High Efficiency Video Coding
High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is a video compression format, a successor to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding), that was jointly developed by the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) as ISO/IEC 23008-2 MPEG-H Part 2 and ITU-T H.265. MPEG and VCEG established a Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC) to develop the HEVC standard.
HEVC is said to double the data compression ratio compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC at the same level of video quality. It can alternatively be used to provide substantially improved video quality at the same bit rate. It can support 8K UHD and resolutions up to 8192×4320.
The first version of the standard was completed and published in early 2013. Several extensions to the technology remain under active development, including range extensions (supporting enhanced video formats), scalable coding extensions, and 3D video extensions.
- 1 History
- 2 Coding efficiency
- 3 Features
- 3.1 Video coding layer
- 3.2 Coding tools
- 3.3 Color spaces
- 4 Profiles
- 5 Tiers and levels
- 6 Decoded picture buffer
- 7 Versions
- 8 Containers
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In 2004, the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) began significant study of technology advances that could enable creation of a new video compression standard (or substantial compression-oriented enhancements of the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC standard). In October 2004, various techniques for potential enhancement of the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC standard were surveyed. In January 2005, at the next meeting of VCEG, VCEG began designating certain topics as "Key Technical Areas" (KTA) for further investigation. A software codebase called the KTA codebase was established for evaluating such proposals. The KTA software was based on the Joint Model (JM) reference software that was developed by the MPEG & VCEG Joint Video Team for H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. Additional proposed technologies were integrated into the KTA software and tested in experiment evaluations over the next four years.
Two approaches for standardizing enhanced compression technology were considered: either creating a new standard or creating extensions of H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. The project had tentative names H.265 and H.NGVC (Next-generation Video Coding), and was a major part of the work of VCEG until its evolution into the HEVC joint project with MPEG in 2010.
The preliminary requirements for NGVC was the capability to have a bit rate reduction of 50% at the same subjective image quality compared to the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC High profile and computational complexity ranging from 1/2 to 3 times that of the High profile. NGVC would be able to provide 25% bit rate reduction along with 50% reduction in complexity at the same perceived video quality as the High profile, or to provide greater bit rate reduction with somewhat higher complexity.
The ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) started a similar project in 2007, tentatively named High-performance Video Coding. An agreement of getting a bit rate reduction of 50% had been decided as the goal of the project by July 2007. Early evaluations were performed with modifications of the KTA reference software encoder developed by VCEG. By July 2009, experimental results showed average bit reduction of around 20% compared with AVC High Profile; these results prompted MPEG to initiate its standardization effort in collaboration with VCEG.
A formal joint Call for Proposals (CfP) on video compression technology was issued in January 2010 by VCEG and MPEG, and proposals were evaluated at the first meeting of the MPEG & VCEG Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC), which took place in April 2010. A total of 27 full proposals were submitted. Evaluations showed that some proposals could reach the same visual quality as AVC at only half the bit rate in many of the test cases, at the cost of 2×-10× increase in computational complexity; and some proposals achieved good subjective quality and bit rate results with lower computational complexity than the reference AVC High profile encodings. At that meeting, the name High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) was adopted for the joint project. Starting at that meeting, the JCT-VC integrated features of some of the best proposals into a single software codebase and a "Test Model under Consideration", and performed further experiments to evaluate various proposed features. The first working draft specification of HEVC was produced at the third JCT-VC meeting in October 2010. Many changes in the coding tools and configuration of HEVC were made in later JCT-VC meetings.
On May 25, 2012, the JCT-VC announced that an evaluation of HEVC proposals for Scalable Video Coding (SVC) would be held in October 2012. This will eventually lead to an amendment to HEVC that will add support for SVC.
The Draft International Standard of HEVC, based on the eighth working draft specification, was approved in July 2012. Per Fröjdh, Chairman of the Swedish MPEG delegation, believes that commercial products that support HEVC could be released in 2013.
On January 25, 2013, the ITU announced that HEVC had received first stage approval (consent) in the ITU-T Alternative Approval Process (AAP). The JCT-VC will continue to work on extensions for HEVC such as support for 12-bit video and 4:2:2/4:4:4 chroma sampling. On the same day MPEG announced that HEVC had been promoted to Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) status in the MPEG standardization process.
On June 7, 2013, the HEVC/H.265 standard was formally published on the ITU-T website as a free download.
On November 25, 2013, the HEVC standard was formally published by the ISO/IEC.
Milestones in standardization
- February 2012: Committee Draft (complete draft of standard)
- July 2012: Draft International Standard
- January 25, 2013: Final Draft International Standard and ITU-T Consent
- April 13, 2013: HEVC/H.265 approved as an ITU-T standard
- June 7, 2013: Formal publication on the ITU-T website
- November 25, 2013: Formal publication by the ISO/IEC
On February 29, 2012, at the 2012 Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm demonstrated a HEVC decoder running on an Android tablet, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor running at 1.5 GHz, showing H.264/MPEG-4 AVC and HEVC versions of the same video content playing side by side. In this demonstration HEVC reportedly showed almost a 50% bit rate reduction compared with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC.
On August 22, 2012, Ericsson announced that the world's first HEVC encoder, the Ericsson SVP 5500, would be shown at the upcoming International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) 2012 trade show. The Ericsson SVP 5500 HEVC encoder is designed for real-time encoding of video for delivery to mobile devices. On the same day, it was announced that researchers are planning to extend MPEG-DASH to support HEVC by April 2013.
