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HEVC Is Flowing Into AVC Workflows: Survey Report

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What if the question about High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) adoption as the next-generation codec was already settled? What would the implications be for existing Advanced Video Coding (AVC) workflows? And would AVC (aka H.264) and HEVC (aka H.265) co-exist in production pipelines?

Those are just a few questions that a recent survey sought to answer, with the results being published this month in a joint effort by Unisphere Research, Streaming Media magazine, and sponsor Beamr

The survey, titled Real-World HEVC Insights: Adoption, Implications, and Workflows, covers topics around workflows and production pipelines and was designed to move past the question of whether High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) will be adopted, addressing the implications this may have on other codecs and how to best modify existing workflows to take full advantage of the additional encoding capabilities inherent in HEVC.

Survey questions and subsequent analysis was crafted by the report's author, Timothy Siglin, a Streaming Media contributing editor and founding executive director of the not-for-profit Help Me Stream Corporation

"To say that interest in this topic is high might just be the understatement of the year," wrote Siglin, adding that the survey had "a 92% completion rate that is far above the typical completion rate that we've seen for Unisphere-Streaming Media  surveys in the past two years."

Siglin was especially curious about the adoption of HEVC in to existing workflows and encoding or transcoding production pipelines that have been dominated by AVC over the past decade.

"Video distributors are benefiting from integration of the HEVC codec into existing H.264 production workflows," wrote Siglin. "This mixed use of codecs in an existing encoding pipeline shows that HEVC adoption is being driven as much by technical ease of integration as by any specific business strategy."

Survey responses were completed before HEVC Advance, one of the two patent pool licensing companies for HEVC patent owners, announced that it would be foregoing royalties on any non-physical digital content delivery, including streaming delivery of HEVC content.

"Even before the HEVC patent and royalty issues were settled," said Siglin, "interest in HEVC had moved beyond 'what if?' and more towards 'How?' for encoder tests and production pipeline pilot projects."

The survey segmented responses over a series of stages, from Stage 0 respondents, who had not tried HEVC encoding solutions, to Stage 4, where HEVC was already implemented in a production pipeline. In between were stages where planning had begun, encoder evaluations had started, or pilot projects had been greenlit for both HEVC-only standalone tests and integrated AVC-HEVC workflows.

Of those who had moved into production (Stage 4), more than half of the respondents said they were using HEVC integrated into an existing AVC encoding pipeline.

Another third had implemented HEVC in workflows separate from existing AVC encoding pipelines.

The why and how of these implementation choices are detailed in the survey report, as is a discussion of two other codecs, VP9 and AV1, and the implication of their roles as alternative codecs to replace AVC.

The full report can be obtained from Beamr and Streaming Media at the following link: http://go.beamr.com/HEVC-industry-Insights.

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