H264 vs AV1 vs H265 What is the best CODEC?

There has always been a battle over codecs, but nowadays, with the advent of streaming, they have become even more important, in order to transmit with high quality and without causing delays in connections. So, we’re going to look at three of today’s most popular video codecs in our H264 vs AV1 vs H265 battle . That way you will know which one is best for you according to your needs…

Index of contents

  • What is H.264?
    • Advantages:
    • Disadvantages
  • What is H.265?
    • Advantages
    • Disadvantages
  • What is AV1?
    • Advantages
    • Disadvantages
    • H264 vs AV1 vs H265: pruebas
      • Encoding time (seconds)
      • Times Real Time (seconds)
    • Conclusion: H264 vs AV1 vs H265
        • codec
        • Licensor
        • Codec royalties
        • Royalty exemptions
        • Annual royalty limit
        • Content distribution fee

AV1 has become something of a panacea for many, which is why the new AMD and NVIDIA GPUs include hardware encoding engines for this video codec.

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What is H.264?

The H.264 codec , also known as MPEG-4 AVC, is a video compression codec that allows video to be compressed so that it can be transmitted over the Internet more easily. What this codec does is use an advanced technology to analyze the parts of the foreground, background and static areas to avoid being redundant content, thus it manages to reduce the size of the videos.

Advantages:

Regarding the advantages that this type of H.264 codec can bring, we must highlight:

  • Efficient:This video codec is 2 times more efficient and 3 times smaller in file size than MPEG-2 codecs. Therefore, this allows the transmissions to be lighter and faster. That consumes less bandwidth and can work fine on slower connections.
  • Compression Rate:It has the best compression rate compared to JPEG and MJPEG4 formats.
  • Suitable for slow motion:being extremely efficient, it allows you to record this type of video in slow motion, which is really recorded with a fast camera.
  • Good video quality:This codec offers high image quality and clarity.
  • Great integration:264 is easy to integrate into a wide range of image formats, making it the widely used data compression/decompression format supported by many devices.
  • Real-time video streaming:It also allows you to use real-time formats for streaming video, which is great for streaming. It could even allow cameras to stream directly over the Internet.
  • Savings in storage:by reducing the size of the video, very good qualities can be achieved with up to 50% of the original size.

Disadvantages

Not all are advantages in this H.264 codec, in its battle with H.265 and AV1, we also have to keep in mind its disadvantages:

  • Compatibility issues:Being complex, not all systems and devices can support it, so it is likely that we will run into compatibility issues in some cases, and have to be forced to use other older formats that are standard, such as H .263 or H.261.
  • Inconsistency:Compression can result in inconsistent image quality that can be very good in some scenes and not so good in others.
  • Hardware overhead –Requires more CPU overhead compared to other video compression codecs. The amount of CPU time required is directly proportional to the quality of the compressed video.
  • Licensing and Costs– Because it is a proprietary codec, licensing agreements for it can be complicated, and it requires royalties to be used legally by software or hardware developers. Of course, this additional cost will also end up being passed on to the end user in some way.
  • Error Resilience:For maximum compression, another layer is added to deal with bit errors, and thus could affect bitrate.
  • Artifacts:these types of deformations or failures may sometimes appear in the image of some scenes.
  • Latency:The H.264 AVC codec introduces high latency to the devices used. This depends on the power of the hardware, but could be a problem on computers with fewer resources.

What is H.265?

As the most advanced video compression standard, H.265 is superior to H.264 in many ways. It is also known as MPEG-H Part 2 or “High Efficiency Video Coding” ( HEVC ). This format would arrive ten years later than the previous AVC, that is, in 2013.

Compared to the predecessors of the H.265 codec, even more powerful hardware is required . Therefore, broadcasters, streamers and others will need better equipment to use this video encoding and decoding standard.

H.265 supports today’s most widely used video streaming protocols, including RTSP, MPEG-TS, and HLS.

