How And When ONVIF Will Support H.265

By Ethan Ace, Published Oct 07, 2016, 07:55am EDT

ONVIF Profile S does not support H.265.

And Profile S is what literally every ONVIF device supports today for video.

So what happens to H.265 cameras?

In this note, we explain ONVIF Media2 service and ONVIF Profile T, how they impact H.265, the tradeoffs of them, and the timetable for support.

Profile S = No H.265

Profile S uses the original ONVIF Media Service Specification, which allows only MJPEG, H.264, and MPEG-4, shown below.

No other codecs are optionally allowed, meaning that VMSes must invest in development of direct camera drivers in order to support H.265 models.

This essentially results in a catch-22 where H.265 cameras are not in high demand because VMSes do not support them, but VMSes do not support them because they are not in high demand. Some manufacturers have begun releasing H.265 cameras in the west, such as Hanwha and Vivotek, but the codec's largest market by far is China, where end to end systems are more common.

According to ONVIF, adding H.265 to Profile S would break backwards compatibility and as such, they are creating a new profile (discussed below) based on a new Media Service Specification, aptly named Media2.

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Media2 Service Supports H.265

The newer Media2 Service does not limit which video formats may be used. Instead, codecs are identified using IANA Media Types, standards which include surveillance formats such as H.264, H.265, and MJPEG, as well as less common codecs such as JPEG2000, VP8, and more. Future codecs which may be used in surveillance may be easily added, making the Media2 service more flexible than its older counterpart.

Since its release in June 2016, manufacturers may use the Media2 service to add H.265 support to their cameras/recorders. However, this support is outside the profile system, and as such there will be no official conformance listing for Media2 and/or H.265 support until a new profile is created.

The upside is that some VMSe are starting to implement / add Media2 support. It is worth checking with your preferred VMS when they will do so if you want to use H.265 cameras. However, because of this add-on approach, verifying that it works is especially important.

New Profile T Coming

ONVIF is working on a new profile, Profile T, which will use the Media2 service and expand some features not found in Profile S. However, this profile is in early stages and not expected for final release until 2018. Building a critical mass of Profile T support will take even longer as most manufacturers will take some time adding support for a new Profile.

Impact On H.265 Adoption

Since ONVIF lists conformance only by profile and Media2 support is not included in any profile, users essentially have no way of knowing whether a specific H.265 camera will be supported by a VMS via ONVIF. This means that in order to ensure support, users must use only H.265 cameras listed as supported by their VMS or test the camera/recorder combination.

Additionally, the increasing use of of H.264 smart codecs reduces the pressure to adopt H.265, which might otherwise be higher. These codecs have been highly effective in reducing bitrate (moreso than early H.265 models), are widely supported by VMSes, and now available from a number of manufacturers (Axis, Dahua, Hikvision, Samsung, Vivotek, etc.).

This combination of factors makes H.265 adoption likely to remain low until Profile T's release.

End to End More Likely

While H.265's prospects in open platforms systems are lower, manufacturers releasing both their own H.265 recorders as well as cameras are more likely to see greater adoption. Because they avoid compatibility issues seen in open VMSes/third party cameras, users are likely to be more confident in end to end H.265 systems. Several manufacturers have begun shipping or announced H.265 cameras and recorders in North America, including Hanwha Techwin [link no longer available], Panasonic, and Vivotek.

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