What’s Up With H.265?

Last year I expected to see stronger developments and widespread implementation of the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), aka H.265.

H.265 will likely replace H.264, one of the most common formats for recording, compressing, and distributing high-definition video. Not in small part because it is the codec found on several HDSLR systems such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. A big advantage is that it is currently supported by most video sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo. Additionally, it runs natively in Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2014, and even Lightroom 5, which dramatically decreases the time wasted transcoding and rendering files.

Just how much more efficient is H.265?

Well, it is expected to provide a significant improvement in data transmission and streaming efficiency compared to H.264. It will have almost twice the amount of compression ratio for a similar quality level. In other words, using the same gear we should see a file size reduction of about 50% in H.265 when compared to H.264. This means we’ll need to buy fewer memory cards and fewer external hard drives.

What really makes me happy is the fact that H.265 supports parallel processing to take advantage of multiple processors, cores, and graphics processing units. Time is money!

H.265 has been designed to support all new and current streaming technologies, including devices working at 4K all the way up to 8K UHD with resolutions up to 8192 x 4320. Trust me, I’m not in a rush to shoot 8K but the longer the life expectancy for a codec the better.

Some companies are slowly embracing HEVC. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus support it for FaceTime, Android 5 (Lollipop) supports it, and Microsoft Windows 10 will also support it out of the box.

The Samsung NX1 (which is probably the best camera nobody knows about) already has H.265. I tried the NX1 a few months ago at Photokina and the video quality was outstanding.

H.265 codec sounds promising, but it will have to compete with another codec: VP8. This format was purchased by Google about five years ago, and was irrevocably released as a royalty-free alternative under the Creative Commons license. It is currently supported by Opera, Firefox, and Chrome. Companies such as Skype have been using it for some time.

What do you think of H.265? Are you excited to see how far this technology will go?


Eduardo Angel is an independent Technology Consultant, Educator, and Visual Storyteller based in Brooklyn, NY. He currently teaches at The School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography, and mentors the photography program at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

He is a co-founder of the idea production company The Digital Distillery, author of popular filmmaking courses on Lynda.com, and regularly shares his thoughts on technology, photography, and cinema on his website eduardoangel.com.

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