There’s a lot of hype around AV1 royalty-free video codec since it has backing from large companies, better characteristics than H.265 or VP9, and is already used by YouTube and Netflix. AV1 hardware decoders are also found in new processors like Amlogic S905X4 or Mediatek Dimensity 1000+.
But we previously noted that H.266, aka VCC (Versatile Video Coding), was in the works, and Fraunhofer HHI has just announced the release and official adoption of the H.266/Versatile Video Coding (VVC) video compression standard.
H.266 standard offers improved compression, which reduces data requirements by around 50% compared to the previous H.265/HEVC standard at the same visual quality. In practical terms, a 10GB H.265 video now only needs 5GB with H.266 video codec saving both storage and bandwidth.
The standard can be used to transmit and store commonly used video resolutions from SD to HD up to 4K and 8K and also supports HDR (high dynamic range) and omnidirectional 360° videos. It should be noted that H.266/VVC was optimized for 4K or 8K videos, so lower resolutions may not benefit as much from the increased compression ratio.
Versatile Video Coding standard is registered as ITU-T Recommendation H.266 | ISO/IEC 23090-3. You can find documents and a VCC reference software on the Fraunhofer website, as well as the standard itself (still shown as draft version).
Contrary to AV1, it won’t be royalty-free, and instead, a “uniform and transparent licensing model based on the FRAND principle (i.e., fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) is planned to be established for the use of standard-essential patents related to H.266/VVC”. Fraunhofer HHI expects to publish the first H.266/VCC encore and decoder software this fall, and new chips with hardware support are currently being developed. That means adoption is still probably a couple of years away.
Whether companies will switch to H.266 instead of AV1, or possibly just use both, will depend on cost-savings brought about by the new standard in terms of storage and bandwidth costs, and adoption of either standard in hardware devices like mobile phones and cameras.