On August 31, 2012, Allegro DVT announced two HEVC broadcast encoders called the AL1200 HD-SDI encoder and the AL2200 IP Transcoder. Allegro DVT says that hardware HEVC decoders shouldn't be expected before 2014 but that HEVC can be used earlier for applications that use software based decoding. At the IBC 2012 trade show Allegro DVT demonstrated a HEVC delivery system based on the AL2200 IP Transcoder with a live IP video stream.
On September 2, 2012, Vanguard Video, formerly Vanguard Software Solutions (VSS), announced a real-time HEVC software encoder running at 1080p30 (1920x1080, 30fps) on a single Intel Xeon processor. This encoder was demonstrated at IBC 2012.
On September 6, 2012, Rovi Corporation announced that a MainConcept SDK for HEVC would be released in early 2013 shortly after HEVC is officially ratified. The HEVC MainConcept SDK includes a decoder, encoder, and transport multiplexer for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android. The HEVC MainConcept SDK encoder was demonstrated at the IBC 2012 trade show.
On September 7, 2012, Envivio Inc. first demonstrated its next-generation HEVC codec capabilities at IBC in Amsterdam, showing a technology demo of video quality comparable to AVC (H.264) at half the bit-rate. Envivio Muse™ software-based encoders are designed to support HEVC via software upgrade in the future. In March 2013, Envivio also announced its HEVC Early Access Program for live and on-demand applications for customers seeking to implement HEVC (H.265) encoding.
On September 9, 2012, ATEME demonstrated at the IBC 2012 trade show a HEVC encoder that encoded video with a resolution of 3840×2160p at 60 fps with an average bit rate of 15 Mbit/s. ATEME is planning to release their HEVC encoder in October 2013.
On January 3, 2013, Allegro DVT announced that they would show HEVC video hardware decoder IP at the 2013 International CES. The HEVC decoder IP can be used on FPGA and SoC with support for up to 4K resolution. The HEVC decoder IP was reportedly compliant with the HM 9.1 reference software and was expected to be made compliant with the final standard after it is released.
On January 7, 2013, ViXS Systems announced that they would show the first hardware SoC capable of transcoding video to the Main 10 profile of HEVC at the 2013 International CES. On the same day Rovi Corporation announced that after the HEVC standard is released that they plan to start adding support for HEVC to their MainConcept SDK and to their DivX products.
On January 8, 2013, Broadcom announced the BCM7445 which is an Ultra HD decoding chip capable of decoding HEVC at up to 4096×2160p at 60 fps. The BCM7445 is a 28 nm ARM architecture chip capable of 21,000 Dhrystone MIPS with volume production estimated for the middle of 2014.
On January 8, 2013, Vanguard Video announced the availability of V.265, a professional pure-software HEVC encoder capable of real-time performance.
On January 30, 2013, Elemental Technologies, Inc. announced its implementation of HEVC/H.265 encoding. Elemental announced that its video processing products would offer support for the HEVC/H.265 standard via a software upgrade. Elemental first demonstrated H.265 encoding at IBC in September, 2012 in a side-by-side demonstration with AVC/H.264. Elemental said it would demonstrate concurrent encoding of MPEG-2, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, and HEVC/H.265 on a single system at the NAB Show in April 2013.
On February 4, 2013, NTT DoCoMo announced that starting in March it would begin licensing its implementation of HEVC decoding software. The decoding software can allow playback of 4K UHDTV at 60 fps on personal computers and 1080p on smartphones and was planned to demonstrated at the 2013 Mobile World Congress. In a JCT-VC document NTT DoCoMo showed that their HEVC software decoder could decode 3840x2160 at 60 fps using 3 decoding threads on a 2.7 GHz quad core Ivy Bridge CPU.
On February 11, 2013, researchers from MIT demonstrated the world's first published HEVC ASIC decoder at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2013. Their chip was capable of decoding a 3840×2160p at 30 fps video stream in real time consuming under 0.1W of power.
On March 14, 2013, Ittiam Systems announced the immediate availability of its real-time HD HEVC encoder and decoder solutions which was demonstrated at NAB 2013. The x86 based encoder running on a multi-core Intel Xeon server class processor is targeted at the broadcast encoding market. The decoder is an optimized multi-core ARM (Cortex A7/A9/A15 cores with Neon acceleration) implementation designed for smartphones, set-top boxes, tablets, and Smart TVs which has been demonstrated on the next generation Qualcomm Snapdragon S800. The decoder was publicly showcased at CES 2013. A demonstration of an OpenCL based GPU accelerated HEVC decoder was shown at MWC 2013.
On March 30, 2013, Xunlei released a new version of its video-on-demand software Kankan that supports HEVC/H.265 through a codec developed by and exclusively licensed from Peking University, making it the first consumer product on the Chinese market to support HEVC/H.265.
On April 3, 2013, ATEME announced the availability of the first open source implementation of a HEVC software player based on the OpenHEVC decoder and GPAC video player which are both licensed under LGPL. The OpenHEVC decoder supports the Main profile of HEVC and can decode 1080p at 30 fps video using a single core CPU. A live transcoder that supports HEVC and used in combination with the GPAC video player was shown at the ATEME booth at the NAB Show in April 2013.
On April 3, 2013, Thomson Video Networks announced that its ViBE™ VS7000 multi-screen video encoding/transcoding system now provides support for the HEVC compression standard for live and offline applications.
On April 8, 2013 at NAB in Las Vegas, Vanguard Video demonstrated a hardware implementation of their HEVC technology running on a Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA. The Xilinx FPGA provides acceleration for portions of the HEVC encoder, integrating with Vanguard's software implementation of the HEVC standard.
On April 8, 2013 at NAB in Las Vegas, Vanguard Video showed HEVC real-time streaming to mobile devices. The demonstration included real-time encoding of 720p30 on an x86 based server, wirelessly streaming to a Nexus 10 where it was decoded in real-time.
