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Verizon’s Cloud Video Unit Rolls Out Bandwidth-Saver

Verizon Digital Media Services, the multiscreen, cloud-video unit of Verizon Communications, claims it has found a way to be stingier with the bits, while still maintaining video quality.

And it’s pulling off the trick without an expensive leap to High-Efficiency Video Coding/H.265, an emerging format that promises a 50% bandwidth efficiency gain over MPEG-4/H.264.

VDMS said a new technology it’s using from A2Zlogix, called “ImageIQ Video Bandwidth Reduction,” enables it to reduce the size of video files and extend those efficiencies to the distribution and streaming of linear, live and on-demand video via IP, without a massive infrastructure investment.

That technology, which is being paired with VDMS’s single-format encoding platform that came by way of its recent acquisition of a startup called upLynk, reduces video files by at least 25% of their original size, the company said, viewing that as a conservative estimate. It uses a bandwidth- saving process that relies on patented algorithms that selectively remove “artifacts” from the video — such as excessive film grain and noise.

Video in 1080p HD running at 30 frames per second with 10 to 12 bits of color depth contains a lot more data than the eye can see, Chris Carey, VDMS’s chief product officer, explained. Removing that data results in an image that that be more tightly compressed, he said.

For example, if a master of a movie file is encoded at bit rate of 4 Megabits per second using H.264, the expectation is that it can be squeezed down to 3 Mbps, without sacrificing quality, when it’s pre-processed with the new VBR technique, Carey said.

In addition to reducing storage requirements, it also trims down the bandwidth requirements when the video is transmitted on the network.

And it can work the other way around. Carey said a video publisher could use the same pre-processing approach, for example, to make a 4-Mbps video file look like one that was encoded at 6 Mbps.

Carey said VDMS has completed testing and product evaluations; it is now implementing the feature into its various workflows and is selling it to customers. The unit hasn’t revealed who’s taking part yet, but Verizon FiOS, Redbox Instant by Verizon, and The Walt Disney Co. (for TV Everywhere apps such as Watch ABC) are among those on VDMS’s customer roster.

This approach will help VDMS to keep bandwidth requirements in check well before HEVC gains significant traction in the video marketplace, he added.

Carey said VDMS is testing HEVC encoders and views the technology as a “natural progression,” but notes that very few consumer-electronics devices on the market now can decode HEVC-based video.