Why HEVC is even better than you think

A comparison between H264 and HEVC at low bitrate

A couple of days ago, I decided to make a very simple comparison between the H264 and HEVC (or H265) codecs. Everybody knows that HEVC is (far) superior, and my guess is it will be the future most popular codec in the video industry despite the patent nightmare around it.

But I wanted to know how the user experience will improve when this codec will be mainstream. I don’t know for you but, I’d rather watch a degraded version of a video instead of a “buffering” message popping up every 5 seconds destroying the whole experience.

The Test

I choose the well known Big Buck Bunny movie as the source video for the test which consists of encoding the video at 800kbit/s with H264 and HEVC codecs in Full HD.

So I’ll make this quick, here is the result in one GIF:

H264 1080p @ 800kbps (pixelated) | HEVC 1080p @ 800kbps

It doesn’t come as a surprise: the HEVC codec is way better. It is so superior that I wanted to try again with an even lower bitrate just because I’m curious!

A crazy test at 400kbit/s

To get an okay quality with H264 1080p, I advise to use 1500–2000kbps as the bare minimum. At 800bkps, the quality is still very good to me, so let’s try with an impossible low bitrate of 400kbps.

I’ve found the result quite surprising:

H264 1080p @ 400kbps | HEVC 1080p @ 400kbps

Wow the HEVC quality is impressive, I didn’t expect such a difference! Look at the H264 version, the pictures are very pixelated compared to HEVC. The grass and hair are still very clear with the HEVC codec! It‘s like H264 @ 1500k.

To go further, I compared the same images with different bitrates. Mind blown 💥

H264 1080p @ 800kbps | HEVC 1080p @ 400kbps

In motion ☄

The HEVC codec is doing an amazing job with static scenes at very low bitrate but needless to say that it isn’t that performant when the scenes have a lot of motion. In this example, the trunk is still clear but the leafs are not.

HEVC 1080p @ 400kbps in a scene with motion

What will change with HEVC

Photo by Ninara https://flic.kr/p/o8ssAu

As we saw with the test, the HEVC codec is pretty good at a very low bitrate and I am sure it will change a lot for both people around the world and companies really soon:

  1. The overall quality will be dramatically increased. We will watch videos in Full HD on our phone most of the time, if not all the time.
  2. Video services like YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook will save ~40% of bandwidth and storage. HUGE.
  3. Emerging countries with a poor Internet connection will finally enjoy Full HD streaming quality.

Links

Here are the download links of the videos so you can see by yourself:

Tests made with Coconut encoding service 🌴