On April 8, 2013, Tata Elxsi announced the availability of a licensable HEVC Ultra HD (4K) decoder for smartphones, tablets, set top boxes, gaming consoles and other CE devices.
On April 19, 2013, SES announced the first Ultra HD transmission using the HEVC standard. The transmission had a resolution of 3840×2160 and a bit rate of 20 Mbit/s. SES used Harmonic's ProMedia Xpress HEVC encoder and Broadcom's BCM7445 HEVC decoder.
On May 2, 2013, TVBEurope released an article on the prospect of HEVC for contribution applications but said that it will not happen until additional HEVC profiles are made that can support more than 4:2:0 chroma sampling.
On May 9, 2013, NHK and Mitsubishi Electric announced that they had jointly developed the first HEVC encoder for 8K Ultra HD TV, which is also called Super Hi-Vision (SHV). The HEVC encoder supports the Main 10 profile at Level 6.1 allowing it to encode 10-bit video with a resolution of 7680×4320 at 60 fps. The HEVC encoder has 17 3G-SDI inputs and uses 17 boards for parallel processing with each board encoding a row of 7680×256 pixels to allow for real time video encoding. The HEVC encoder is compliant with draft 4 of the HEVC standard and has a maximum bit rate of 340 Mbit/s. The HEVC encoder was shown at the NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories Open House 2013 that took place from May 30 to June 2. At the NHK Open House 2013 the HEVC encoder used a bit rate of 85 Mbit/s which gives a compression ratio of 350:1.
On May 15, 2013, DivX released a draft version of DivX HEVC video profiles that are based on the Main profile and Main tier of HEVC with additional restrictions specific to the DivX HEVC video profiles. The draft version of DivX HEVC 4K, 1080p, and 720p video profiles currently define only the video and DivX is planning to define other elements of the profiles in the future. The DivX HEVC 4K video profile allows for a maximum bit rate of HEVC Level 5.1 (40 Mbit/s) but the maximum number of samples per second is limited to HEVC Level 5 (4096×2160 at 30 fps).
On May 31, 2013, Orange announced the first public HEVC demonstration of a real time end-to-end delivery chain. The HEVC demonstration included a high definition broadcast of the 2013 French Open from June 1 to June 9 that uses both IPTV and DVB-T2. The HEVC demonstration may be seen in the technical area of Orange and at a showroom in Rennes.
On June 4, 2013, Rovi Corporation released the MainConcept HEVC SDK 1.0. SDK 1.0 supports Smart Adaptive Bitrate Encoding Technology (SABET) which allows for the simultaneous encoding of up to 10 video output streams with reduced computing cost. SDK 1.0 is available for Windows and SDK 1.0.1, which will be released in July 2013, will add support for Linux and Mac OS X. SDK 1.0 supports the Main profile while SDK 2.0, which will be released in Q4 2013, will add support for the Main 10 profile.
On June 10, 2013, Vanguard Video announced that support for the Main 10 profile was added to their V.265 professional HEVC encoder. V.265 is the first real time HEVC software encoder to support the Main 10 profile.
On June 20, 2013, Youku Tudou announced that they have partnered with Qualcomm on adding HEVC support to their website and that most Qualcomm Snapdragon devices will be able to support HEVC video.
On July 1, 2013, Argon Design announced its development of a validation test suite for testing the conformance of HEVC decoders. The company said it has created a compiler for the HEVC specification that directly understands the pseudo-code and equations contained in the standard and that it has created a mathematical model of the entire HEVC decoding process. The compiler and mathematical model were used to generate a bitstream test set that is claimed to provide comprehensive coverage for decoder testing. The suite includes a coverage tool that is claimed to be able to detail exactly which sections of the HEVC specification are covered by any set of bitstreams.
On July 23, 2013, MulticoreWare released alpha source code for x265. The same day, VITEC was announcing the Stradis HDM850+, the first PCIe decoder card capable of decoding HEVC up to MP@L4.2 (1080p60) over SDI / HDMI.
On August 8, 2013, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone announced the release of their HEVC-1000 SDK software encoder which supports the Main 10 profile, resolutions up to 7680×4320, and frame rates up to 120 fps.
On August 15, 2013, DivX announced that the next version of the DivX Web Player will support HEVC.
On August 21, 2013, Microsoft released a DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) specification for HEVC which supports the Main profile, the Main 10 profile, and the Main Still Picture profile. DXVA 2.0 is required for HEVC decoding to be hardware accelerated and compatible decoders can use DXVA 2.0 for the following operations: bitstream parsing, deblocking, inverse quantization scaling, inverse transform processing, and motion compensation.
On September 11, 2013, NGCodec Inc. announced availability of free 4K HEVC/H.265 test clips.
At the September 12–17, 2013 IBC show in Amsterdam, HEVC was a significant theme – with HEVC technology products being demonstrated by several companies, including Allegro DVT, Ateme, Broadcom, Elemental Technologies, Envivio, Ericsson, Fraunhofer HHI, Fujitsu, Haivision, Harmonic, Ittiam, Kontron, Media Excel, NGCodec Inc., NTT-AT, NXP Software, Pace, QuickFire Networks Rovi/Mainconcept, SES, Squid Systems, STMicroelectronics, Tata Elxsi, Technicolor, Telestream, Thomson Video Networks, Vanguard Video, VITEC and VisualOn.
