H.266 Codec: What is Versatile Video Coding (VVC)?

Codec vs. Container

Video files are large, and streaming them over the internet would be very difficult if it weren’t for codecs. Codecs are continuously developing to optimize this technical workflow, and Versatile Video Coding is on the horizon when it comes to new and improved codecs.

In this post, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about H.266 and Versatile Video Coding (VVC). We will discuss the meaning of video codec and what it is used for. 

To get started, let’s quickly run through the basics of encoding and codecs. We will explore the future of video coding with VVC and one of the most common video codecs, H.266.

Table of Contents

  • What is Video Encoding?
  • What is a Codec?
  • What is H.266 or Versatile Video Coding (VVC)?
  • Uses of VVC
  • Benefits of Streaming with VVC
  • Is H.266 or VVC the Standard Codec?
  • VVC Hardware Compatibility: What Devices Support this Code Standard?
  • Pros and Cons of H.266 Codec
  • Lossless vs. Lossy Compression
  • Other Common Video Codecs
  • H.266 Video: Future Prospects
  • FAQs
  • Final Thoughts

What is Video Encoding?

video encoding

Video encoding is an essential part of the live streaming process.

Before we dive into H.266 or Versatile Video Coding, let’s set the stage by reviewing encoding.

Encoding is the process of converting a video from one file format to another. Typically, this is used to convert the RAW video files that your camera captures into digital files that can be streamed over the internet.

The encoding process requires the use of an encoder, which comes in the form of both hardware and software. Hardware encoders are dedicated devices that serve the sole purpose of encoding. They are fast and reliable, but they are also bulky and expensive.

Software encoders are programs that you run on your computer. The current software encoding options are nearly as powerful as hardware encoders, but they start at just a fraction of the price. In some cases, they are free.

One major benefit of software encoders over hardware encoders is that software can be routinely updated as new versions come out without requiring additional purchases. Hardware encoders, on the other hand, cannot be updated unless users buy a newer model.

Encoding is not to be confused with transcoding, which refers to creating duplicate copies, or renditions, of a video in different sizes. The purpose of video transcoding is to provide some flexibility for viewers with different internet speeds so that everybody can access HD streaming without lagging or buffering.

What is video encoding? It is the process of taking your RAW video files and converting them into digital files that can be easily shared over the internet.

What is a Codec?

Video Codecs

Codecs are used to compress video files, making them easier to send through the internet.

A codec is a technology that is used for encoding and decoding. The word “codec” derives from “coder-decoder.” Basically, this technology is used to condense chunks of data for easy transport and bring them back up to normal size once they’ve reached their destination.

There are different types of codecs for processing different types of media, but in this post, we’re covering video streaming codecs that are used in live streaming.

What is H.266 or Versatile Video Coding (VVC)?

Versatile Video Coding is one of the emerging video compression standards that is also known as VVC and H.266. The VVC codec is a block-based hybrid codec, which makes it highly complex and highly capable.

This standard was created by the Joint Video Experts Team (JVET) at ITU. This team set out to create a next-generation codec that would support the future of video streaming.

JVET started working on H.266 video codecs in the fall of 2017 and completed the final standard in July 2020. Even though VVC has been finalized for nearly a year, it is still not commonly used. Versatile video coding is very technically complex, and most standard streaming hardware is not yet equipped to use this codec.

VVC was created to work with developing technology for everything from 4K streaming to 16K streaming. To put this into perspective, 4K streaming is the best quality that most existing technology can handle at this point in time. Some streaming technology is capable of 5K streaming, and some streaming cameras can capture video in 6K. 16K streaming is definitely a futuristic vision at this point.

It is also important to note that there are some uncertainties about VVC codec licensing. At this point, it is unclear how a company should proceed to incorporate VVC into its program.

VVC is a new standard for compressing and sharing RAW video files in high-quality standards such as 4K.

Uses of VVC

In general, the VVC codec is used for video encoding. However, it has several other specific use cases, including video conferencing and OTT streaming. The main purpose is to make these types of streaming at 4K resolution.

Video conferencing and OTT streaming are both more important than ever, especially given the major cultural shifts we’ve seen over the past year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the world shut down to slow the spread of the virus, business operations, education, and other day-to-day activities moved online. Video conferencing made this possible. OTT streaming trends show that watching shows and movies on smart TVs via OTT broadcasting also became more popular at this time.

VVC can also be used for 360 streaming which is quite revolutionary. 360 streaming, which is also known as immersive video streaming, provides a more lifelike viewing experience. This type of streaming is becoming more popular in business since it makes it possible to connect with the audience on the next level.

