Widely adopted video-coding standards are subject to obsolescence that follows a different form of “Moore’s Law.” Although silicon speed roughly doubles every 18 months, video-coding efficiency doubles about every ten years. The longer time span is influenced by other factors, such as the time needed to replace a vast and expensive content delivery infrastructure. MPEG-2 video compression (essentially an update of MPEG-1) was first released in 1995, with digital satellite delivery a major application, followed soon afterwards by deployment on DVDs and digital terrestrial service. Although MPEG-4/AVC (aka MPEG-4 Part 10 or H.264) was released only a few years later (and yielded about a 50 percent bit-rate savings), it took well into the 2000s for the codec to become entrenched into professional and consumer applications, on satellite, cable and Blu-ray discs.
And now, the next codec is nearly upon us: High-efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). This next-generation video standard is currently being developed by the JCT-VC team, a joint effort between MPEG and the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG). The finalized HEVC standard is expected to bring another 50-percent bit-rate savings, compared to equivalent H.264/AVC encoding. HEVC should be ready for ratification by ISO and ITU — ISO/IEC 23008-2 MPEG-H Part 2 and ITU-T Rec. H.265 — by the end of January 2013. HEVC codecs are then expected to be adopted quickly in many devices, such as camcorders, DSLRs, digital TVs, PCs, set-top boxes, smartphones and tablets.