IEEE Spectrum

Battle of the Video Codecs: Coding-Efficient VVC vs. Royalty-Free AV1

Video is taking over the world. It’s projected to account for 82 percent of Internet traffic by 2022. And what started as an analog electronic medium for moving visuals has transformed into a digital format viewed on social media platforms, video sharing websites, and streaming services.

As video evolves, so too does the video encoding process, which applies compression algorithms to raw video so the files take up less space, making them easier to transmit and reducing the bandwidth required. Part of this evolution involves developing new codecs—encoders to compress videos plus decoders to decompress them for playback—to support higher resolutions, modern formats, and new applications such as 360-degree videos and virtual reality.

Today’s dominant standard, HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), was finalized in 2013 as a joint effort between the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG). HEVC was designed to have better coding efficiency over the existing Advanced Video Coding (AVC) standard, with tests showing an average of 53 percent lower bit rate than AVC while still achieving the same subjective video quality. (Fun fact: HEVC was recognized with an Engineering Emmy Award in 2017 for enabling “efficient delivery in Ultra High Definition (UHD) content over multiple distribution channels,” while AVC garnered the same award in 2008.)

HEVC may be the incumbent, but two emerging options—VVC and AV1—could upend it.

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