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HEVC (H.265) vs. AVC (H.264): What's the Difference?

AVC (H.264)?

H.264 (also called AVC, or Advanced Video Coding) is an industry standard for video compression that allows for the recording, compression, and distribution of digital video content.

What is HEVC (H.265)?

H.265 is newer and more advanced than H.264 in several ways. H.265 (also called HEVC, or High Efficiency Video Coding) allows for further reduced file size, and therefore reduced required bandwidth, of your live video streams.

 

H.265 compared to H.264

The H.265 codec compresses information more efficiently than H.264, resulting in files of comparable video quality that are about half the size.

The benefits of this are twofold: H.265 video files don’t take up as much storage space, and they require less bandwidth to stream. This is a big advantage especially when it comes to storing and streaming 4K video and other high-resolution video content.

What accounts for this difference is how each video compression standard processes frames. H.264 uses what are called macroblocks, processing units that span 4×4 to 16×16 pixels. H.265 uses a newer block structure called coding tree units (CTUs), which can process sizes of up to 64×64 pixels.

There are other technological enhancements at work, such as superior motion compensation and spatial prediction. But the shift from macroblocks to CTUs is the most significant contributor to H.265’s greater efficiency.

Required bandwidth for broadcasting in 4K:

AVC

  32 mbps

   

HEVC

  15 mbps

       

mbps: Megabits per second

Because H.265 compresses your data so much more efficiently, using it as your video compression tool will drop your bandwidth and storage requirements by roughly 50%. The table below compares the recommended bandwidth for H.264 vs. H.265 encoding. 

Recommended bandwidth for video encoding:

Resolution

Minimum Upload Speed*

H.264

H.265

480p

1.5 mbps

0.75 mbps

720p

3 mbps

1.5 mbps

1080p

6 mbps

3 mbps

4K

32 mbps

15 mbps

*These values are rough estimates based on stable network environments, calculating upload requirements is very subjective and depends on a number of factors.
mbps: Megabits per second

H.264 vs. H.265: Which is better?

The whole point of H.265 is to succeed H.264. So why isn’t everyone using it?

What H.265 offers in efficiency it demands in processing power. Advanced hardware is needed not only to create H.265 video files but also to decode them for playback. This limits who can benefit from H.265’s superior efficiency to those with the right gear. It’s why H.264 is still the go-to codec for many.

That said, there are plenty of current-day video applications where H.265 encoding is an asset, particularly those involving 4K. Plus, the number of content consumers with H.265-capable hardware continues to grow. It’s only a matter of time before H.265 fulfills its purpose and succeeds H.264.

 

 


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