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

By Emily Krings

12 Min Read

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Emily Krings

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

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      Video files are large, and streaming them over the internet would be very difficult if it wasn’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 Versatile Video Coding (VCC). We will discuss what this video codec is and what it is used for. From there, we will cover the benefits of streaming with a VVC codec and talk about its current role in the online video streaming industry. We’ll also discuss some other common video streaming codecs.

      To get started, let’s quickly run through the basics of encoding and codecs.

      Table of Contents

      • What is Video Encoding?
      • What is a Codec?
      • What is Versatile Video Coding (VVC)?
      • Uses of VVC
      • Benefits of Streaming with VVC
      • Is VVC the Standard Codec?
      • Lossless vs. Lossy Compression
      • Other Common Video Codecs
      • Final Thoughts

      What is Video Encoding?

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

      Before we dive into 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 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 Versatile Video Coding (VVC)?

      Versatile Video Coding is an up-and-coming video compression standard 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 VVC 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 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 in its program.

      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. 

      Benefits of Streaming with VVC

      The main benefit of streaming with VVC 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.

      Is VVC the Standard Codec?

      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.

      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 more compact files than lossless compression.

      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.

      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 in 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.

      Encoding Settings for Streaming with Dacast

      encoder software
      Encoder software settings are very important for your live 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 if you want to ensure that your Dacast broadcast runs smoothly:

      VIDEO CODEC H.264 (x264 may work)
      FRAME RATE 25 or 30
      KEYFRAME INTERVAL 2 secs (or 2x frame rate)
      SCANNING Progressive
      RATE CONTROL Constant (CBR)
      AUDIO CODEC AAC-LC
      AUDIO BITRATE 128 kbps
      AUDIO CHANNELS 2 (Stereo)
      AUDIO SAMPLE RATE 48 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.

        ULD LD SD HD FHD
      Name Ultra-Low Definition Low Definition Standard Definition High Definition Full High Definition
      Video Bitrate (kbps) 350 350 – 800 800 – 1200 1200 – 1900 1900 – 4500
      Resolution Width (px) 426 640 854 1280 1920
      Resolution Height (px) 240 360 480 720 1080
      H.264 Profile Main Main High High High

      Final Thoughts

      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.

      Are you ready to take leverage video streaming for your business or organization? Dacast is a great option for live and on-demand professional video hosting.

      Our platform includes several powerful tools for broadcasters, including reliable global content delivery, API access, gold-standard privacy and security, video monetization, and access to a comprehensive video CMS. Additionally, Dacast provides access to an ultra-compatible HTML5 video player that is easy to customize and embed streaming video.

      You can test out all of our professional features risk-free for 30 days with our free trial. All you have to do to get started is create a free Dacast account today. No credit card required.


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      For exclusive offers and regular live streaming tips, you’re also invited to join our LinkedIn group.

      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!

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      Emily Krings

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

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