On October 29, 2013, Elemental Technologies announced support for real-time 4K HEVC video processing. Elemental provided live video streaming of the 2013 Osaka Marathon on October 27, 2013, in a workflow designed by K-Opticom, a telecommunications operator in Japan. Live coverage of the race in 4K HEVC was available to viewers at the International Exhibition Center in Osaka. This transmission of 4K HEVC video in real-time was an industry-first.
On November 14, 2013, DivX developers released information on HEVC decoding performance using an Intel i7 CPU at 3.5 GHz which had 4 cores and 8 threads. The DivX 10.1 Beta decoder was capable of 210.9 fps at 720p, 101.5 fps at 1080p, and 29.6 fps at 4K.
The design of most video coding standards is primarily aimed at having the highest coding efficiency. Coding efficiency is the ability to encode video at the lowest possible bit rate while maintaining a certain level of video quality. There are two standard ways to measure the coding efficiency of a video coding standard, which are to use an objective metric, such as peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR), or to use subjective assessment of video quality. Subjective assessment of video quality is considered to be the most important way to measure a video coding standard since humans perceive video quality subjectively.
HEVC benefits from the use of larger Coding Tree Unit (CTU) sizes. This has been shown in PSNR tests with a HM-8.0 HEVC encoder where it was forced to use progressively smaller CTU sizes. For all test sequences when compared to a 64×64 CTU size it was shown that the HEVC bit rate increased by 2.2% when forced to use a 32×32 CTU size and increased by 11.0% when forced to use a 16×16 CTU size. In the Class A test sequences, where the resolution of the video was 2560×1600, when compared to a 64×64 CTU size it was shown that the HEVC bit rate increased by 5.7% when forced to use a 32×32 CTU size and increased by 28.2% when forced to use a 16×16 CTU size. The tests showed that large CTU sizes increase coding efficiency while also reducing decoding time.
The HEVC Main Profile (MP) has been compared in coding efficiency to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC High Profile (HP), MPEG-4 Advanced Simple Profile (ASP), H.263 High Latency Profile (HLP), and H.262/MPEG-2 Main Profile (MP). The video encoding was done for entertainment applications and twelve different bitrates were made for the nine video test sequences with a HM-8.0 HEVC encoder being used. Of the nine video test sequences five were at HD resolution while four were at WVGA (800×480) resolution. The bit rate reductions for HEVC were determined based on PSNR.
|Video coding standard||Average bit rate reduction compared to|
|H.264/MPEG-4 AVC HP||MPEG-4 ASP||H.263 HLP||H.262/MPEG-2 MP|
|H.264/MPEG-4 AVC HP||–||44.5%||46.6%||55.4%|
HEVC MP has also been compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC HP for subjective video quality. The video encoding was done for entertainment applications and four different bitrates were made for nine video test sequences with a HM-5.0 HEVC encoder being used. The subjective assessment was done at an earlier date than the PSNR comparison and so it used an earlier version of the HEVC encoder that had slightly lower performance. The bit rate reductions were determined based on subjective assessment using mean opinion score values. The overall subjective bitrate reduction for HEVC MP compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC HP was 49.3%.
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) did a study to evaluate the subjective video quality of HEVC at resolutions higher than HDTV. The study was done with three videos with resolutions of 3840×1744 at 24 fps, 3840×2048 at 30 fps, and 3840×2160 at 30 fps. The five second video sequences showed people on a street, traffic, and a scene from the open source computer animated movie Sintel. The video sequences were encoded at five different bitrates using the HM-6.1.1 HEVC encoder and the JM-18.3 H.264/MPEG-4 AVC encoder. The subjective bit rate reductions were determined based on subjective assessment using mean opinion score values. The study compared HEVC MP with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC HP and showed that for HEVC MP the average bitrate reduction based on PSNR was 44.4% while the average bitrate reduction based on subjective video quality was 66.5%.
In a HEVC performance comparison released in April 2013 the HEVC MP and Main 10 Profile (M10P) were compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC HP and High 10 Profile (H10P) using 3840×2160 video sequences. The video sequences were encoded using the HM-10.0 HEVC encoder and the JM-18.4 H.264/MPEG-4 AVC encoder. The average bit rate reduction based on PSNR was 45% for inter frame video.
HEVC was designed to substantially improve coding efficiency compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC HP, i.e. to reduce bitrate requirements by half with comparable image quality, at the expense of increased computational complexity. HEVC was designed with the goal of allowing video content to have a data compression ratio of up to 1000:1. Depending on the application requirements HEVC encoders can trade off computational complexity, compression rate, robustness to errors, and encoding delay time. Two of the key features where HEVC was improved compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC was support for higher resolution video and improved parallel processing methods.
HEVC is targeted at next-generation HDTV displays and content capture systems which feature progressive scanned frame rates and display resolutions from QVGA (320×240) to 4320p (8192×4320), as well as improved picture quality in terms of noise level, color spaces, and dynamic range.
Video coding layer
The HEVC video coding layer uses the same "hybrid" approach used in all modern video standards, starting from H.261, in that it uses inter-/intra-picture prediction and 2D transform coding. A HEVC encoder first proceeds by splitting a picture into block shaped regions for the first picture, or the first picture of a random access point, which uses intra-picture prediction. Intra-picture prediction is when the prediction of the blocks in the picture is based only on the information in that picture. For all other pictures inter-picture prediction is used in which prediction information is used from other pictures. After the prediction methods are finished and the picture goes through the loop filters the final picture representation is stored in the decoded picture buffer. Pictures stored in the decoded picture buffer can be used for the prediction of other pictures.