What can H.266 or VVC be used for? It can be used for 4K streaming and 360 streaming as well.

Benefits of Streaming with VVC

The main benefit of streaming with VVC or H.266 coding is the ability to stream in 4K. However, it is not exclusively for 4K streaming. As the name suggests, the VVC codec is very versatile. It can support everything from ultra-low to ultra-high resolution videos.

Another major benefit of VVC coding is that it is significantly more capable of efficient data compression than other leading codecs. That is what helps it to process such large files.

There is also an idea swirling that VVC coding could provide benefits beyond online video streaming. Specifically, comments have been made on its potential value to the online gaming industry. It could speed up video gaming which would make collaborative play more effective.

VVC codec is great for streaming in 4K and for online video gaming.

Is H.266 or VVC the Standard Codec?

H.266 or VVC is not yet the standard codec for video streaming. In fact, it is not even compatible with many of the major live streaming platforms and other technology at this time.

Some industry leaders are predicting that this will be the standard video streaming codec eventually since it provides support that other codecs do not, but we still may be a few years off from this. It cannot become the standard until other video streaming technology catches up.

What is VCC? VVC is the future of video streaming codecs.

VVC Hardware Compatibility: What Devices Support this Code Standard?

Since VVC is a relatively new standard, only a few video streaming technologies support it. There are currently no devices that have hardware support for this codec, and only a few software solutions can decode using VVC in real-time.

Most high-end devices such as Samsung Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 5 have the processing power to play 1080p VVC videos. But according to recent findings presented at the NAB show, researchers needed to use AMD EPYC and Intel Xeon servers for 8K video playback.

This shows how important hardware decoding will be for ultra-high-definition VVC content.

Given what VVC can offer for an immersive streaming experience, most device manufacturers will likely include VVC support in their hardware in the future. 

For instance, VVC has garnered interest in the TV industry in the last two years since the technology was completed in July 2020. It’s highly preferred for streaming UHD content and transmission for television. 

In the future, the following devices are expected to support VVC content:

  • Smart TVs (LG 8K models already support VVC)
  • Smartphones and tablets
  • Streaming devices 
  • Newer laptop and computer models

Pros and Cons of H.266 Codec

Here are some pros and cons of this new video compression standard: 

Pros

  • Compared to the popular High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard, VVC or H.266 codec reduces bitrate requirements by 50%.
  • It offers improved coding efficiency compared to other codecs available in the market.
  • VVC is especially beneficial for live streaming ultra high definition resolution video assets like 4K, 8K, and 16K.
  • VVC encoding produces smaller video sizes that require minimal storage compared to HEVC or Advanced Video Coding (AVC) standards.
  • H.266 codec also supports 360-degree streaming as well as High Dynamic Range (HDR) videos.

Cons

  • The encoding and decoding process using the H.266 codec is relatively more complex compared to other standards.
  • Compared to other standards, VVC encoding speed is slow.
  • Given the disadvantages listed above, it may take a while before the H.266 codec becomes a mainstream algorithm that the general internet audience adopts.

Lossless vs. Lossy Compression

While we’re on the topic of video codecs, it is important to note the difference between lossless and lossy compression. Lossless and lossy compression both reduce file size. The difference is that lossy compression yields a more compact compressed video than lossless compression.

Lossy compression may remove some details which could impact video and image quality. On the other hand, lossless compression retains all the original data, so the videos and images are of the same quality.

Lossy compression is common for video streaming, and lossless compression is used more so in text and photo transportation.

VCC, for example, uses lossy compression.

Other Common Video Codecs

There are dozens of other video codecs available, but only a handful are commonly used. Let’s take a look at a couple of other common video codecs.

H.264

h.264 Advanced Video Coding (AVC)

There are a variety of other video codecs that broadcasters use, with H.264 being the standard.

What is H.264? H.264, which is also known as “Advanced Video Coding” and “AVC,” is a video codec. It is used for recording, compressing, and distributing video content over the internet. It is currently used by the vast majority of broadcasters since it is highly compatible with existing streaming technology. This technology has been around since 2003.

The H.264 codec is capable of streaming up to 8K, and it supports both lossy and lossless encoding.

At this time, H.264 is the primary codec that Dacast supports. Dacast also supports x264 which only does encoding and not decoding.

H.265

H.265, which is also known as “High-Efficiency Video Coding” and “HEVC,” is another codec. It is very similar to H.264, but it is 25-50% more efficient at compressing data.

H.265 is licensed with some of the largest technology companies around the world, which makes it pretty compatible with existing technology.

H.266 Video: Future Prospects

H.266 video offers significant improvements to uncompressed video as well as coding efficiency, meaning that it can deliver the same video quality at a lower bit rate.

