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Understanding the VVC (H.266) Codec: A Simplified Guide

Hey, streaming enthusiasts! Are you curious about the VVC (H.266) codec and how it compares to other popular codecs? Let's dive into this user-friendly guide and learn all about it!

As you probably already know, the two of the most widely used codecs in the streaming world today are H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HEVC). Both codecs are known for their video compression capabilities, making video streaming more efficient and enjoyable. Another emerging codec is AV1, an open-source and royalty-free alternative backed by major industry players.

The H.266 Versatile Video Coding (VVC) was created by the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, the same innovative minds behind MP3 audio format, AVC, and HEVC.

VVC can cut the required bandwidth for a specific video by an additional 50% compared to HEVC. To illustrate this, Fraunhofer shared that a 90-minute 4K video using HEVC would need 10GB of data to transmit. However, with VVC, you'd only need 5GB of data to achieve the same quality.

The development of VVC was supported by prominent electronics companies like Apple, Ericsson, Intel, Huawei, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Sony. The standard was finalized and ready for action on July 7, 2020.

Key advantage of VVC

The primary advantage of VVC (H.266) is its ability to deliver high-quality video at roughly half the bitrate of HEVC (H.265). This means it can provide better video quality with reduced bandwidth and storage requirements. This is particularly beneficial for 4K, 8K, and 360-degree video streaming.

VVC vs. AV1

Both VVC (H.266) and AV1 aim to deliver improved video compression compared to their predecessors. While VVC offers roughly a 50% bitrate reduction compared to HEVC (H.265), AV1 promises similar improvements over AVC (H.264). However, VVC's performance advantage over AV1 is still a subject of debate. One key difference between the two is that AV1 is open-source and royalty-free, whereas VVC may involve patent licensing and royalty fees.


VVC (H.266) offers significant improvements in compression efficiency compared to HEVC (H.265), delivering better video quality at lower bitrates. This makes it particularly suitable for streaming high-resolution content like 4K, 8K, and 360-degree videos, while reducing the strain on networks.

Licensing for VVC (H.266)

The VVC (H.266) codec is not open-source, and using it may involve patent licensing and royalty fees. Its reference software, VTM (Versatile Video Coding Test Model), is available under an open-source license. Organizations considering adopting VVC should be aware of potential licensing costs and any impact on their projects.

Caveats of using VVC (H.266)

There are a few downsides to using VVC (H.266). First, it requires more computational power for encoding and decoding, which could be a challenge for some devices. Additionally, the associated patent licensing and royalty fees may make it more expensive to adopt. Despite these caveats, the VVC (H.266) codec has the potential to make a significant impact on the video industry, thanks to its impressive compression efficiency. As the demand for high-quality video content continues to grow, VVC may play an essential role in enabling efficient streaming and reducing bandwidth requirements.

The future for VVC (H.266)

While these new technical possibilities all seem cool and dandy, let's see why new powerful codecs like VVC might not make waves in the immediate future.

Believe it or not, the 17-year-old AVC (H.264) still dominates the video codec market. We expect that AVC (H.264) will continue to dominate due to its unanimous support across all platforms. Even though its market share is shrinking slowly. 

Though VVC is a huge technological leap forward, skeptics warn that it could face the same challenges as HEVC. For context, many believe that HEVC's inability to seize a larger market share is due to a tangled web of licensing terms, which some view as convoluted and unfairly executed. This is still a tough process to execute properly, despite Fraunhofer HHI's dedication to a consistent, transparent licensing model based on the FRAND principle (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory).

VVC, HEVC and AV1 achieve their remarkable efficiency gains by relying on heavy-duty algorithms. Simply speaking, this means that any playback device (like a smart TV or streaming media player) compatible with these new codecs will need some serious computing power, likely surpassing current device capabilities.

For streaming giants like Netflix or other video providers, it may not be worth supporting a new codec until a significant portion of their audience can benefit from it. 

VVC (H.266) offers exciting possibilities for the streaming world, but it's essential to weigh its benefits against the potential drawbacks and costs.

As always, staying informed is the key to making the best decisions for your streaming needs. Happy streaming!