VVC, or H.266, has been finalized and released. The group is promising same quality 4K video at half the size compared to HEVC, which is currently being used for 4K video.
VVC: The successor to HEVC
In 2018, the team behind the MPEG standards told us to expect H.266 by 2021. Seemingly ahead of schedule, the officially named VVC (Versatile Video Coding), or H.266, has now been finalized and released.
The group behind VVC, which by some industry members is considered the next-generation video codec, promises that VVC can "reduce data requirements by around 50% of the bit rate relative to the previous standard H.265/HEVC without compromising visual quality". Test results to back up those claims were not provided in the press release.
- "For instance, the previous standard H.265/HEVC requires ca. 10 gigabytes of data to transmit a 90-min UHD video. With this new technology, only 5 gigabytes of data are required to achieve the same quality. Because H.266/VVC was developed with ultra-high-resolution video content in mind, the new standard is particularly beneficial when streaming 4K or 8K videos on a flat screen TV," explained Fraunhofer.
HEVC is the video codec currently being used on UHD Blu-ray, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Netflix, Vudu, and others streaming services to compress and distribute movies and TV shows in 4K HDR quality. YouTube uses Google's VP9 codec for 4K.
VVC (H.266) was developed by a group of companies including Fraunhofer, Apple, Ericsson, Intel, Huawei, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Sony. It supports resolutions up to 16K and frame rates up to at least 120fps, possibly more later on.
Fraunhofer has been instrumental in developing VVC as the successor to H.265/HEVC and noted that compressed video data make up 80% of global Internet traffic. They said that VVC will be offered on "a uniform and transparent licensing model based on the FRAND principle (i.e., fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory)" through the newly founded Media Coding Industry Forum (MC-IF), which has over 30 companies or organizations as members. It remains to be seen if the forum can steer clear of the serious licensing mess that has hindered broad adoption of HEVC.
VVC (H.266) is the next step after HEVC (H.265) and MPEG4 AVC (H.264) before that. AVC and HEVC are actively being used in more than 10 billion devices, processing over 90% of the total volume of video bits, Fraunhofer said.
Also read: MPEG-5 EVC video codec emerges as alternative to AV1, HEVC
However, VVC will have to prove its worth as a more robust and efficient video codec than competing codecs being developed by the AOM (Alliance for Open Media), which comprises heavyweights such as Apple, Amazon, ARM, Cisco, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, and Nvidia.
That is because AOM's first video codec, AV1, is royalty-free and likewise optimized for HD to 8K video. AV1 was released in 2018 and has made its way to the first 4K and 8K TVs this year with the launch of LG, Samsung, and TCL's 2020 TV line-ups. AOM is currently developed a more efficient AV2 video codec.
Also read: YouTube now streaming 8K video on 8K TVs with AV1 support
Hardware chips required to decode VVC (H.266) video are currently being designed, the parties noted. A timeline for when we can expect it to show up in consumer products was not provided but in 2018 a published timeline suggested that the goal was to have hardware codecs ready by mid-2021. The first encoder and decoder software is expected to be released this autumn by Fraunhofer.
- Source: Fraunhofer