With H.266, it’s possible to stream 4K and 8K video to devices with less powerful processors and less available bandwidth. VVC’s improved compression efficiency will also make it more feasible for virtual reality and augmented reality applications.

H.266 may also be used to improve the quality of existing video applications, such as webinars and online gaming.

Although H.266 or VVC is relatively new, it is gaining traction in the video industry. As an increasing number of devices and software start supporting VVC, it’s likely to become the dominant video compression standard in the coming years.

Here are a few industries that are likely to benefit from this codec more in the future.

H.266 Applications

It may be a while before this codec goes mainstream as it’s a massive technological stride. However, here are some major use cases for the VVC codec in different industries.

  • Live streaming: Quality streaming is always one of the top items that broadcasters focus on with their videos. VVC codec allows for high-quality video content that can be easily transmitted to even those viewers with a low internet capacity.
  • Video conferencing: Online video conferences have become a crucial part of our work life, especially since an increasing number of companies are fully or partially remote. With VVC codec, the quality of online meetings can be greatly improved, enabling better communication.
  • VR streaming: VVC is the most suitable standard for 360-degree streaming and VR.
  • SCC streaming: This mainly covers streaming with graphics, text, and animation content. 

Encoding Settings for Streaming with Dacast

encoder software

Encoder software settings are very important for any streaming setup.

How you configure your encoder settings plays a large role in determining the results of your broadcast. Certain configurations work better than others, and choosing the right video codec is just the start.

Here is a complete list of encoder settings that we recommend using for your live streaming setup if you want to ensure that your Dacast broadcast runs smoothly:

 

VIDEO CODECH.264 (x264 may work)
FRAME RATE25 or 30
KEYFRAME INTERVAL2 secs (or 2x frame rate)
SCANNINGProgressive
RATE CONTROLConstant (CBR)
AUDIO CODECAAC-LC
AUDIO BITRATE128 kbps
AUDIO CHANNELS2 (Stereo)
AUDIO SAMPLE RATE48 kHz (48,000 Hz)

Resolution & Bitrate Settings

In addition to the settings we mentioned above, your encoder settings can be manipulated to get your desired resolution and video bitrate.

Here are the combinations for achieving ultra-low definition, low definition, standard definition, high definition, and full high definition.

 

 ULDLDSDHDFHD
NameUltra-Low DefinitionLow DefinitionStandard DefinitionHigh DefinitionFull High Definition
Video Bitrate (kbps)350350 – 800800 – 12001200 – 19001900 – 4500
Resolution Width (px)42664085412801920
Resolution Height (px)2403604807201080
H.264 ProfileMainMainHighHighHigh

FAQs

1. What is H.266 video format?

H.266, also known as Versatile Video Coding, is a video compression standard developed by the Joint Video Experts Team. It is designed to compress video files while maintaining high video quality efficiently.

The H.266 video format allows you to enjoy high-quality videos while using less storage space or transmitting them more efficiently over the Internet.

2. What is the difference between H.265 and H.266?

H.266 is more efficient at compressing video files and offers better video quality at the same bit rate compared to H.265. It also uses more complex algorithms and techniques compared to H.265. However, H.266 requires more computational resources for encoding and decoding compared to H.265.

3. Is H.266 open-source?

Yes, H.266 is open-source. You can download the reference software for H.266 for free from the ITU-T website.

The Media Coding Industry Forum or MC-IF is a valuable resource for companies interested in deploying VCC or other media coding standards.

4. What are the features of H.266?

Some of the key features of H.266 are:

  • H.266 can deliver the same video quality with a lower bitrate.
  • H.266 can support resolutions up to 8K and frame rates up to 120fps.
  • Supports HDR which provides a wider range of colors and contrast than standard video.
  • H.266 is more resilient to errors and it’s less likely to suffer from visual distortions.

5. Can VLC play H.266 video?

VLC does not yet support playback of VVC video inside MP4 because the MP4 demultiplexer seems not to handle this video format yet.

Final Thoughts

H.266 or Versatile Video Coding is very powerful and quite useful, but it is still on the rise as compatibility and support for this codec are not widespread at this time. However, we definitely expect to see more of this in the future.

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Looking for more information on encoding, codecs, and other topics related to broadcasting? Check out the Knowledgebase section of our website. A quick search for “codec” or “encoding” will generate a plethora of reading material to get you started. Additionally, feel free to contact our team with specific questions; we’re here to help!

Emily Krings

Emily is a strategic content writer and story teller. She specializes in helping businesses create blog content that connects with their audience.