Advantages

To see the advantages of the H.265 codec , we are going to highlight the following points:

  • It consumes half the bit ratewhen streaming live content compared to an H.264-based encoder. This means that if it takes bandwidth or internet speed to stream 8 Mbps 1080p video with H.264, with the new H.265 it would take just 4 Mbps for that same video resolution. Therefore, it is a great option for networks with limited or slow data. This is especially positive in mobile data that has additional costs, since it will consume a lower rate.
  • Thanks to the H.265 codec, they can now stream 720P at 1.5 Mbps instead of the previous limit of 480P at 1.5 Mbps, giving viewers a better viewing experience.
  • Last but not least, while H.265 playback support and worldwide demand is still rising and reaching more systems and devices, what is true is that it has become one of the favorite formats .and with better support, both on televisions, computers, OTT platforms, streaming services, etc. All of them have adopted it as a next generation standard, so a great future is expected for this codec.

Disadvantages

Although the H.265 codec has many benefits, it also has some drawbacks. Among the most prominent disadvantages we have:

  • Being newer than H.264, it still has compatibilityissues in some cases. In addition, some video editing applications continue to support older codecs. Especially on older software and hardware, which more than likely won’t accept it. Indeed, if we talk about mobile devices, then in the case of Apple, it was supported on the A9 SoC, before that it was not possible to use it on iPads and iPhones.
  • HEVC video encoding takes a long time. HEVC’s higher encoding efficiency comes at a significant cost, so you’ll also need powerful hardware to make it smooth and fast. It consumes much more resources than other encryption methods like H264/VP9.
  • High license fees and royalties, another of the things that also prevent it from expanding.

What is AV1?

Now we move on to the next one, one of the most promising and that everyone is talking about today. AOMedia Video 1 , or AV1 for short, is an open, royalty-free video codec used to compress and decompress video content, and is perfect for streaming. That is why the entire industry has turned its gaze towards him, above the previous ones.

It was first released in 2018 and was designed to be used with real-time data (like streaming apps) and higher resolutions like Ultra HD, Wide Color Gamut, and high frame rates or FPS. As AV1 compresses data, it allows users to stream data more efficiently and with fewer performance issues compared to other similar codecs, resulting in fluency with no stutter.

It was developed by the Alliance for Open Media , whose members include Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Mozilla, Google, Intel, and Microsoft. Therefore, given its advantages and support, it could become a widespread standard. In fact, many next-generation graphics cards, such as the new AMD Radeon RX 7000 Series or NVIDIA GeGorce RTX 30 Series onwards, already integrate hardware for this AV1 codec. And there is also talk of joining other processing units and SoCs.

AV1’s goal is to make streaming more efficient and faster without compromising quality, which becomes increasingly important as the video industry begins to use higher resolution content such as 4K and 8K. , if you need to require a much faster Internet connection.

Being free, AV1 does not require license fees to access it , making it easy to implement in software and hardware. This did not happen with the two previous codecs, which needed royalties to be able to use them, being owners…

Advantages

We now move on to the advantages of the AV1 video codec , which are too succulent not to use it. For example, it is necessary to highlight:

  • AV1 is ideal for content producersas it is royalty-free, which reduces the cost of editing software, hardware, and avoids potential patent infringement claims or lawsuits.
  • Being so efficient and optimized for the Internetreduces the amount of data consumed to be stored or forwarded, which has a positive impact on both local computers and servers. In fact, it can output better quality video without requiring as much space as its rivals like Google’s VP9 and H.264.
  • It also allows you to use high resolutions such as 4K and HDR for video in real time, and even 8K. AV1 is currently 30% more compression efficient than HEVC or H.265. And with the help of the hardware accelerators that we have talked about, much better.

Disadvantages

There are some drawbacks to the AV1 format despite its increasing popularity. Some disadvantages are:

  • You need hardware encoding/decodingto produce good results. Therefore, you should have hardware compatible with it to get a good experience. This has perhaps slowed down its expansion for the time being. However, many TVs, Android devices, PC GPUs, as well as PlayStation 4 Pro support it. Qualcomm has also announced that it will support it in its SoCs from 2023. Therefore, the picture will change for the better progressively. Many use Apple devices, a company that, despite being a founding member of the alliance that carries AV1, has been reluctant to implement it on their devices. Therefore, those who use this mark will be relegated to not using it for the moment.
  • Another drawback is that although AV1 is better at compressing video than other codecs, it takes much longer to encode the content, about three times as long as HEVC.

