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Free Download HEVC (H.265) Codec for 4K/8K Video Playback

HEVC (aka H.265) has earned its reputation since 2014 when Apple, Nvidia, and Microsoft announced HEVC support for their products in succession. From then on, the video codec is applied to a wide range of fields, incl. operation system (Windows 10, macOS High Sierra or later, iOS 11 or later ), online video (YouTube 4K/8K), graphics card (NVIDIA, AMD), media software (VLC v2.2.0, HandBrake v1.1.0), and so on.

In this article, we will focus on HEVC/H.265 codec, explaining what is HEVC codec, how to free download HEVC codec for 4K/8K video playback, together with errors and FAQs about HEVC playback that users concern most.

Part 1: What Is HEVC/H.265 Codec?

Before making clear about HEVC (H.265) codec, we should have a brief knowledge about HEVC.

HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding)[1], a video compression standard, is developed to have a higher coding efficiency and improved video quality, by taking advantages of core techs such as motion compensation, entropy coding, intra/inter codings, coding tree unit, and more. With double data compression ratio, HEVC only requires half bitrate to keep the same video quality compared to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. In other words, HEVC delivers better video quality at the same bitrate. Target at next-generation HDTV display and content capture systems, it can support 4K and 8K UHD resolution. >> What you may be insterested in: H.265 vs H.264, H.265 vs H.266

HEVC codec is the software to compress or decompress HEVC video. It can be an encoder for compression only or decoder for decompression only. With H.265 codec, people can create a 4K/8K video or convert HEVC videos to a more compatible format for flawlessly playing on computers or devices. But how to download HEVC codec for Windows Media player or other video player software to ensure proper playback?

HEVC Codec efficiency
HEVC Codec efficiency

Part 2: Top 3 Free HEVC Codec Packs to Download

Beginners may search HEVC codec on Google or software download sites for having a direct download link. But the random results are quite confused. So, we list the following reliable HEVC (H.265) codecs for you to download.

• x265

x265 is an open-source HEVC encoder application library that help users encode video/images into an HEVC bitstream. It's available under either GNU GPL 2 license or a commercial license. This codec aims to provide the best HEVC/H.265 encoder and deliver the highest encoding speed and visual quality. It has been adopted by many open-source software, incl. FFMPEG, Handbrake, etc. The latest version is v3.3 at 12.5mb in size, you can download x265 v3.3 here >>

• DivX 10.8.8

DivX is one of the most popular video codecs with implementation of several mainstream video and audio standards, including DivX, MKV, HEVC/H.265 up to 4K, H.264, MPE4, AVI, MPEG-2, AAC, AC3, DLNA, DTS-HD, etc. The most recent version of DivX codec itself is v10.8.8. It is built in DivX HEVC Ultra HD codec, meant to help users create and play HEVC videos up to 4K UHD. You can download the DivX codec here.

Download DivX codec on Windows >>
Download DivX codec on Mac >>

• K-Lite Mega Codec Pack

K-Lite Codec Pack[3] is a collection of video and audio codecs with DirectShow filters and VFW codecs built into its system. It enables software and operating system to play many popular video and audio formats. Since the version 10.10, the K-Lite Codec Pack Mega added support for decoding HEVC. So if with the K-Lite Mega Codec Pack installed on your Windows, you can play HEVC video on Windows 10/8/7/XP (64 & 32 bit) without trouble. Download the latest codec pack for HEVC playing here >>

Except the above 3 HEVC codec packs, you can also download Windows 10 Codec Pack or Media Player Codec Pack Plus to have a try. They also support a wealth of compression and file types used by modern video and audio files, from x265 to H.265/HEVC, 10bit x264, H.264, AVCHD, DivX, XviD, MP4, MPEG2, etc.

Part 3: How to Download Official HEVC Video Extensions on Windows 10 for Viewing

Codec packs make video playing easier by installing a number of different codecs at once. But they are likely to pose software conflict, and are full of adware or spyware. That's exactly why Windows 10 introduces HEVC codec extensions officially.

Please note that there are some posts introducing a free HEVC codec solution for Windows 10 users by downloading HEVC video extensions from Device manufacturer. That is a total falsehood. In fact, it is currently unavailable and code is required. Microsoft chargers for its official HEVC codec at $0.99. In the following steps, you will learn how to install HEVC codec on Windows 10 for playback later.

  1. Go Microsoft store page, and click "Buy" button to get the code which will be sent to your email.
  2. Enter the code you received, then click "Install" button to download and install HEVC Video Extensions on your Windows 10 PC.
  3. Tap "Launch" button when it done. And you're able to play 4K HEVC videos on Movies & TV app.
Download HEVC codec extensions on Windows 10
Download HEVC codec extension on Windows 10

By the way, Microsoft authomatically install security updates for these codecs for security purpose. So make sure to enable "Update Apps Automatically" in "Settings".

Part 4: Why Cannot You Play HEVC even with Codec Pack Installed? How to fix?

Frankly, installing video codec or extension doesn't guarantee 100% work. There are times you encounter HEVC playback errors. Here are the typical issues: HEVC video plays fine for the first few seconds then it becomes choppy and finally freezes. The audio is playing while you see a black screen. The computer goes overheated and the CPU utilisation during playback is around 100%. Why?

HEVC videos not playing errors
HEVC videos not playing errors

The real culprit for HEVC playback failure is the incapable hardware support. It is confirmed that HEVC playback is supported by Apple iPhone with A9 chip or later. Only when Android shipped with Snapdragon 610/Kirin 950 or better processor can users play HEVC video. As to personal computer, HEVC video stuttering error may occur if it doesn't install Nvidia GTX series/Intel i7/AMD Athlon X4 835 or higher.

