While the x265 codec is making big strides in quality and file size, the major browsers are in no rush to support H.265. With interest in 4K growing, maybe it’s up to Flash to save the day.
In the world of OTT playback, we are starting to see HEVC decoding capabilities built into smart TVs. Everyone from Samsung to LG to Sony wants to maximize UHD content over the internet, and 4K resolution produces much larger file sizes than does 1080p. Any codec that can retain quality while reducing overall bitrate is going to keep the owner of a 4K TV happily viewing Netflix or Amazon content with greatly reduced risk of buffering or stalled playback.
Even with the pipeline in place, there is still the issue of subjective evaluation of Ultra HD and the best uses of that sharp resolution. I’m not alone in my “over definition” reaction to the hyper-real presentation of fictional narratives presented in Netflix and Amazon 4K series. I have to hand it to make-up artists who can hide their craft in the pore-magnifying close-ups of character’s faces. This past holiday season, I bought and then returned my first 4K television set for two reasons: LED light bleed emitting from corners of the display, and the unpleasant experience of watching the 4K content available on Netflix and Amazon. My wife found the sets and lighting in The Martian so stage-like and unreal when viewed with all that extra detail, that I ended up applying “softening” filters from the TV’s effect menu to make the movie appear more atmospheric and cinematic.
To date, the content that I find holds up best to higher resolution viewing experience is documentary or live events, such as sports, award shows, and maybe reality TV. There’s less need for suspension of disbelief when you’re not watching fictional characters in soundstage landscapes. It’s hard to imagine how traditional stagecraft will live up to 8K expectations.
The question now remains—will the hype around H.265 become reality in 2016? Will we see Microsoft, Google, and Apple rally around H.265 within their browser support? Or will Flash be resurrected, once again, if Adobe adds H.265 support? Only time will tell.
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