Fraunhofer HHI announced it has finalized the H.266 codec, also known as Versatile Video Coding (VVC). The new compression standard is expected to reduce file sizes by up to 50 percent compared with H.265, in exchange for an increase in overall complexity and a need for more powerful encoding and decoding horsepower. It can also be used to support features like 8K HDR without requiring huge amounts of bandwidth or tons of hard drive space.
The tradeoff, of course, is that VVC is harder to encode and decode. According to tests performed by BBC R&D, encoding H.266 is 6.5x longer than HEVC, while decoding took 1.5x longer. HEVC isn’t exactly known for speed as it is, so a 6.5x impact on encoding is a significant hit.
The goal is to improve on HEVC’s bandwidth by 50 percent and then enable 8K content between 2020 – 2022. It’s not clear, however, how much of a market for 8K content currently exists.
There is a diminishing return to chasing higher resolutions and a very real cap on the maximum size of a TV most consumers are going to buy. Larger screens benefit the most from higher resolutions, but not many people sit four feet away from an 8-foot display.
Another factor hindering the evolution of an 8K ecosystem is the question of cable and broadcast support. At the moment, the broadcast industry is beginning to deploy ATSC 3.0, a major revision to the Advanced Television Systems Committee. ATSC 3.0 supports features like 4K broadcasting, wide color gamuts, and HDR. The standard, however, is not targeting 8K and the rollout is optional. Unlike the mandatory transition from NTSC to ATSC, ATSC 3.0 deployment is up to individual companies. There’s no mandate to include an ATSC 3.0 tuner inside a TV, for example.
Also, ATSC 3.0 contains some features that “improve” targeted advertising. So hurrah for that.
At any rate, the rollout of ATSC 3.0 is going to be the major focus for broadcasters. It’s not clear which codecs will be used — there are a number of articles diving into why H.265 adoption has been so slow compared with H.264. It’s possible that the bandwidth improvements from H.264 to H.266 might be big enough to be enticing — a video that requires 10GB of storage when encoded in H.264 would theoretically only require 2.5GB when encoded in H.266 with no (again, theoretical) loss of quality.
The adoption rate of 8K TVs, however, is expected to be slow. According to a 2018 prediction by Strategy Analytics, only about 3 percent of the TV market will be 8K by 2023. The focus is expected to remain on 4K and features like WCG and HDR. TV manufacturers have been optimistic, since the 4K market grew much faster than originally anticipated. The impact of the coronavirus on major electronics purchases is unknown, but unlikely to be positive.
We can expect to see H.266 support roll out gradually. Software encoders will likely come first, with both CPU and GPU support. Eventually, we’ll see hardware decode / encode blocks integrated into both phones and GPUs. 8K broadcasts aren’t likely to be a frequent occurrence in the US any time soon, and patent and royalty entanglements may harm overall adoption. But the improved storage compression will be welcomed by anyone with tons of data to process and a finite amount of space to shove it into.
- Don’t Buy an 8K TV
- The First 8K TV Broadcast Has Officially Taken Place
- How to Upscale Video to 4K, 8K, and Beyond