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Video: How to Assess and Compare the Value of Next-Gen Codecs

Learn more about emerging codecs at Streaming Media's next event.

Watch the complete video of this panel, DT102A: Managing Transition to HEVC/VP9/AV1 with Multi-Codec Streaming, in the Streaming Media Conference Video Portal.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Paul MacDougall: Going through the real reasons why we're looking at this codec value--of course, the support for HDR 4K, the bandwidth efficiencies for that. I really love that users have that higher-quality experience over the same connection that they can have.

Then, of course, for many operators, the reduced storage costs. You get around that by having the smaller files on your origin storage on your CDN, you're going to have less bits to keep around. And, of course, if you get into those larger codecs, or those larger frame sizes like 4K, with the greater bit depth, those are going to have substantially larger files, so you really do need to have that kind of efficient codec to deliver there.

We can take a look at what some of that efficiency looks like in the real world. Some of the research that we've done around this, we can start out with H.264 there in the middle of the image, on the left side, there. We can see about an 8 Mbps 1080p as our reference point. We can compare that, then, to VP9. The 1080p will get similar visual quality at about 5.6 Mbps, and HEVC is somewhat more efficient than that, getting a similar visual quality at about 4 Mbps, so about half that bandwidth span that you get over H.264. Of course, that also lets you reach your mobile users, your users on lower-speed connections, with that higher-quality end-user experience.

On the right, here, this is a chart that really shows you what the efficiencies are like on a broader range of bitrates, and a broader range of PSNR values. For those not familiar, PSNR is Perceived Signal-to-Noise Ratio. It's an attempt at a quantitative metric for determining what that visual quality is. There's a great deal of debate in the industry. In fact, there's a whole bunch of people out on the show floor over there that could get into all kinds of very religious arguments about what metrics are most appropriate there. But conversationally, PSNR is a really good metric to just kind of talk about what we see here.

To help you guys understand this a little bit, looking at the bottom of the chart here, this is the bit rate in kilobits for a video asset. And then, this is the perceived quality over here. And what we can do is, we can take a look at H.264 here, being this low curve here, and then we have our codecs, for instance, HEVC in this gray line, VP9 in orange, and AV1 in blue. The goal, with any of these codecs, is to try and make this curve as far as possible to the left. That means that you're going to be getting values that are the highest visual perceived quality, for the lowest bit spend there.

What we see here is there's quite a separation of these next-generation codecs from H.264 across these metrics here. And when we get up into these higher bitrates, even more dramatic separations out there, which is going to be critical for those 4K, for those HDR workflows, that are really going to be letting you reach those audiences on those, you know, the fancy new 4K TVs and so forth, that they want to see all that best content in.

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