Yesterday, we got a glimpse at the next Video Coding format, Versatile Video Coding (VVC). This will be released as H.266 and will be the successor to the current H.265 (HEVC) format.
So, what does this mean for cloud gaming? And why should you care?
What is Video Coding Formats
When you watch a video on your computer, you are technically decoding a video stream. Today, the standards are H.264 and H.265. When a video is created and uploaded to a streaming service, it needs to be encoded first. This could be with any of the available Video Coding formats.
Whichever format the video was encoded in will also be required to decode at the destination.
H.264 is the standard as pretty much every computer can decode an H.264 stream without any issues. H.265 requires a PC that can decode H.265. Luckily, most computers in the last six years can decode H.265, but anything older and you may have some troubles.
The difference between the two formats? The amount of bandwidth required to decode and watch the video. If H.264 requires 10GB of data to view, H.265 would require around 5GB or 50% of the required bandwidth.
What is so great about H.266 (VVC)?
So, notice how H.265 was able to show the same video for only half the bandwidth than that of H.264? Well, H.266 will only require half the bandwidth of H.265. Much like H.264 to H.265, this increase in efficiency will allow you to watch/stream videos of a higher resolution at a lower bandwidth cost.
How does this affect Cloud Gaming?Cloud Gaming is essentially a video stream that your computer has to decode in real-time. Depending on the company, different forms of Video Encoding are used to stream.
For example, Shadow utilizes H.264 and H.265 encoding, while Google Stadia is said to use the VP9 codec for video encoding, with some reports of H.264 being used.
If you look at the bandwidth requirements for a lot of cloud gaming platforms, you will notice that the higher the resolution and framerate that you stream, the more bandwidth you need. Shadow, for example, can stream 4K 60FPS at 50-70 Mbps with the standard H.264 encoding. However, if you set up low-bandwidth mode, you can stream the same resolution for 25-35 Mbps as it uses H.265.
So what does this mean for H.266? If Cloud Gaming platforms start utilizing H.266 in the future, you can see the requirements for bandwidth drop dramatically, with you being able to stream 4K 60FPS for 13-18 Mbps compared to what is currently required.
This would be a significant advancement for Cloud Gaming platforms, especially for those who do not have the luxury of having significantly fast internet.
The downside of H.266Of course, the new technology does come with a few downsides. Currently, as H.266 is new, you will also need hardware that is strong enough to decode the video stream.
The more efficient the codec is the more processing power that the decoding process requires. A computer may easily handle H.264 and H.265 decoding but may struggle a little with H.266. This additional hardware requirement may limit the idea of "Being able to game on anything" that many Cloud Gaming platforms boast.
Another thing to note is that there may be an increase in latency when using these new codecs. This is because computers take longer to decode the video, thus increasing latency.
Of course, as hardware gets more robust, this latency increase will be minimized.
This is exciting news, and it brings forth the thought of Cloud Gaming becoming even better and more accessible to those with slower internet speeds. Of course, we probably will not see H.266 become a standard anytime soon, and putting it into use for Cloud Gaming may be years down the line. But, it is something to look forward too if you are a Cloud Gaming enthusiast like myself!
Wouldn't it be awesome to stream 4K gameplay to your computer for only 20 Mbps?