HEVC was designed with the idea that progressive scan video would be used and no coding tools were added specifically for interlaced video. Interlace specific coding tools, such as MBAFF and PAFF, are not supported in HEVC. HEVC instead sends meta-stream data that tells how the interlaced video was sent. Interlaced video may be sent either by coding each field as a separate picture or by coding each frame as a separate picture. This allows interlaced video to be sent with HEVC without needing special interlaced decoding processes to be added to HEVC decoders.
Coding tree unit
HEVC replaces macroblocks, which were used with previous standards, with Coding Tree Units (CTUs) which can use a larger block structures of up to 64×64 pixels and can better sub-partition the picture into variable sized structures. HEVC initially divides the picture into CTUs which can be 64×64, 32×32, or 16×16 with a larger pixel block size usually increasing the coding efficiency.
Parallel processing tools
- Tiles allow for the picture to be divided up into a grid of rectangular regions that can independently be decoded/encoded and the main purpose of tiles is to allow for parallel processing. Tiles can be independently decoded and can even allow for random access to specific regions of a picture in a video stream.
- Wavefront parallel processing (WPP) is when a slice is divided into rows of CTUs in which the first row is decoded normally but each additional row requires that decisions be made in the previous row. WPP has the entropy encoder use information from the preceding row of CTUs and allows for a method of parallel processing that may allow for better compression than tiles.
- Tiles and WPP are allowed but are optional. If tiles are present they must be at least 64 pixels high and 256 pixels wide with a level specific limit on the number of tiles allowed.
- Slices can for the most part be decoded independently from each other with the main purpose of tiles being re-synchronization in case of data loss in the video stream. Slices can be defined as self-contained in that prediction is not made across slice boundaries. When in-loop filtering is done on a picture though information across slice boundaries may be required. Slices are CTUs decoded in the order of the raster scan and different coding types can be used for slices such as I types, P types, or B types.
- Dependent slices can allow for data related to tiles or WPP to be accessed more quickly by the system than if the entire slice had to be decoded. The main purpose of dependent slices is to allow for low delay video encoding due to its lower latency.
HEVC uses a context-adaptive binary arithmetic coding (CABAC) algorithm that is fundamentally similar to CABAC in H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. CABAC is the only entropy encoder method that is allowed in HEVC while there are two entropy encoder methods allowed by H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. CABAC in HEVC was designed for higher throughput. For instance, the number of context coded bins have been reduced by 8x and the CABAC bypass-mode has been improved in terms of its design to increase throughput. Another improvement with HEVC is that the dependencies between the coded data has been changed to further increase throughput. Context modeling in HEVC has also been improved so that CABAC can better select a context that increases efficiency when compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC.
HEVC specifies 33 directional modes for intra prediction compared to the 8 directional modes for intra prediction specified by H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. HEVC also specifies planar and DC intra prediction modes. The intra prediction modes use data from neighboring prediction blocks that have been previously decoded.
For the interpolation of fractional luma sample positions HEVC uses separable application of one-dimensional half-sample interpolation with an 8-tap filter or quarter-sample interpolation with a 7-tap filter while, in comparison, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC uses a two-stage process that first derives values at half-sample positions using separable one-dimensional 6-tap interpolation followed by integer rounding and then applies linear interpolation between values at nearby half-sample positions to generate values at quarter-sample positions. HEVC has improved precision due to the longer interpolation filter and the elimination of the intermediate rounding error. For 4:2:0 video, the chroma samples are interpolated with separable one-dimensional 4-tap filtering to generate eighth-sample precision, while in comparison H.264/MPEG-4 AVC uses only a 2-tap bilinear filter (also with eighth-sample precision).
As in H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, weighted prediction in HEVC can be used either with uni-prediction (in which a single prediction value is used) or bi-prediction (in which the prediction values from two prediction blocks are combined).
Motion vector prediction
HEVC defines a signed 16-bit range for both horizontal and vertical motion vectors (MVs). This was added to HEVC at the July 2012 HEVC meeting with the mvLX variables. HEVC horizontal/vertical MVs have a range of −32768 to 32767 which given the quarter pixel precision used by HEVC allows for a MV range of −8192 to 8191.75 luma samples. This compares to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC which allows for a horizontal MV range of −2048 to 2047.75 luma samples and a vertical MV range of −512 to 511.75 luma samples.
HEVC allows for two MV modes which are Advanced Motion Vector Prediction (AMVP) and merge mode. AMVP uses data from the reference picture and can also use data from adjacent prediction blocks. The merge mode allows for the MVs to be inherited from neighboring prediction blocks. Merge mode in HEVC is similar to "skipped" and "direct" motion inference modes in H.264/MPEG-4 AVC but with two improvements. The first improvement is that HEVC uses index information to select one of several available candidates. The second improvement is that HEVC uses information from the reference picture list and reference picture index.
HEVC specifies four transform units (TUs) sizes of 4×4, 8×8, 16×16, and 32×32 to code the prediction residual. A CTB may be recursively partitioned into 4 or more TUs. TUs use integer basis functions that are similar to the discrete cosine transform (DCT). In addition 4×4 luma transform blocks that belong to an intra coded region are transformed using an integer transform that is derived from discrete sine transform (DST). This provides a 1% bit rate reduction but was restricted to 4×4 luma transform blocks due to marginal benefits for the other transform cases. Chroma uses the same TU sizes as luma so there is no 2×2 transform for chroma.
HEVC specifies two loop filters that are applied in order, with the deblocking filter (DBF) applied first and the sample adaptive offset (SAO) filter applied afterwards. Both loop filters operate during the inter-picture prediction loop.
