NAB: Video Vendors Rally Around HEVC

Full-scale adoption of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC)/H.265 by video service providers remains years away, but vendors are using this week's NAB show in Las Vegas to trot out early-generation gear that supports the more efficient codec.

HEVC compression is expected provide up to a 50% efficiency gain over H.264/MPEG-4 without sacrificing video quality, making HEVC a logical candidate for mobile video applications and the eye-popping Ultra HD/4K video format. 

If it works as advertised, HEVC will enable pay TV operators, including over-the-top providers, to pack more video into a smaller swath of bandwidth and reduce the strain on wireless and wireline networks.

Here's a sampling of what's being demonstrated this week at NAB:

  • Following some handiwork it showed off at The Cable Show last May, Motorola Mobility is demonstrating real-time HEVC encoding and decoding, including an encoder delivering streaming video to a Google Nexus 10 tablet, HEVC HTTP live streaming to a fourth-generation Apple Inc. iPad, and an IP set-top box decoding HEVC content. "We're only two months into the approval of HEVC, and we've already reached an unprecedented level of progress," Joe Cozzolino, Motorola Mobility's SVP and GM of network Infrastructure, said in a statement.
  • Elemental Technologies will demonstrate real-time HEVC encoding, highlighted by an "HEVC Throwdown," whereby media companies and other potential customers are invited to drop by the booth to have their video encoded in the new format.  Elemental will also offer a side-by-side demo of H.265 and H.264 encoding to show off the quality improvements attainable with HEVC.
  • Harmonic will show off an advanced version its ProMedia adaptive bit rate multi-screen platform outfitted to support both HEVC and Ultra HD. Harmonic's demo will include both its ProMedia live real-time transcoders as well as ProMedia Xpress, a file-based version for video-on-demand applications.
  • Envivio has rolled out an HEVC Early Access Program for customers looking to implement the new encoding system, noting that HEVC for live or on-demand apps will be available for new installs or as a software-based upgrade for Envivio Muse customers that run encoding services on its 4Caster G4 appliance of HP blade servers. Envivio said it expects initial HEVC software deployments to begin with "selected customers" in the second quarter of 2013. At the show, Envivio will demonstrate HEVC encoder and decoder interoperability running on the Broadcom BCM7445 chip for home gateways and set-tops. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Broadcom announced that the BCM7445 decoder was ready for sampling, with volume production slated for mid-2014.

Not to pour cold water on all the excitement around HEVC, but the first phase of HEVC products are coming into play well ahead of significant deployments, so vendors are simply putting their stakes in the ground at this point.