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Heil The New xVC Heir: HVC

January 20, 2010 | Chris Payatagool
christian.timmerer.jpgGuest post by Christian Timmerer

[I've been asked often, during the past two years, what's next on the video coding front. Some people are asking about H.265, the natural heir of the current king H.264; others are just wondering where we're going. To be honest, even for a video coding guy keeping up with the latest trends and turns in the video coding world is a complicated task.

But the "next generation" of video coding is a very interesting topic, not to mention very relevant for this blog. So I asked Christian Timmerer, who I have been following on-line via his excellent blog and twitter, to try and explain where we're going and what's next in the video coding world.]

VideoOverEnterprise.jpgThe xVC Era

VC stands for many things these days - Venture Capital and Video Conferencing to name a few. But VC in the multimedia community means Video Coding, the science behind the many uses of video in our everyday lives.

In a keynote speech at ICUIMC'08 Fernando Pereira asked "is there a xVC virus?". He referred to the "era of xVC" that conquered the mainstream multimedia community, where "x" stands for A, S, M and many other letters, as I will briefly discuss here.

First there was AVC, the Advanced Video Coding standard, also known as ITU-T H.264 and MPEG-4 Part 10. Its first version was published in 2003, providing 50% more compression efficiency compared to previous video coding standards (or in other words: providing the same quality using less than half the bits).

In 2007 came SVC, the Scalable Video Coding extension to AVC, enabling one to code multiple versions of the same video (in terms of resolution, frame rate and bit rate) using one bitstream, while keeping the overhead at a reasonable level.

Next we have MVC, a Multi-view Video Coding extension, which enables efficient coding of 3D video using multiple viewpoints and directions to create a depth impression of a scene and an interactive selection of views within a certain range.

There is actually more xVC standards, such as Reconfigurable Video Coding (RVC) and Distributed Video Coding (DVC), but these are quite hardcore... I would like to focus on the efforts towards a "mainstream" next generation coding standard, one that would enable higher resolutions, higher frame rates and higher quality, without losing coding efficiency (and possibly keeping the 50% improvement compared to previous standards). These efforts are currently called HVC - High-performance Video Coding.

An introduction to HVC

The main purpose of HVC is to come up with a new generation of video compression technology, that enables substantially higher compression capability than the existing AVC standard. The activity started with a vision to address the next generation of ultra-HD (UHD) devices (displays and cameras) already appearing on the horizon, while providing better support for mobile terminals, where the video quality at low resolutions, frame rates, and bit rates today is largely unacceptable.

Ultra HD vs. High Definition resolution comparison

Therefore, ISO/IEC MPEG and ITU-T SG16 Q6/16, the leading standardization bodies in this domain (and yes - they've renewed their collaboration), are currently pursuing a Call for Proposals, which will be finalized in January 2010, with responses evaluated in April 2010. The requirements for HVC range are for better compression performance over:

    * Higher picture formats (potentially from QVGA to 8Kx4K, or UHD)
    * Higher frame rates (24 to 60 fps)
    * Variable color spaces (YCbCr/RGB) and color sampling (4:4:4 up to 14 bits per component)

while maintaining low delay, error resiliency, scalability and more.

The competitive phase of the standardization process (i.e., from the starting point until a Committee Draft is reached) has a more or less detailed timeline defining how/when to register/submit responses to the call and how they are going to be evaluated.

For evaluation purposes, a couple of video sequences have been defined, covering a range of specifications (and uses), ranging from 2560×1600 sequences of street cameras (Class A) to various 416×240p clips (Class D) to [email protected] streams (Class E).

It is probably worth noting that submissions to Class A will be evaluated based on PSNR and rate only, whereas submissions for other classes will be evaluated by means of a formal subjective assessment as well. The reason for doing so is that subjective tests are quite expensive. The tests will be conducted in different institutes, such as FUB, EBU and EPFL.

A New Standard Is Coming... Stay Tuned!

The HVC efforts have already begun. Based on the current timeline, one can expect the new standard to be available around the end of 2012/beginning of 2013. This may seem far away, but as many video infrastructure products have a 2 year design process, this is very relevant to today's design efforts.

And so we are looking forward to a new and very exciting xVC episode, and it will be very interesting to see how the new standard evolves and whether it will fit today's expectations. Thus, stay tuned!

[Chrisitan Timmerer is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Information Technology (ITEC) - Multimedia Communication Group. His research topics include multimedia content transport, multimedia adaptation in constrained and streaming environments and Quality of Experience. He has published more than 50 papers in these areas, and is an editorial board member of the Encyclopedia of Multimedia, the ACM/Springer International Journal on Multiemedia Tools and Applications, and associate editor for IEEE Computer Science Computing Now.]

Want to keep up with HVC?  Here are a few useful web sites and blogs:

    * Leonardo Chiariglione's website ( and blog (
    * (
    * Iain Richardson's blog: (
    * Daniele Alfonso's blog: (
    * And my personal blog:


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