The DBF is similar to the one used by H.264/MPEG-4 AVC but with a simpler design and better support for parallel processing. In HEVC the DBF only applies to a 8×8 sample grid while with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC the DBF applies to a 4×4 sample grid. DBF uses a 8×8 sample grid since it causes no noticeable degradation and significantly improves parallel processing because the DBF no longer causes cascading interactions with other operations. Another change is that HEVC only allows for three DBF strengths of 0 to 2. HEVC also requires that the DBF first apply horizontal filtering for vertical edges to the picture and only after that does it apply vertical filtering for horizontal edges to the picture. This allows for multiple parallel threads to be used for the DBF.
Sample adaptive offset
The SAO filter is applied after the DBF and is made to allow for better reconstruction of the original signal amplitudes by using offsets from a transmitted look up table. Per CTB the SAO filter can be disabled or applied in one of two modes: edge offset mode or band offset mode. The edge offset mode operates by comparing the value of a sample to two of its eight neighbors using one of four directional gradient patterns. Based on a comparison with these two neighbors, the sample is classified into one of five categories: minimum, maximum, an edge with the sample having the lower value, an edge with the sample having the higher value, or monotonic. For each of the first four categories an offset is applied. The band offset mode applies an offset based on the amplitude of a single sample. The sample is categorized by its amplitude into one of 32 bands. Offsets are specified for four consecutive of the 32 bands, because in flat areas which are prone to banding artifacts, samples amplitudes tend to be clustered in a small range. The SAO filter was designed to increase picture quality, reduce banding artifacts, and reduce ringing artifacts.
Additional coding tool options have been added in the August 2013 (non-final) draft of the range extensions amendment. These include:
- Profiles supporting bit depths beyond 10 bits per sample. Profiles that support a range of bit depths can use different bit depths for luma and chroma with YUV color spaces.
- Profiles that support 4:0:0 (monochrome), 4:2:2 (half-horizontal chroma resolution), and 4:4:4 (full chroma resolution) chroma sampling.
- High precision weighted prediction uses an increased precision for weighted prediction that increases the coding efficiency for fading video scenes at high bit depths.
- Minimum compression ratio (MinCR) constraint is reduced to half its base value for the 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 chroma sampling profiles. The base value for MinCR varies from 2 to 8 depending on the level.
- Inter color component prediction uses prediction between the chroma/luma components to improve coding efficiency. The reduction in bit rate can be up to 7% for YCbCr 4:4:4 video and up to 26% for RGB video. RGB video has a larger reduction in bit rate due to the greater correlation between the components.
- Intra block copy allows for intra prediction by copying a preceding block region of the picture.
- Intra smoothing disabling allows the neighbor region filtering process ordinarily applied in intra prediction to be disabled.
- Residual DPCM allows a vertical or horizontal spatial-predictive coding of residual data in transform skip and lossless transform bypass blocks (can be selected for use in intra blocks, inter blocks, or both).
- Transform skip support for block sizes larger than 4×4. Allows for transform skip block sizes of up to 32×32.
- Transform skip rotation performs rotation of residual data for 4×4 transform skip blocks.
- Transform skip context uses a separate context for entropy coding to be used for indicating which blocks are coded using transform skipping.
- Extended precision processing uses an extended dynamic range for inter prediction interpolation and inverse transform (not supported in the currently drafted profiles).
- Separate color plane allows for the three color planes to be processed independently as three monochrome pictures when using 4:4:4 chroma sampling (not supported in the currently drafted profiles).
- The Main Still Picture profile was modified so that it can use a new unbounded level, level 8.5, for which no limit is imposed on the picture size. Decoders for level 8.5 are not required to decode all level 8.5 bitstreams, since some may exceed their picture size capability.
The HEVC standard supports color spaces such as generic film, NTSC, PAL, Rec. 601, Rec. 709, Rec. 2020, SMPTE 170M, SMPTE 240M, sRGB, sYCC, xvYCC, and externally-specified color spaces. HEVC supports color encoding representations such as RGB, YCbCr, and YCoCg.
The HEVC standard defines three profiles: Main, Main 10, and Main Still Picture. The August 2013 draft of the range extensions amendment defines five additional profiles: Main 12, Main 4:2:2 10, Main 4:2:2 12, Main 4:4:4 10, and Main 4:4:4 12. HEVC also contains provisions for additional profiles. Future extensions that are being discussed for HEVC include increased bit depth, 4:2:2/4:4:4 chroma sampling, Multiview Video Coding (MVC), and Scalable Video Coding (SVC). The amendment to add HEVC range extensions is under development and is expected to be released in January 2014.
A profile is a defined set of coding tools that can be used to create a bitstream that conforms to that profile. An encoder for a profile may choose which coding tools to use as long as it generates a conforming bitstream while a decoder for a profile must support all coding tools that can be used in that profile.
|Feature||Version 1||Range extensions|
|Main||Main 10||Main 12||Main 4:2:2 10||Main 4:2:2 12||Main 4:4:4 10||Main 4:4:4 12|
|Bit depth||8||8 to 10||8 to 12||8 to 10||8 to 12||8 to 10||8 to 12|
|Chroma sampling formats||4:2:0||4:2:0||4:2:0||4:2:0/4:2:2||4:2:0/4:2:2||4:2:0/4:2:2/4:4:4||4:2:0/4:2:2/4:4:4|
|High precision weighted prediction||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|MinCR reduced to half its base value||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Inter color component prediction||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Intra block copy||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Intra smoothing disabling||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Residual DPCM inter/intra||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Transform skip block sizes larger than 4×4||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Transform skip context/rotation||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Extended precision processing||No||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Separate color plane||No||No||No||No||No||No||No|
Version 1 profiles
The Main 10 profile allows for a bit depth of 8-bits to 10-bits per sample with 4:2:0 chroma sampling. HEVC decoders that conform to the Main 10 profile must be capable of decoding bitstreams made with the following profiles: Main and Main 10. A higher bit depth allows for a greater number of colors. 8-bits per sample allows for 256 shades per primary color (a total of 16.78 million colors) while 10-bits per sample allows for 1024 shades per primary color (a total of 1.07 billion colors). A higher bit depth allows for a smoother transition of color which resolves the problem known as color banding. The Main 10 profile allows for improved video quality since it can support video with a higher bit depth than what is supported by the Main profile. Additionally, in the Main 10 profile 8-bit video can be coded with a higher bit depth of 10-bits, which allows improved coding efficiency compared to the Main profile.
