Guide to HEVC/H.265 Encoding and Playback: A better, more efficient format

By Scorpus
Feb 16, 2016
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  1. For years, H.264 has been the go-to video compression standard. Whenever you download a film or TV show, watch a Blu-ray, view HDTV broadcasts, or stream something from various sites and services, there’s a very good chance the video stream you’re watching has been encoded with H.264.

    While H.264 is doing a pretty good job of delivering compressed videos to users, and it’s supported by essentially every video playback device out there, there’s a better standard out there that offers similar quality at even smaller file sizes. The standard is called HEVC, or High Efficiency Video Codec, and it first appeared in 2013 as a true successor to H.264. For this reason, HEVC is also known as H.265, or MPEG-H Part 2.

    HEVC’s main advantage over H.264 is that it offers roughly double the compression ratio for the same quality. This means that a video file encoded with HEVC can occupy half the space of its H.264 equivalent with no noticeable change in quality, or the same amount of space with improved quality. Sounds pretty good, right?

    Read the complete article.

    misor likes this.
  2. DabuXian

    DabuXian TS Rookie

    Impressive article, although I wish you also tested VP9. HEVC seems to have no future due to expensive royalties and a variety of patents. It might be good for personal compression, but its adoption on the internet is really poor.
  3. Mieksr

    Mieksr TS Enthusiast Posts: 38   +7

    Agreed. It would be amazing if it was opensource.
  4. Scorpus

    Scorpus TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 1,784   +186

    That could make an interesting follow up article for sure, I was already looking into it but it would have been a fair bit more work to include another codec in this article. Also, at this stage VP9 is even less supported than HEVC.
    Puiu likes this.
  5. deemon

    deemon TS Booster Posts: 199   +46

    Great article!
    If you are already pirating movies and serials, do you really care about HEVC royalties and patents?
  6. robb213

    robb213 TS Addict Posts: 309   +92

    I found NVENC neat. The quality difference wasn't as big a difference negatively as I expected, so I've started to use it for TVs and things I don't watch up close on my monitor.

    The amount of time saved with it though is a lot which I didn't expect.
  7. wiak

    wiak TS Enthusiast Posts: 42

    Why (HE)AAC?, Opus is far superior and will play in 80% of players, including mpc-be, vlc, mplayer, mpv, ffplay, gnome-mplayer, parole, its also in opera, firefox, chrome, and will show up in edge when m$ gets their webm act together (opus is mandatory for webm support)

    if you want to have highest audio fidelity then flac is the only option
  8. crocography

    crocography TS Member

    Looking at the final image quality of the HVEC vs. the H264 anyone can easily see the difference in quality. This is just another review that seems to solidify the idea that I must keep all my video in the older format.

    The new HVEC simply looks terrible in comparison.
  9. fps4ever

    fps4ever TS Booster Posts: 77   +58

    Terrible might be an overstatement but yes I can see a difference even with my old eyes. The author did point out that getting bigger hard drives might be cheaper but this is certainly and alternative for people not so concerned about absolute high quality output more than space savings.
  10. crocography

    crocography TS Member

    I have to say I standby my terrible comment, at least for me. I say this because I have a Epson Pro projector and the difference of these screen shots on a 120" diagonal screen is considerable. Now it is true that I may not care what my TV shows look like but my GOT and movies have to look and sound good.

    Interestingly you brought up a good point though... hard drives are relatively inexpensive... even if I am at the point when I need to start buying WD RED/NAS 6tB drives to replace the 4x3tB ones I have now for my Plex server.

    After awhile this does get expensive, I wish the HVEC codec quality was much, much better!
  11. costeakai

    costeakai TS Rookie

    Both HEVC/H.265 and VP9 should be featured on 2016 new 4k tvs. now I am quoting from :
    MediaTek MT5596 quad core Cortex A53 cased SoC supports both HEVC and VP9 Ultra HD codecs and 10-bit video decoder. The SoC can decode Quad Full HD 60 fps video streams which can be handy if you decide to record multiple channels via a DVR feature.
    The new 64-bit SoC supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) a feature that just became available via an update on Sony’s X9005C and X850 range of 4K Android TV 5.1 smart TVs. Last but not least the SoC supports Super Resolution and ClearMotion PQ technology.
    unquoting, I love mtk a53 socs. I got one in my android tablet and it is out of this world...
  12. Phr3d

    Phr3d TS Booster Posts: 216   +39

    With my wifi, full-rate blu over the LAN is impossible, so 264 has worked well - if a still HQ at lower bitrate from x265 handbrake, I would be interested, as 2-3GB/hr is pressing it over My wifi, particularly because all my subs Must be burned for the Bone.. tried it at CQ20 AAC 256 med burn subs -- 6 Hours per hour of encode on my i5.. oh well.
    Considering a skylake i7 replacement, will be interested to see what encode speed improvement it can offer..
  13. Ryrynz

    Ryrynz TS Rookie

    The don't encode it at the medium settng gives you half the bitrate?

