NOTE: HEVC/H.265 is not optimized as an editing codec. Transcode to an edit friendly codec or request footage to be delivered in a different codec. Support is better on Adobe Premiere Pro 2020.
In the ever changing landscape of camera technology and shooting scenarios there has been a dramatic rise in the use of HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding). Also known as H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2, it's a successor to the widely used Advanced Video Coding (AVC, H.264 or MPEG-4 Part 10).
In comparison to AVC, HEVC gives 25 to 50% better data compression at the same level of video quality or significantly improved video quality at the same bitrate. It also supports resolutions up to 8K UHD. Additionally, HEVC can support the higher fidelity Main10 profile allowing for 10-bit color space! Assuming your hardware supports it, this allows for the maximum number of colors represented to jump from 256 to 1024 levels per channel. This allows for a significant reduction in color banding for use in keying, compositing, and color grading.
Photo credit: Z3 Technology
With all these substantial benefits it seems like a no-brainer to utilize this technology right? Well, the answer is not that straightforward.
“Work smarter, not harder.”
Although shooting H.265 is just as easy to shoot as other codecs (and honestly sometimes easier as consumer products default to this codec) something needs to be said very clearly: “H.265 is NOT an editing codec.” Is it possible? Yes. Should you do it? No*! Whether you do it or not really comes down to considering your editorial pipeline.
*There are few scenarios where editing with HEVC will not slow down your edits.
Without getting into all the technical details of how codecs work and the differences between I-frame and Long GOP encoding (you can Google that if you’d like), H.265 is a highly compressed codec which requires your computer to decode while editing on the fly.
Although most computers are capable of doing this to some degree, you end up using your system's resources to decode rather than focus on creative tasks that could use that processing power.
And what if you have a lot of HEVC footage or are using a multicam clip? The more you dedicate your system to decoding these streams on the fly, the more you need to be prepared to give up other comforts of the creative process such as graphics, compositing, effects, transitions, mogrts, etc.
So what should you do?
GRIN AND BEAR IT
If you're doing minimal editing and you don't need to jump around in the timeline or play backwards, then you can use HEVC with little to no interruption. Maybe you just need to add a graphic at the top the clip and then are done? Sure, go for it! Trim the heads and tails of a clip and done? Go for it! Need to edit answer and response in a frame accurate manner? No. (see below). Also, note that certain releases of software did not fully support HEVC so you may come across complications depending on what technology you are using.
When you have to work with HEVC the simplest solution is to encode. Using an I-frame 9intra-frame) codec such as ProRes or DNxHR will make your editing significantly easier. Encoding will take time but it will take less time to encode than it will to struggle through playback and timeline movement.
REQUEST SHOOTING IN A DIFFERENT FORMAT
PROFESSIONAL/PROSUMER GRADE CAMERA (DSLR)
If your footage is coming from a professional or even prosumer camera changing the codec is a relatively straightforward process in the camera settings menu. Requesting to shoot in a different format should not be a problem.
CONSUMER GRADE (Smartphone)
Request that the user shoot their footage in H.264 instead of H.265. Below are links that show how to quickly change the settings.
(Settings > Camera > Formats, and set Camera Capture to Most Compatible instead of High Efficiency.
We have found that using HEVC footage while working on a virtual machine, no matter how powerful, does not create the optimal editing experience. In particular on the Windows 10 Server there is not great support. There are a lot of conversations online about the pros & cons of using HEVC. BeBop suggests transcoding or shooting the footage in a different codec. If you would like to read more regarding this topic here are some links:
For any questions or problems, please create a ticket on the BeBop Helpdesk.