48 www.TelepresenceOptions.

com Summer 2014 49
H.264 is arguably the dominant codec of the moment in terms of
AV and IT vendor support. Tough plenty of emerging codecs are
vying for the top spot, H.264 will have the incumbency advantage
for at least the next few years. Tat makes it a safe choice when
buying video conferencing, digital signage and other AV gear today.
David Benham, Cisco’s director of telepresence technology, says
H.264 is the codec that enterprises should ask for in new AV
equipment, preferably with the fexibility to support higher
profles, and be at least upgradeable to H.265 High Efciency
Video Coding. He adds that some of the most recent generation
of conferencing equipment can support H.264 High Profle and
one or more modes of H.264 SVC (Scalable Video Coding).
Te Scalable Video Coding (SVC) extension gets its name from
the way it delivers a video stream in diferent layers depending on
network quality, available bandwidth, or the quality of the CPU.
Te codec can “scale” up and add additional layers, producing
better resolution and frame rate depending on network quality and
resources. Tat makes it a good ft for applications such as video
conferencing, especially when they involve best-efort networks
like the Internet and endpoints with big diferences in processing
power and bandwidth.
“H.264 SVC is getting popular because of Microsof Lync and
Google+ Hangouts,” says Eric Yu, product management director
at AVer Information Inc. USA. “But Hangout and WebRTC are
moving to VP8 and VP9 SVC, and eventually new integrated
circuits will support it in hardware.”
by Tim Kridel
HANDICAPPING THE
VIDEO CODEC WARS
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50 www.TelepresenceOptions.com Summer 2014 51
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Kridel has been covering the Pro-AV industry
since 2003 for publications such as AV Technology,
InAVate, Pro AV, Sound & Video Contractor, and
Telepresence Options as well as InfoComm’s
Special Reports series. Since 1998, he has also
been covering the telecomindustry for a variety of
publications and analyst frms. For more information,
visit www.TimKridel.com
CODEC PROS CONS
VP8
H.264
SVC
H.265
• Royalty-free public
license
• Suitable for large-
scale deployments
• Allows non-trans-
coding multiparty
conferencing
• Built-in support for
error resiliency
• Provides same quality
as h.264 AVC in half
the bit rate.
• Can support higher
HD resolution, as high
as 8K
• Not compatible with
Enterprise grade video
conferening devices.
• Requires licenses from
patent holders (not royalty
free).
• SVC-based conferencing
solutions are stil prior-
ity (Lync, Vidyo) and not
compatible with Enterprise
grade video conferencing
devices.
• Requires licenses from
patent holders.
• Not wildly deployed
• Not compatible with
Enterprise-grade video
conferencing devices
• Requires higher CPU power
• Not suitable for lower CPU
mobile devices
He adds that H.264 AVC is a must-have for enterprise decision
makers for 2014, and so will 264 SVC Temporal if Lync is in their
technology planning. “In late 2014 or 2015, H.265 and VP9 SVC
hardware solutions will show up with their solution strength
demonstrated,” he says. “Tat is when their popularity will be
determined.”
H.265 is a good ft for 4K video and thus for telepresence systems
using that resolution to make the user experience seem even
more lifelike. “We believe that H.265 will be adopted by the video
conferencing market relatively quickly due to the signifcant
bandwidth saving capabilities it delivers,” says Ori Modai, CTO
of Radvision, an Avaya company.  
H.265 also is known as High Efciency Video Codec (HEVC),
which refers to its ability to achieve the same resolution as H.264
High Profle while using half the bandwidth.
“Enterprises needing to save on recurring bandwidth costs will
want to pursue the rollout of H.265/HEVC in their AV equipment,”
Benham says. “Tis is why you see mobile video aggressively
demonstrating support for HEVC and why video providers [such
as Netfix] are starting to stream some of their content in HEVC
over the Internet.”
But H.265 has a few challenges that limit certain types of adoption
in the short term. For example, it’s compute-intensive, which makes
it an unwieldy match for mobile devices, where battery life is in
perpetually short supply.
“Te main challenge for the adoption of H.265 is the codec’s high
complexity and the fact that most of the current video conferencing
platforms are utilizing hardware-accelerated codecs that are not
adaptable for H.265,” Modai says. “Te availability of such devices
tailored for H.265 is expected by 2015.”
Te Rise of VP Codecs
Vendors don’t have to pay a royalty to use VP codecs, which helps
make them attractive for consumer applications where every penny
of price and percentage of margin are scrutinized. “We believe
that VP8 will evolve in the consumer domain,” Modai says. “Tis
codec and its successor, VP9, will be the main engine driving
the adoption of WebRTC communication and streaming media.”
VP8 also gets a boost from Google’s support, which includes
using it in Chrome. “VP8 is royalty free, and it’s embedded in the
browser that’s becoming the de facto standard,” says Ken Davison,
CMO and senior vice president of sales at Magor. “Why wouldn’t
you use it if you could?”
For applications that require scalability, VP9 might be the better
long-term choice. “VP8 doesn’t have scalability,” says Ofer Shapiro,
Vidyo CEO and co-founder. “It’s frozen, so it won’t have it.” TPO