    @Tim, what bitrate does h.265 match/exceed the quality of your custom h.264 profile.
  14. Scorpus

    Scorpus TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 1,784   +186

    Medium actually tends to deliver under half the bitrate of my custom H.264 profile, in the range of 1,100 kbps vs 2,700 kbps at 1080p. If you bring HEVC up to the 1,300 kbps mark, which can be achieved simply by increasing the QF from 23 to 22 or 21, it's very similar.

    The reason why I didn't do this is that, at least to my eyes, the differences at the same QF between the profiles is very small. It's even smaller when viewing the actual videos because you simply don't have time to examine fine detail in every frame.

    Of course another option is play around with two-pass VBR encoding, which is time consuming but can deliver great results
  15. crocography

    crocography TS Member

    @Tim, what bitrate does h.265 match/exceed the quality of your custom h.264 profile.[/QUOTE]

    Great question thank you. And thank you for the answer!
  16. needforsuv

    needforsuv TS Rookie

    And the theres laptops with nvidia optimus (850m)+i7 4710hq or simular that cant seem to do anything on chrome while watching youtube and checking something as pedestrian as
    even when the nvidia gpu handles the most processing as the igpu seems to fail at anything beside doing one task (game) or show powerpoint slides vs encoding video and browsing the web at the same time
    when my desktop did fine with anything from a gtx560 to a gt730 to a gtx 980 ti and a i7 2600
    practically does it in its sleep while running an extra monitor
  17. Arturo

    Arturo TS Member Posts: 81   +26

    But the question is: Is YouTube supporting this format?
  18. Camikazi

    Camikazi TS Maniac Posts: 797   +217

    Doubt it considering that Google developed VP9, which is a competitor to this.
  19. roberthi

    roberthi TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +11

    The HEVC is generally blurrier and askew. I wouldn't call that better.
  20. w8676

    w8676 TS Rookie

    What about Quick Sync? Skylake supports HEVC, is the quality just not there?
  21. Bindou01

    Bindou01 TS Rookie

    Hello ;
    I notice a significant loss of details on the HEVC Medium from the source. What would be the optimal settings to avoid this degradation.
  22. Bindou01

    Bindou01 TS Rookie

    @ Scorpus
    "The reason why I did not do this Is That, at least to my eyes, the differences at the QF entre le même profiles is very small. It's even smaller When viewing the actual videos Because You simply do not-have time to examine fine detail in every frame. "

    Some producers carry out works in which there are many contemplative shots (slow and fix ; scenic shots or expressions of faces...).
  23. jeff rigby

    jeff rigby TS Rookie

    Some oversights: Intel Skylake requires the GPU to support HEVC profile 10 while AMD's Carrizo supports HEVC profile 10 with a dutycycle of less than 50% (lower power) using a Xtensa DPU which is what the XB1 uses.

    The Xbox one got HEVC profile 10 with a firmware update June 2015. We expect the PS4 to have the same this year because it also uses a Xtensa DPU as an accelerator. The PS3 Cell can support HEVC but it draws too much power for anything but a grandfathered in Game Console/Media Player.
  24. fktech

    fktech TS Enthusiast Posts: 52   +16

    H265 Handbrake settings in this article work very well. Fairly fast conversion at 18 minutes for a 2 hour video and results look very nice achieving about an 80% file size reduction. Your results may vary depending on your hardware. It's a winner!
  25. Ryrynz

    Ryrynz TS Rookie

    @Tim would you mind doing an update which focuses on the lower CRF values which attain your custom quality and also the two pass VBR. Many of us are more interested to know how H.265 improves upon H.264 in terms of image quality at the same bitrate. What can we achieve in terms of file sizes with similar quality and what can we achieve in image quality when the files are the same size? Also encoding times for lower CRF vs two pass VBR and the comparison between those. Would be nice to see the other side of H.265, also the tools are likely updated now too.

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