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Thread: Apple's new HEIF image format

  1. #1
    Member SolidComp's Avatar
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    Apple's new HEIF image format

    Hi all,

    Apple developed a new image format based on the HEVC video codec, and is introducing it to iPhones. It's supposed to produce images that are half the size of equivalent JPEGs. Notably, it's an image acquisition format (like JPEG-XR was intended to be), not just a conversion target like webp – i.e. when people take photos with their iPhones, the photo will be created/stored as a HEIF image from the very outset, and only converted to JPEG when necessary for sharing, etc.

    Petapixel story.

    CNET story.

    Since it's based on HEVC, it invites comparisons to Fabrice Bellard's new BPG format, which is based on HEVC's Still Picture Profile. I wonder how similar the formats are.

    It should be better than webp and JPEG-XR, so I wonder what the licensing and patent challenges will be. HEVC seems like a patent mess to me.

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    guess what .. it was developed by Nokia as an iso standard..

    https://nokiatech.github.io/heif/index.html

    it requires more processing time/energy and making it portable means that apple either managed to improve its encoder in time/energy or they don't care.. benefits are more for Apple network than users (users will benefit better storage utilization)... In the end its a good start

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    Quote Originally Posted by SolidComp View Post
    Apple developed a new image format based on the HEVC video codec, and is introducing it to iPhones.
    Ehem. HEIF was certainly not developped by Apple, but by ISO SC29WG11, aka "MPEG". Apple is a member there, and the file format AdHoc group is run by Dave Singer, from Apple. But that still doesn't make this an Apple format.
    Quote Originally Posted by SolidComp View Post
    It's supposed to produce images that are half the size of equivalent JPEGs.
    Well, as HEIF is a format around HEVC, it certainly compresses better, but whether that 50% smaller is quite debatable.
    Quote Originally Posted by SolidComp View Post
    Since it's based on HEVC, it invites comparisons to Fabrice Bellard's new BPG format, which is based on HEVC's Still Picture Profile. I wonder how similar the formats are.
    HEIF is based on the ISO based media file format, which wraps the HEVC codestream and adds annotation on the file format level. I do not know much about BPG, but I would rather expect an unwrapped HEVC codestream here. This does not make them compatible, even though the underlying technology is the same.
    Quote Originally Posted by SolidComp View Post
    It should be better than webp and JPEG-XR, so I wonder what the licensing and patent challenges will be.
    Being better than JPEG XR is not much of a challenge. Even the much older JPEG 2000 is better than JPEG XR. As far as the patent policy is concerned: As said, it is based on HEVC, so all bets are off. Given that there are currently at least two competing consortia that market MPEG HEVC patents, I wouldn't expect royalty free access to the IPs.
    Quote Originally Posted by SolidComp View Post
    HEVC seems like a patent mess to me.
    Yes, many too greedy companies out there. For older MPEG standards, there was at least a common patent pool in the form of the MPEG-LA (unrelated to the ISO committee, despite the name), but for HEVC, not all IP owners joined the MPEG-LA, so it is quite a headache. The interesting question now is which of the patents apply to I-frame compression only, i.e. anything related to motion estimation and motion compensation is clearly not required for HEIF.

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    HEIF is known by more and more users and is applied as a new image format. I completely agree with you that HEIF is feasible when it comes to compression technology as well as storage space. However, the shortcoming is that it is developed with limited compatibility. Only iOS 11 as well as Mac OS High Sierra can be compatible with it and directly open it. Though it is advantageous, users need to draw help from heic converter offline or online tool. At present, only Apple has access to provide local support for HEIF. You can simply go to "Camera" settings to change format as "Most Compatible", JPG. Anyway, we need to wait for native supports from other operating systems patiently.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yilia View Post
    Anyway, we need to wait for native supports from other operating systems patiently.
    Nothing outside of flash and some video formats got adopted in the net as proprietary formats. There are already two open codecs that compress more than heif, av1 and pik, and a 2–3 other interesting efforts are on-going, like a new jpeg format, deep learning based compression, and a possible extension of av1 to be a better fit for photos. Pik is particularly interesting from my viewpoint because it is the only modern codec that can be encoded and decoded in software with jpeg like speeds. Usually people don't like slower things. (Disclaimer: I'm one of the authors of pik.)

    I predict a relatively short life span for heif and that an open format will emerge as the replacement of jpeg.

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