Rovi found that almost 60% of tablet users and 62% of mobile phone users across the UK view video on those devices at least two to three times per week. With slow load times and buffering issues, it’s easy to see why these consumers would welcome HEVC.

The rise of 4K

4K (3840×2160 pixels) video could be a game changer for HEVC adoption. 4K offers mind-blowing clarity and represents a major step up from 1080p (1920×1080) at four times the number of pixels. Unfortunately 4K files are massive – but HEVC can make these file sizes manageable. 4K could be to HEVC what HD was to AVC.

Taking the leap

Infrastructure players like broadcasters could use HEVC as the catalyst for development. It’s conceivable that broadcasters currently still working with MPEG-2, could see the leap in quality that HEVC can offer as the perfect reason to upgrade.

Furthermore, with the likes of Netflix and Hulu applying pressure, large broadcasters need to start adopting new compression techniques in order to be able to offer more products and services and remain competitive.

Unlike previous compression advances however, this time the entire ecosystem is firmly in place to drive the rapid adoption of HEVC. Today compression technology is tightly linked to digital rights management and adaptive streaming. Moreover, hardware and software vendors are solidly integrated into the ecosystem, enabling them to take advantage of new standards like HEVC faster than ever.

With the explosion in online video and connected devices, consumers will be on the receiving end of a tidal wave of high-quality, low-bandwidth entertainment. And it’s going to happen a lot sooner than you think.

This guest editorial was written by Kanaan Jemili, Senior Vice President of CE Products at Rovi.
Kanaan Jemili, Ph.D. is Senior Vice President of CE Products at Rovi

Kanaan Jemili, Ph.D. is Senior Vice President of CE Products at Rovi

Author biography: Since joining Rovi in 2011, Dr. Jemili has been instrumental in managing and scaling the development, innovation, and productivity of Rovi’s CE product division. Under his leadership, Rovi has released market-leading solutions in the areas of video delivery, guidance and discovery, as well as multi-screen . Dr. Jemili is based in Rovi’s San Diego, CA, office.

With over 20 years of product and business development expertise, Dr. Jemili has focused his career on the areas of Audio, Video, Media and Consumer Electronics technologies.

Prior to Rovi, Dr. Jemili served in a number of senior positions at Sonic Solutions, DivX and Verance.

Dr. Jemili holds a Ph.D. degree of Electrical Engineering from the University of Dayton.

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