What is High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC)?

Blog 5 min read | Jan 16, 2024 | Martina Georgievska


Efficient video compression is essential for a streamless streaming experience and transmission of high quality video. High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is a video compression standard that aims to revolutionize the way we consume and deliver video content.

Keep reading to learn about its key functionalities and benefits.

What is High Efficiency Video Coding?

High Efficiency Video Coding, also known as H.265, represents a video compression standard that significantly improves upon its predecessor, Advanced Video Coding (AVC), commonly known as H.264. It’s designed to efficiently compress video data while maintaining high quality, thereby reducing the file size of videos without sacrificing visual fidelity.

HEVC was developed by the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC), a group of experts from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).

The primary goal behind HEVC’s development was to address the escalating demand for higher resolution and higher quality video content while considering the limitations of bandwidth and storage capacity.

Key Features of HEVC

To paint a better picture of HEVC, let’s take a look at its key features.

Support for higher resolutions

HEVC is capable of handling ultra-high-definition video formats, such as 4K and 8K, more efficiently than previous codecs. This makes it ideal for broadcasting and streaming platforms that aim to deliver high-quality content.

Flexible bit depth and color representation

Thanks to its support for various bit depths and colors, HEVC allows for more accurate and vibrant colors in video content. This versatility is vital for displaying a wide range of vibrant colors and gradients.

Parallel processing support

The standard supports parallel processing techniques, enabling faster encoding and decoding of video streams with minimal lag. This feature is particularly beneficial for real-time applications like video conferencing.

Video coding layer

Introducing a versatile video coding layer, HEVC accommodates various video formats and resolutions. This flexibility is essential for supporting a wide range of applications, from standard definition to ultra-high-definition content.

Advanced coding tools

HEVC incorporates a set of advanced coding tools, including Coding Tree Unit (CTU) to replace macroblocks. These tools contribute to superior compression efficiency, making HEVC a cutting-edge video compression standard.

Color spaces

Addressing the demands of evolving display technologies, HEVC supports a broader range of color spaces. This adaptability ensures compatibility with emerging standards and provides the flexibility needed for diverse visual experiences.

Entropy coding

Entropy coding is a lossless data compression method, contributing to a more compact representation of video data without sacrificing quality, a crucial aspect for efficient storage and transmission.

Intra prediction

HEVC employs advanced intra prediction techniques, allowing for the prediction of pixel values within a coding unit. This intra prediction contributes to improved compression efficiency by exploiting spatial redundancies in the video content.

Motion compensation

Refined motion compensation techniques in HEVC result in more accurate representation of motion. This feature is critical for video compression, as it enables the efficient encoding of temporal redundancies, ultimately enhancing the overall compression performance.

Loop filters

HEVC incorporates loop filters to reduce artifacts and enhance visual quality. These filters play a crucial role in post-processing, ensuring that the decompressed video maintains a high level of fidelity and visual clarity.

Range extensions

Supporting range extensions, HEVC enables the transmission of high-dynamic-range (HDR) and wider color gamut content. This capability ensures compatibility with evolving industry standards and the growing demand for richer and more vibrant visual experiences.

Applications of HEVC

  • Streaming Services: Platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and others utilize HEVC to provide high-quality video streaming, allowing users to enjoy high-resolution content without requiring excessive bandwidth.
  • Broadcasting: Television broadcasters leverage HEVC to transmit high-definition and ultra-high-definition content more efficiently, improving the viewer experience.
  • Video Conferencing: HEVC’s efficient compression makes it suitable for real-time video communication applications, ensuring clearer and smoother video calls.

Benefits of HEVC

High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) offers a few benefits that contribute to its widespread adoption and use in video compression:

Improved Compression Efficiency

HEVC achieves significantly higher compression efficiency compared to its predecessor, H.264. This means that HEVC can maintain high video quality at lower bitrates, reducing the amount of data required for storage and transmission.

Enhanced Video Quality

Due to its advanced compression techniques, HEVC provides better video quality, especially at lower bitrates. This is particularly beneficial for applications with limited bandwidth or storage capacity, such as streaming services and mobile devices.

Support for Higher Resolutions

This compression standard is designed to support ultra-high-definition (UHD) resolutions, including 4K and even 8K. Applications where higher resolutions are essential, such as television broadcasting, video streaming, or digital cinema could benefit from this.

Flexible Bitrate Control

With improved tools for bitrate control, HEVC allows for more precise adjustments to match specific application requirements. Optimizing video quality and streaming performance in various network conditions is easier due to this flexibility.

Parallel Processing and Scalability

HEVC is designed to take advantage of parallel processing architectures, making it suitable for multi-core processors and hardware acceleration. Therefore, it contributes to efficient video encoding and decoding, especially in hardware implementations.

Support for HDR (High Dynamic Range)

With features supporting High Dynamic Range, HEVC enables delivery of content with enhanced contrast and a broader range of colors. This is crucial for delivering a more immersive and visually appealing viewing experience.

Industry Standardization and Adoption

HEVC has gained widespread industry support and is widely adopted in various consumer electronics, broadcasting, and streaming platforms. Its broad acceptance ensures compatibility and interoperability across a range of devices and services.

HEVC vs H.264 (AVC)

HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) and H.264 (Advanced Video Coding) are both video compression standards, but HEVC represents a significant advancement over H.264 in terms of compression efficiency.

While H.264 has been widely used and established as a reliable compression technology, HEVC offers approximately 25-50% better compression efficiency. This means that HEVC can achieve the same video quality as H.264 at nearly half the bitrate, making it particularly advantageous for streaming high-resolution content or storing videos without compromising visual fidelity.

Moreover, HEVC’s support for higher resolutions, including 4K and 8K, positions it as a crucial technology for handling ultra-high-definition video formats more efficiently. Despite H.264’s prevalence, the superior compression capabilities of HEVC make it increasingly essential in modern video applications where bandwidth and storage efficiency are paramount.


High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) represents a significant advancement in video compression technology. It has paved the way for higher quality, higher resolution, and more efficient delivery of video content across various mediums. As demands for better video quality persist, HEVC remains a key technology in shaping the future of digital video consumption and distribution.