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VVC Standard Could Shrink 4K Video Streams to Fit Slow Broadband Lines

Monday, April 30th, 2018 (2:21 pm) - Score 2,386
internet_and_multimedia_uk

A future video standard called Versatile Video Coding (VVC), which could potentially make it possible to squeeze a high quality 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) video stream down a fairly slow broadband ISP line, is in the early stages of development at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

At present many modern 4K Ultra HD video streams tend to require a stable broadband download speed of around 15-25Mbps (excluding the impact of HDR and frame rates faster than 30fps), which varies depending upon factors such as the level of compression, type of content being displayed at any given moment, caching, the standard being used and so forth. For example, Netflix recommends around 25Mbps and YouTube suggests 15Mbps.

However technology, both in terms of hardware and software, is always moving forward and so the ITU recently setup a new Joint Video Experts Team to develop VVC, which will aim to supersede modern codecs like H.265 HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding). This is important because video makes up around 80% of all online content consumed.

The primary objective of VVC is to provide a significant improvement in compression performance over the existing ‘High Efficiency Video Coding’ standard,” said the ITU in a statement. Last year a ‘Call for Proposals’ was issued as part of this project and 32 organisations responded, with the ITU noting last week that some had demonstrated “compression efficiency gains over HEVC of 40% or more.”

Apparently the gain was measured in extensive formal subjective tests conducted by independent test labs. Both 360° omnidirectional video and HDR video were tested as well as conventional dynamic range video. Particular effectiveness was shown on Ultra-High Definition (UHD) video test material.

The results of this “very successful call” led to the creation of a first draft of the VVC standard, a test model for simulation experiments, and a technology benchmark set for the VVC project. The work is on-going and the new standard isn’t expect to be completed until before the end of 2020, although the ITU already expects VVC to “enable the delivery of UHD services at bit rates that today are used to carry HDTV.”

Considering that it’s currently possible to push smooth HD video streams across broadband connections of around 2-6Mbps (varying by resolution, content type, compression quality, audio etc.) then the ITU’s claim might sound radical, although we’ve seen similar jumps in the past (see our 2016 article on the ‘Importance of Video Compression to Broadband ISP Speeds‘).

Obviously for those on slow broadband lines the advantage of using a video compression method like VVC should be clear. This is of course the reason why many modern video streaming services look so much better today than they did a few years ago and all without you needing to upgrade your internet connection. VVC is promising a similar sort of leap as we’ve seen in the past.

As usual there can be caveats to such developments, such as the fact that more complicated compression methods tend to require more powerful processors (CPUs). This isn’t such an issue for desktop systems and modern Smartphones probably won’t have to worry either, although some internet connected TVs or other set-top-box devices may struggle.

At the same time we may be seeing more 8K quality displays coming onto the market in 2020. The cycle of video standards has always seen improvements in compression being matched by improvements elsewhere in quality.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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7 Responses
  1. Avatar dave

    meh, won’t be that much better than AV1. AV2 will probably be ratified 1yr after VVC i suspect and that will likely have similar performance but no licensing fees.

  2. Avatar nt

    Patented video codecs are dead in the water after the HEVC licensing fiasco.

  3. Avatar Dragon

    Most stb type devices actually have relatively weak general purpose CPUs and dedicated hardware decoders for HD video

  4. Avatar MikeW

    Moore’s law strikes again…

  5. Avatar CarlT

    I’m interested to see how the quality is. I highly doubt the compression is lossless and eventually a 2160p video stream will be compressed to the point where it’s inferior to a 1080p stream.

    TL;DR 2160p is worthless if compressed so heavily picture quality is overly compromised.

    • You always lose something with compression but I’ve generally found big savings when using H.265 vs H.264 etc. and, once you find the right settings, it becomes hard to tell the difference in quality between the two. Ultimately the balance is up to the end-user but just look at how far we’ve come since the days of low res video CDs.

  6. Avatar Salek

    The higher the resolution, the higher the probability for redundant or indistinguishable picture information that could be chucked away through compression,

    Of course as many people know there is point where compressed to much you start to get blocking artefacts,

    Even if they can get the compression ratio down to 10mbits for 4k it means more people will be able to get such services and maybe be even multiple streams on a super-fast connection,

    Roll on the new codec

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