Comcast Scrunches Down High-Def VOD

Comcast is packing more HD content into its video-on-demand menus by significantly shrinking the size of some files using Elemental Technologies’ encoding platform — without sacrificing video quality, the operator claims.

CableLabs guidelines recommend a fixed bit rate of 15 Megabits per second for HD VOD content in MPEG-2. Comcast is able to come in substantially under that with Elemental’s software-based system, according to Dave Higgins, the MSO’s vice president of video quality and reliability. He declined to identify Comcast’s target bit rate for HD VOD, but said it’s “not quite half” of 15 Mbps.

The Elemental platform “basically gives us more efficient bandwidth utilization with very competitive video-quality results,” he said.

Last month, Elemental released version 2.0 of its video-processing software, which among other improvements, provides twice the processing performance when running on next-generation processor architectures from Nvidia and Intel. Comcast deployed the upgrade along with Nvidia’s next-generation Tesla graphic processing unit (GPU) accelerators after it became available in early January.

“The migration path Elemental offers has allowed us to significantly increase our video transport quality and efficiency as the market demand for multiscreen video continues to grow,” Higgins said.

Comcast offers about 36,000 movies and TV shows through Xfinity On Demand. Some VOD assets are passed through from the source provider while others are processed through Elemental’s encoding system, the MSO said.

Comcast is currently evaluating Elemental’s platform and others for various encoding tasks, including for TV Everywhere content, Higgins said.