Several research groups worldwide are currently investigating how deep learning may advance the state-of-the-art in image and video coding. An open question is how to make deep neural networks work in conjunction with existing (and upcoming) video codecs, such as MPEG AVC/H.264, HEVC, VVC, Google VP9 and AOMedia AV1, as well as existing container and transport formats. Such compatibility is a crucial aspect, as the video content industry and hardware manufacturers are expected to remain committed to supporting these standards for the foreseeable future.
We propose deep neural networks as precoding components for current and future codec ecosystems. In our current deployments for DASH/HLS adaptive streaming, this comprises downscaling neural networks. Precoding via deep learning allows for full compatibility to current and future codec and transport standards while providing for significant savings. Our results with HD content show that 23%-43% rate reduction takes place under a range of state-of-the-art video codec implementations. The use of precoding can also lead to significant encoding complexity reduction, which is essential for the cloud deployment of complex encoders like AV1 and MPEG VVC. Therefore, beyond bitrate saving, deep-learning-based precoding may reduce the required cloud resources for video transcoding and make cloud-based solutions competitive or superior to state-of-the-art captive deployments.
In just a few short years, technology has completely overhauled the way we consume television, feature films and other prime content. For example, Ofcom reported in July 2018 that there are now more UK subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV than to ‘traditional’ pay-TV services. The proliferation of “over-the-top” (OTT) streaming content has been matched by an appetite for high-resolution content. For example, 50% of the US homes will have UHD/4K TVs by 2020. At the same time, costs of 4K camera equipment have been falling rapidly. Looking ahead, 8K TVs were introduced at the 2018 CES by several major manufacturers and several broadcasters announced they will begin 8K broadcasts in time for the 2020 Olympic games in Japan. Alas, for most countries, even the delivery of HD/UHD content is still plagued by broadband infrastructure problems.