The 4K Video Codec War: What You Need To Know

May 14, 2018

We're all familiar with format wars — VHS v. Beta, Blu-ray v. HD-DVD, even the 19th century's AC v. DC war of the currents. What you may not be familiar with is the current 4K video compression format war between HEVC(High-Efficient Video Coding, aka H.265), Google's VP9, and a new and potentially disruptive entrant, AV1 from the Alliance for Open Media (AOM).

The question is, is this format war too inside-baseball for most CE retailers and vendors to worry about?

"Device makers include media processors that decode multiple compression technologies," said Myra Moore, president of Digital Tech Consulting, "and it's in their best interest to make sure the most commonly used ones are included."

"[Vendors] will care because every additional codec they need to support adds to the development and [bill of materials] cost of a device," added John Luther, senior VP of technology for JW Player, a web video platform.

For more than a decade, the MPEG-based H.264 format has been pretty much the only HD video codec game in town. Nearly all devices that record or playback 1080 or 720 video include H.264.

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