Thursday, June 22, 2017

H.265/HEVC and HEIF

Chris Adamson:

H.265 promises data rate savings of up to 50% over the ubiquitous H.264, meaning that your video can look much better with the same bandwidth, or can use half as much.


In 2017, the licensing situation is far worse. HEVC contains hundreds (probably thousands, but I couldn’t verify) of patented technologies. This has long been the case with the MPEG codecs, and the way they deal with this is with patent pools: rather than having to negotiate licenses with every company that has IP in the standard, “patent pools” like MPEG-LA offer a one-stop shop for paying all the needed licenses in one place. The problem is, some patent holders aren’t in the MPEG-LA pool. Some are in a rival pool, HEVC Advance. And then a third one recently popped up. And Technicolor SA has HEVC patents that aren’t in any of the pools, so everything still sucks. And the cherry on top is that the license demands are pricier than H.264, hitting makers of both encoders and decoders, as well as content providers. It’s pretty much a dumpster fire, and one reason that Netflix has stayed away from HEVC thusfar, according to a Streaming Media NAB article[…]


This feels like it could be the end of 10+ years of codec peace, and a return to the bad old days of the late 90s when internet media insisted users install plugins for Windows Media, RealPlayer, QuickTime Streaming, or Flash, based on the technology choices made by the content provider.

Kelly Thompson (via Gus Mueller):

Apple just offered up JPEG’s replacement, and it couldn’t come soon enough.


High Efficiency Image FormatHEIF—isn’t an Apple-invented format. It’s actually a standard created by the MPEG group, and it’s a container rather than a format. In Apple’s case, they’re using it to wrap still images compressed with the HEVC (a.k.a H.265) codec. The container is incredibly flexible, and can also store multiple images, audio, depth information, image sequences, thumbnails and many others—which makes it perfect for Apple’s Live Images and dual camera systems.


The format doesn’t just beat JPEG, JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP—it handily crushes them. It claims a 2 to 1 increase in compression over JPEG at similar quality levels. In our tests, we’ve seen even better levels, depending on the subject of the image.

See also: WWDC 2017 sessions 503 and 513.

Update (2017-06-30): See also: Glenn Fleishman.

Update (2017-07-13): Here’s a thread that explains how HEIF works in iOS 11. You can choose whether the camera capture in “High Efficiency” or “Most Compatible” format. If you choose the former, it’s not clear to me how lossy the conversion is if you later want your photos in JPEG format. Presumably you need to choose the latter if you want to transfer photos using Image Capture.

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