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High-Efficiency Compression Gets the IBC Buzz

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With record amounts of video flowing over pay TV, broadband and mobile networks, better compression schemes to transmit more bits over smaller, less costly pipes will be a hot topic at IBC2013. During the market, vendors will continue to show improved codecs and technologies for the widely used MPEG-2 and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC compression standards. But much of the buzz will be around the new highefficiency video coding (HEVC) standard.

As the successor of H.264, HEVC promises to be twice as efficient, though realizing its full potential could take years. As in earlier launches of new compression standards, devices capable of handling HEVC will need to become more widely available, and vendors will need to refine their approaches to get the full bandwidth savings.

In the meantime, however, some parts of the video landscape are capable of handling HEVC compression and vendors will be showing significant improvements in the efficiency of HEVC products at IBC2013. “We’ve been able to show an improvement of about 20% in HEVC encoding just since April,” says Keith Wymbs, VP of marketing for Elemental, one of many vendors demoing HEVC transmissions at IBC.

Compress to Play

IBC will also see some early HEVC products. Benoit Fouchard, chief strategy officer of video compression solution provider ATEME, says they did a trial with HEVC encoding with Orange and France Télévisions at tennis’ French Open in June. “What you will see at IBC is that trial turning into product,” he says.

HEVC demos and products will also be a major focus for Telestream, Rovi, Harmonic Digital Rapids and others during IBC2013.

“We have done real 4K transmissions using HEVC with SES and others,” says Andy Warman, director of product line management, media servers and storage at Harmonic.

One early potential use would be the launch of channels featuring Ultra HD or 4K content, which would offer four times the resolution of the highest-quality HD video. But an even bigger opportunity for early deployments will be in HD transmission over networks with limited bandwidth, says Paul Turner, Telestream VP of enterprise product management. He points to satellite transmission, content delivery networks (CDNs) and mobile as particularly promising areas. “Getting twice as much content over the same transponder or over the same CDN where you are paying by the bit has an immediate financial payback,” he says.

Recent HEVC trials have relied on devices that have the computing power (such as PCs) to run HEVC encoding and decoding via software. “The first places you will see HEVC will be PCs,” says Eric Grab, Rovi VP of technology.

Some trials have used software to power HEVC encoding on smartphones and tablets, but those efforts quickly drain batteries. Mobile devices with HEVC-capable chips will begin hitting the market later this year. Since consumers replace smartphones and tablets every 18 months or so, vendors expect mobile networks that are struggling to handle rapidly growing video usage to quickly embrace HEVC.