H264 vs AV1 vs H265: pruebas

It’s important to look at some data on AV1’s strengths and weaknesses against its rivals, to determine if it’s the right codec. For this, we have put a table with the results of using FFmpeg at max speed 3000~6000K, 8-core 2-pass CPU and GeForce RTX 40 series Ada Lovelace GPU (NVENC):

Encoding time (seconds)

Times Real Time (seconds)

AV1 736 147
x265 289 58
LibVPx 226 45
x264 18 4

As you can see, the AV1 is slower when it comes to encoding content compared to its rivals, even up to three times slower than some of its rivals. And in real time it can also be up to three times slower in some cases. This is a considerable time.

But watch out! This data is due to using AV1 with hardware acceleration disabled . In this way, the content can be played on many devices without compatibility problems. Although with hardware acceleration enabled, this data will improve considerably. Without the support of hardware engines, a lot of encoding performance is sacrificed. Therefore, we must not give up on AV1 so soon…

Regarding decoding speed , it has been tested with a Y4M format with FFmpeg script to test its speed with the same hardware as above. The results in this case have also shown a higher hardware overhead for AV1, although this is normal as it is still less mature than its rivals.

As you well know, the AV1 codec was released in 2018 , that is, it is very recent. Therefore, it is in full development in terms of its commercial use. The companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple that are behind it will try to force it on all devices so the future is bright as many hardware products are expected to have native acceleration for those results the only point weak, disappear.

Conclusion: H264 vs AV1 vs H265

codec

Licensor

Codec royalties

Royalty exemptions

Annual royalty limit

Content distribution fee

HEVC MPEG LA $0.20/unit First 100K units every year 25 million US dollars 0$
HEVC HEVC Advance Region 1:
• $0.40(mobile)
• $1.20 (TV 4K)
• $0.20-0.80
Region 2:
• $0.20(mobile)
• $0.60 (TV 4K)
• $0.20-0.40
• $25,000 each year
• Most HEVC software implementations are distributed to consumer devices after the first sale.
40 million US dollars Physical Distribution:
• $0.225 per disc/title (Region 1)
• $0.01125 per disc/title (Region 2)
$0.20-0.80
Non-Physical Distribution:
• $0
HEVC Technicolor Custom agreements Custom agreements Custom agreements 0$
AV1 Alliance for OpenMedia no royalties N / A N / A 0$

Taking all this into account, it should be noted that if you are looking for a good codec optimized for the Internet, the two best options are to use HEVC or H.265, or AV1 . Instead, as we have said, AV1 needs a system that supports it and that could be its biggest Achilles heel. So, if you don’t have a system with AV1 support, what remains is to opt for H.265 or VP9 as an alternative.

However, whenever you have the possibility to use AV1, it is better to use this codec, since the quality and compression results are superior to all its rivals. This will allow you to create higher quality content and attract more users to your streaming platforms.

Little by little the landscape will change, and more and more streamers and services or platforms of this type will take advantage of the benefits of AV1, since they are eagerly looking for a codec that, on the one hand, allows them to transmit with good quality without high demands on bandwidth. or data, and on the other hand, they need the videos stored in their content libraries not to take up too much space on the servers in the data centers. And for that, AV1 is perfect.

On the other hand, it is scalable to any modern device at any bandwidth and is designed with a low computational footprint and optimized for the Internet. AV1 is capable of delivering consistent, highest- quality, real-time video and is flexible for commercial and non-commercial content, including user-generated content.

The technical advantage that AV1 has, with its Achilles heel in some domain, has become the topic of discussion for a long time. Several debates are surrounding the argument that AV1 is a capable codec for the future . And the answer is positive. Its superiority and performance have become clear, which is why we will see it have a brutal expansion in the coming years.

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Also, the burgeoning industry of content creators, or streamers, will surely be delighted with the AV1 codec, as it can lower the bitrate with compression without affecting graphical quality, while on the other hand, the ability to encoding and decoding will not be too obvious a problem for users, as they will offer a good experience, without slow and choppy playback.

 

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