Ericsson has stated that the Main 10 profile will bring the benefits of 10-bits per sample video to consumer TV. They also state that for higher resolutions there is no bit rate penalty for encoding video at 10-bits per sample. Imagination Technologies states that 10-bits per sample video will allow for larger color spaces and is required for the Rec. 2020 color space that will be used by UHDTV. They also state that the Rec. 2020 color space will drive the widespread adoption of 10-bits per sample video.
In a PSNR based performance comparison released in April 2013 the Main 10 profile was compared to the Main profile using a set of 3840×2160 10-bit video sequences. The 10-bit video sequences were converted to 8-bits for the Main profile and remained at 10-bits for the Main 10 profile. The reference PSNR was based on the original 10-bit video sequences. In the performance comparison the Main 10 profile provided a 5% bit rate reduction for inter frame video coding compared to the Main profile. The performance comparison states that for the tested video sequences the Main 10 profile outperformed the Main profile.
The Main 10 profile was added at the October 2012 HEVC meeting based on proposal JCTVC-K0109 which proposed that a 10-bit profile be added to HEVC for consumer applications. The proposal stated that this was to allow for improved video quality and to support the Rec. 2020 color space that will be used by UHDTV. A variety of companies supported the proposal which included ATEME, BBC, BSkyB, CISCO, DirecTV, Ericsson, Motorola Mobility, NGCodec, NHK, RAI, ST, SVT, Thomson Video Networks, Technicolor, and ViXS Systems.
Main Still Picture
The Main Still Picture profile allows for a single still picture to be encoded with the same constraints as the Main profile. As a subset of the Main profile the Main Still Picture profile allows for a bit depth of 8-bits per sample with 4:2:0 chroma sampling. An objective performance comparison was done in April 2012 in which HEVC reduced the average bit rate for images by 56% compared to JPEG. A PSNR based performance comparison for still image compression was done in May 2012 using the HEVC HM 6.0 encoder and the reference software encoders for the other standards. For still images HEVC reduced the average bit rate by 15.8% compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, 22.6% compared to JPEG 2000, 30.0% compared to JPEG XR, 31.0% compared to WebP, and 43.0% compared to JPEG.
A performance comparison for still image compression was done in January 2013 using the HEVC HM 8.0rc2 encoder, Kakadu version 6.0 for JPEG 2000, and IJG version 6b for JPEG. The performance comparison used PSNR for the objective assessment and mean opinion score (MOS) values for the subjective assessment. The subjective assessment used the same test methodology and images as those used by the JPEG committee when it evaluated JPEG XR. For 4:2:0 chroma sampled images the average bit rate reduction for HEVC compared to JPEG 2000 was 20.26% for PSNR and 30.96% for MOS while compared to JPEG it was 61.63% for PSNR and 43.10% for MOS.
|Still image coding
standard (test method)
|Average bit rate reduction compared to|
A PSNR based HEVC performance comparison for still image compression was done in April 2013 by Nokia. HEVC has a larger performance improvement for higher resolution images than lower resolution images and a larger performance improvement for lower bit rates than higher bit rates. For lossy compression to get the same PSNR as HEVC took on average 1.4× more bits with JPEG 2000, 1.6× more bits with JPEG-XR, and 2.3× more bits with JPEG.
A compression efficiency study of HEVC, JPEG, JPEG XR, and WebP was done in October 2013 by Mozilla. The study showed that HEVC was significantly better at compression than the other image formats that were tested. Four different methods for comparing image quality were used in the study which were Y-SSIM, RGB-SSIM, IW-SSIM, and PSNR-HVS-M.
Range extensions profiles
The August 2013 draft of the range extensions amendment defines five additional profiles.
- Main 12
The Main 12 profile allows for a bit depth of 8-bits to 12-bits per sample with support for 4:0:0 and 4:2:0 chroma sampling. HEVC decoders that conform to the Main 12 profile must be capable of decoding bitstreams made with the following profiles: Main, Main 10, and Main 12.
- Main 4:2:2 10
The Main 4:2:2 10 profile allows for a bit depth of 8-bits to 10-bits per sample with support for 4:0:0, 4:2:0, and 4:2:2 chroma sampling. HEVC decoders that conform to the Main 4:2:2 10 profile must be capable of decoding bitstreams made with the following profiles: Main, Main 10, and Main 4:2:2 10.
- Main 4:2:2 12
The Main 4:2:2 12 profile allows for a bit depth of 8-bits to 12-bits per sample with support for 4:0:0, 4:2:0, and 4:2:2 chroma sampling. HEVC decoders that conform to the Main 4:2:2 12 profile must be capable of decoding bitstreams made with the following profiles: Main, Main 10, Main 12, Main 4:2:2 10, and Main 4:2:2 12.
