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The new H.266 codec from Fraunhofer promises to cut the cost of streaming 4K videos in half

The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, electrical engineering and computer science department of the prestigious German research organization, announced on Tuesday VVC, a new video codec standard that promises an efficiency increase of around 50 percent in streaming video compression.

The full name of the codec is H.266 / Versatile Video Coding, because according to Fraunhofer it should be a successor to the industry standard formats H.264 / Advanced Video Coding (AVC) and H.265 / High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). Together they do it around 90 percent of the worldwide digital video transmission and compression in the market today. While HEVC was first released in 201

3, the codec has proven controversial due to aggressive patent litigation by its various interest groups. For this reason, AVC, the predecessor of HEVC, remains the dominant standard despite its first release in 2003.

According to Fraunhofer, VVC could be a way for the industry, as almost every major hardware and software company is currently involved in a chaotic patent licensing system that dictates how much different stakeholders have to pay to use different compression and transmission standards for devices and websites, and Apps. According to Fraunhofer, with VVC you can achieve something far better than AVC and HEVC without having the license problems.

“By reducing data requirements, H.266 / VVC makes video transmission in cellular networks (where data capacity is limited) more efficient. For example, the previous H.265 / HEVC standard requires 10 gigabytes of data to transmit a 90-minute UHD video, ”says the Fraunhofer press release. “With this new technology, only 5 gigabytes of data are required to achieve the same quality. Since H.266 / VVC was developed for high-definition video content, the new standard is particularly advantageous when 4K or 8K videos are streamed on a flat screen TV. In addition, H.266 / VVC is ideal for all types of moving images: from high-resolution 360 ° video panoramas to content for screen sharing. “

The parent organization of Fraunhofer – the Fraunhofer Society, which is made up of many smaller institutes such as Fraunhofer HHI and others – is best known in the world of standards for digital media as the creator of MP3. It also contributed greatly to the creation of J.264 and H.265. So the certainty of the research organization has a long and successful history in data compression. However, Fraunhofer does not mention in its press release the existence of AV1, an open source and license-free competitor of the HEVC standard created by the Open Media Alliance, which includes all five major US technology giants after Apple signed in early 2018. AV1 and its predecessor VP9 are an essential part of streaming 4K content from platforms like YouTube. Therefore, it is likely that these standards will continue to compete in the coming years.

It is not clear to what extent AV1, AVC, HEVC and VVC will coexist in the future, but Fraunhofer claims that the Media Coding Industry Forum – the industry consortium that includes Apple, Sony and others – is currently working on chip designs VVC support at hardware level. “This fall, Fraunhofer HHI will publish the first software (both for encoders and decoders) that supports H.266 / VVC,” said Thomas Schierl, head of the Video Coding and Analytics department at Fraunhofer HHI, in a statement.

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