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Video: Battle of the Codecs: AVC vs. HEVC in 2016

If you have plans to deliver 4K video when the UHD standard goes mainstream, a migration to HEVC is almost certainly in your future. But should you make the jump now with the HD video you're delivering today? Should you convert your VOD archives? Avni Rambhia,  Frost & Sullivan Industry Principal, Digital Media, tackles the pros and cons of taking the HEVC plunge and charts the future of both codecs in this excerpt from her presentation at Streaming Media East 2016.

Watch Avni Rambhia's full presentation at Streaming Media East 2016.

Read the complete transcript of the clip above:

Avni Rambhia: Every codec is fine-tuned for a certain resolution, and a certain application. If you're doing HD resolution or lower, there's no reason to switch away from AVC. The codecs are tested, the players work, the streams work, the DRM works, the analytics work, the advertising works. There is no reason to switch. There is even less reason to re-encode an entire humongous library that you may already have in existence. You can't do just-in-time transcoding very efficiently with HEVC.

The killer app for HEVC has always been 4K, and there's a new killer app in its arsenal: HDR.

As for 4K grows, and it is growing, I have I think the Indian Professional League, NASA, DirecTV, SwissCom, Rogers out in Canada with the National Hockey League, SkyVR with the Skycube boxes, Dish. With a list of people who are launching 4K, services are going to continue to grow.

HEVC is growing, but at a slow rate. HDR is also going to grow, but slowly; it's really hard to produce and create.

Finally, HEVC is slow. If you were to throw a CPU today at AVC and at HEVC, the gap between state-of-the-art AVC encoders and state-of-the-art HEVC encoders is not a 50% reduction, or a 100% reduction in bandwidth. It's a 15% reduction in bandwidth. AVC will hit an asymptote a lot faster, over time, by 2018 or 2020. HEVC's side of the bargain will get stronger because it will continue to improve in compression efficiency.

As of today, the gains that you're making in HEVC are more or less comparable to the gains you're making in AVC, so you have to keep that in mind as you're comparing the two as well. Finally, I know there's a lot of chatter about, "Well, if you can cut the bandwidth in half, your distribution costs go down by half; that's a big deal."

CDN pricing is dropping by half. The spread between the highest-priced contracts and the lowest-priced contracts gets wider and wider every year. If you can go through a wholesaler, or if you can negotiate a better contract, or if you can find a better CDN, it's a zero impact to the workflow method of reducing your bandwidth bill.

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