The HEVC playing error will be even worse if your video is 4K UHD, as it exerts more burden on CPU. That's the whole reason you run into freezing or stuttering error while playing HEVC 4k video. How to fix the issue even when you install HEVC codec?

Solution 1: Upgrade Your Hardware

In general, mobile devices and computers manufactured after 2016 such as iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, Samsung Galaxy S7 equivalent, or better can handle HEVC codec. While for the 4K HEVC video, the decoding process will be slow or stuttering if without hardware acceleration. So a powerful hardware is required for efficient HEVC playback. Below are the minimum hardware requirement for decoding 4K HEVC.

  • Intel 6th generation "Skylake" or newer CPUs
  • AMD 6th generation "Carizzo" or newer APUs
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950, 960, or newer graphics cards
  • AMD Radeon R9 Fury, R9 Fury X, R9 Nano, or newer graphics cards

Solution 2: Convert 4K HEVC to H.264

4K HEVC requires more processing power. If your hardware is not powerful enough to handle HEVC video, it's wise to downscale 4K to 1080p and convert HEVC to a more friendly format with a video converter. Below are the simple steps to convert 4K HEVC to H.264 .

  1. Download an HEVC converter such as WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe, click +Video button to load the HEVC video source.
  2. Choose MP4 H.264 as the output format by going to General Profiles --> MP4 Video (H.264).
  3. Check the box Hardware Acceleration to make sure the HEVC transcoding is processed based on GPU for a fast conversion.
  4. Click RUN button to begin the HEVC conversion.

Follow the detailed tutorial to convert HEVC to H.264 for smooth 8k/4k/hd video playback.

Part 5: FAQ about HEVC Codec

1. Does VLC Support HEVC Codec?

Yes, experimental decoding of HEVC is allowed in VLC V2.1.1 with RinceWind. And in version 3.0.0, VLC supports playing HEVC video on Windows with hardware acceleration enabled, using DxVA2 & D3D11. If you cannot play HEVC video in VLC, simply update VLC media player.

Note: VLC users sometimes complain a failure while viewing HEVC video, this is because hvc1 codec is encoded in some HEVC videos and there is no suitable decoder module. In this situation, you can convert hvc1 video to MP4 for VLC. Here is the detailed solution to fix VLC HEVC video playing error.

2. How Do I Add HEVC Codec to Premiere and Import HEVC Successfully?

Adobe Premiere Pro users might be familiar with the error message "Codec missing or unavailable" when trying to import HEVC videos taken by GoPro, Dji, Canon, or iPhone. They were asked to install HEVC codec to use the feature. How to add HEVC codec to Premiere Pro?

For users who haven't updated to Premiere Pro 12.0.1 or newer version, just click OK button if you are informed of a message "HEVC Codec must be installed to use this feature. Clicking OK will kick off simple installation and enable this codec for immediate use." Then you can restart the computer to see if the HEVC is imported successfully.

For users who have the latest version and Premiere Pro is still glitchy when using videos in HEVC codec, you have to know the culprit is either Dlog-M or the variable frame rate that Adobe Premiere Pro cannot recognize. In this situation, you have to do HEVC transcoding using some video converter to solve the issue.

3. Will HEVC Be the Next Mainstream Codec? - HEVC vs VVC vs AV1

You see, more and more videos are encoded in HEVC codec or packaged into HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) format in HEVC. HEVC plays in 17.17% of all browsers, 78% for iOS devices and 57% for Android 6 years after being an international standard. On the other hand, the momentum of AV1 codec and VVC codec[4] cannot be underestimated.

AV1 plays in 32.02% of all browsers since both Google and Mozilla are AOMedia members. Meanwhile, in Nov, 2018, Microsoft released the beta AV1 Video Extension, which allows AV1 playback on Windows 10 devices. On the other hand, being the next-gen standards-based codec after HEVC, VVC codec delivers 30% bit rate reduction over HEVC at the same perpetual quality. And the BBC found HEVC (HM) and AV1 to be about the same, with VVC (JEM) substantially better than both.

To a great degree, the codec future will be dictated by AV1's royalty-free status. But at present stage, HEVC still plays a crucial part in high compression efficiency. See more: AV1 vs HEVC - Which is the Codec of the Future?

Video Tutorial: Download HEVC Codec to Play HEVC Files on Windows 10

External Source Links:

1. High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) [wiki]: also known as H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2, is a video compression standard, designed as a successor to the widely used Advanced Video Coding (AVC, H.264, or MPEG-4 Part 10).
2. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update broke HEVC support in Films/Movies & TV app.
3. K-Lite Codec Pack[wiki] is a collection of audio and video codecs for Microsoft Windows that enables an operating system and its software to play various audio and video formats generally not supported by the operating system itself. The K-Lite Codec Pack also includes several related tools, including Media Player Classic Home Cinema (MPC-HC), Media Info Lite, and Codec Tweak Tool.
4. Versatile Video Coding (VVC) [wiki] is a future video compression standard being developed for finalization around mid-2020 by the Joint Video Experts Team (JVET), a united video expert team of the MPEG working group of ISO/IEC JTC 1 and the VCEG working group of ITU-T. At times, it has also been referred to as Future Video Coding (FVC) and as ITU-T H.266. It will be the successor to High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC, also known as ITU-T H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author-Jack Watt

Jack Watt

Jack Watt is a sought-after editor at Digiarty. He is responsible for digital and multimedia world, delivering definitive video and audio related software reviews, enlightening guides, and incisive analysis. As a fan of Apple, Jack Watt also brings his experience to more readers and focuses on writing of the Apple ecosystem at large.

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