- Main 4:4:4 10
The Main 4:4:4 10 profile allows for a bit depth of 8-bits to 10-bits per sample with support for 4:0:0, 4:2:0, 4:2:2, and 4:4:4 chroma sampling. HEVC decoders that conform to the Main 4:4:4 10 profile must be capable of decoding bitstreams made with the following profiles: Main, Main 10, Main 4:2:2 10, and Main 4:4:4 10.
- Main 4:4:4 12
The Main 4:4:4 12 profile allows for a bit depth of 8-bits to 12-bits per sample with support for 4:0:0, 4:2:0, 4:2:2, and 4:4:4 chroma sampling. HEVC decoders that conform to the Main 4:4:4 12 profile must be capable of decoding bitstreams made with the following profiles: Main, Main 10, Main 12, Main 4:2:2 10, Main 4:2:2 12, Main 4:4:4 10, and Main 4:4:4 12.
Tiers and levels
The HEVC standard defines two tiers, Main and High, and thirteen levels. A level is a set of constraints for a bitstream. For levels below level 4 only the Main tier is allowed. The Main tier is a lower tier than the High tier. The tiers were made to deal with applications that differ in terms of their maximum bit rate. The Main tier was designed for most applications while the High tier was designed for very demanding applications. A decoder that conforms to a given tier/level is required to be capable of decoding all bitstreams that are encoded for that tier/level and for all lower tiers/levels.
|Level||Max luma sample rate
|Max luma picture size
|Max bit rate for Main, Main 10,
and Main 12 profiles (kbit/s)[A]
|Example picture resolution @
highest frame rate[B]
|Main tier||High tier|
128×firstname.lastname@example.org (6)176×email@example.com (6)
176×firstname.lastname@example.org (16)352×email@example.com (6)
352×firstname.lastname@example.org (12)640×email@example.com (6)
640×firstname.lastname@example.org (12)960×email@example.com (6)
720×firstname.lastname@example.org (12)1280×email@example.com (6)
1,280×firstname.lastname@example.org (12)2,048×1,email@example.com (6)
1,280×firstname.lastname@example.org (12)2,048×1,email@example.com (6)
1,920×1,firstname.lastname@example.org (16)4,096×2,email@example.com (6)
1,920×1,firstname.lastname@example.org (16)4,096×2,email@example.com (6)
1,920×1,firstname.lastname@example.org (16)4,096×2,email@example.com (6)
3,840×2,firstname.lastname@example.org (16)8,192×4,email@example.com (6)
3,840×2,firstname.lastname@example.org (16)8,192×4,email@example.com (6)
3,840×2,firstname.lastname@example.org (16)8,192×4,email@example.com (6)
- A The maximum bit rate for the Main 4:2:2 profiles increases by 1.25× while the Main 4:4:4 profiles increases by 1.5×.
- B The maximum frame rate supported by HEVC is 300 fps.
- C The MaxDpbSize is the maximum number of pictures in the decoded picture buffer.
Decoded picture buffer
Previously decoded pictures are stored in a decoded picture buffer (DPB), and are used by HEVC encoders to form predictions for subsequent pictures. The maximum number of pictures that can be stored in the DPB, called the DPB capacity, is 6 (including the current picture) for all HEVC levels when operating at the maximum picture size supported by the level. The DPB capacity (in units of pictures) increases from 6 to 8, 12, or 16 as the picture size decreases from the maximum picture size supported by the level. The encoder selects which specific pictures are retained in the DPB on a picture-by-picture basis, so the encoder has the flexibility to determine for itself the best way to use the DPB capacity when encoding the video content.
Versions of the HEVC/H.265 standard using the ITU-T approval dates.
- Version 1: (April 13, 2013) First approved version of the HEVC/H.265 standard containing Main, Main 10, and Main Still Picture profiles.
MPEG has proposed an amendment to add HEVC support to the MPEG transport stream used by ATSC, Blu-ray Disc, and DVB; MPEG decided not to update the MPEG program stream used by DVD-Video. MPEG has also proposed an amendment to add HEVC support to the ISO base media file format. HEVC will also be supported by the MPEG media transport standard that is under development. DivX has proposed a method to add HEVC support to Matroska and provides a patched release of the MKVToolNix v6.2.0 binaries on their website. A draft document has been submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force which describes a method to add HEVC support to the Real-time Transport Protocol.
- Ultra high definition television (UHDTV) – digital video formats with resolutions of 3840×2160 and 7680×4320
- H.264/MPEG-4 AVC – the predecessor video standard of HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding)
- Dirac (video compression format) – an open format competitor to the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video standard that was developed by the BBC
- VP8 – an open format competitor to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC that was made an open format by Google
- VP9 – an open format competitor to HEVC that is being developed by Google
- Daala video – an open format competitor to HEVC that is being developed by Mozilla Foundation and Xiph.Org Foundation
- List of multimedia (audio/video) codecs
- List of open source codecs
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- Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute HEVC website
- Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC)
- JCT-VC Document Management System
- Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) website
- ITU-T Recommendation H.265 – High Efficiency Video Coding
- HEVC 4K Video Demonstration (DiVX)
- Standardization of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC)
- Motorola's Ajay Luthra discusses HEVC
- MainConcept HEVC Demonstration Video – IBC 2012
- Couple videos in different resolutions/bitrates in HEVC/AAC multiplexed TS from Elecard
- x265 Overview – Open source HEVC/H.265 encoder
- Cinemartin Cinec HEVC - H.265 encoder software for windows
- Lentoid – HEVC/H.265 Encoder/Decoder
- OpenHEVC – Open source HEVC decoder
- Elecard HEVC Analyzer – in-depth analysis tool for HEVC encoded video
- libde265 – Open HEVC/H.265 video codec implementation (LGPL)