Huawei Technologies, Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics issued a joint statement Friday promoting the release of the MPEG-5 Essential Video Coding (EVC) standard as a new efficient video compression tool from the Moving Picture Experts Group to support the latest video resolution formats including 4K and 8K.

According to the joint statement, EVC is designed to meet both “the business and technical needs of the media industry.”

MPEG-5 has been regarded by some as an alternative format to HEVC, which has complex licensing terms. It offers two profiles, a baseline that is free and comprised of 20-year-old technologies now royalty free, and a main profile with enhanced extensions that will require a license, but being separated from the baseline profile, it can be switched off to avoid licensing requirements.

The system will deliver “4K UHD video with greater compression and efficiency over the previous standard codec, MPEG-5 EVC will enable more screens to display 4K, 8K, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and high dynamic range (HDR) content and offer the level of services that consumers have come to expect,” the companies said.

According to the statement, the goal of MPEG-5 EVC developers was to provide “a standardized video coding solution to address business needs in some use cases, such as video streaming, where existing ISO video coding standards have not been as widely adopted as might be expected from their purely technical characteristics.”

What this means for home cinema enthusiasts remains to be seen, but it hopefully will result in a more bandwidth efficiency with less onerous royalty requirements on hardware makers to speed the streamed delivery of more native 4K and 8K resolution and higher frame rates.

Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Huawei were identified as “three major contributors to this newly standardized technology.” They said they will be working to further promote this technology in the multimedia industry, and have reaffirmed their commitments to offer “fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory terms for their respective essential patent claims covering this standard.”

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All of the contributors to the standard are said to have committed to announce their license terms for the MPEG-5 EVC standard no later than two years after the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) publication date. The spec was promoted to FDIS status in April. The terms announcements could come either from individual company statements or as part of a patent pool.

The scope of MPEG-5 covers two parts including, 1) EVC and 2) Low Complexity Enhancement Video Coding (ISO/IEC 23094). The latter establishes specifications for a data stream structure defined by two component streams, a base stream decodable by a hardware decoder, and an enhancement stream suitable for software processing implementation with sustainable power consumption.

Separately, MPEG and the ITU are also working on a Versatile Video Coding (VVC) H.266 (MPEG-I Part 3) standard, as the next traditional MPEG-I codec. This is promoted to provide a 30% and lower bit-rate over HEVC (H.265/MPEG-H) without quality loss.

According to MPEG-5 specification documents, the enhancement stream will provide new features including compression capability extension to existing codecs, and lower encoding and decoding complexity, for on demand and live streaming applications.

Ultimately, MPEG-5 is positioned as providing significantly improved compression capability over existing video coding standards. EVC is said to be able to deliver 4K Ultra HD video with significantly greater compression and efficiency over the previous MPEG-4 AVC standard codec.

Ironically, YouTube recently began streaming some native 8K content in the new AV1 compression format, which competes with HEVC and MPEG-5 EVC.

Use cases for EVC also extend to emerging delivery protocols and networks, including 5G.

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By Greg Tarr

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