With 2020 predicted as crunch time for the “codec wars” IBC365 rounds up features on compression and codecs, from EVC and VVC to VC-6 and AV1.

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Codecs: Back in the spotlight after a flurry of announcements

This week Samsung, Huawei and Qualcomm have all endorsed the release of a new video coding standard, MPEG-5 Essential Video Coding (EVC), marking a huge win for Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).

The FDIS written description of the standard was officially released at the end of April 2020, outlining its goal. This is to enable more screens to display 4K, 8K, VR, AR and HDR content.

The electronics vendors have all said they will work to promote the development and adoption of the new technology, which aims to provide a significantly improved compression capability over existing video coding standards.

The announcement once again puts codecs – which play a key technological role in various parts of the media and entertainment industry – back in the spotlight.

It follows hot on the heels of an announcement from Huawei that it had settled an IP dispute with InterDigital over certain Huawei 3G, 4G and 5G terminal unit products. The deal also covered the use of Wi-Fi and HEVC in those products, and extends through to 31 December 2023.

Read more: Huawei licences interDigital’s 3G, 4G, 5G and HVEC codec patents

Tech Expert: Inside Codecs

In this Tech Expert video, Ken McCann explains the importance of the role of codecs including HEVC, AV1 and VVC.

InterDigital is one of a number of companies who specialise in codecs and industry standards. It has been a pioneer for decades on wireless mobile technology boasting more than 9,800 patents with some 30,000 contributions to global standards for 2G, 3G and 4G technologies as well as 3GPP’s 5G movement.

InterDigital CTO Henry Tirri recently told IBC365: “Visual technologies and fundamental wireless technologies form codecs and architectural developments, infrastructure networks and radio networks,” is where the R&I focus is currently, however in saying that its core business moves in monetisation cycles.

Read more: Future evolution of wireless - looking beyond 5G

2020: Crunch time for codecs

The industry can kiss goodbye to the familiar pattern of one dominant video codec per decade. As we move into 2020 there are a raft of developments giving media streamers, device manufacturers and chipset vendors a multitude of options to trade operational performance with price.

Key developments include two new standards, MPEG-5 EVC and MPEG LCEVC, reaching final draft in April and full standardisation by October this year.

VVC, another MPEG standard, is also on course for standardisation by year end.

Meanwhile, AV1, which is being promoted as an alternative to MPEG schemes, is having to battle a patent pool challenge for AV1 implementation - contrary to a key reason for setting AV1 up in the first place which was to be royalty free.

IBC365 unpicks each of these in turn.

Read more: 2020 crunch time for codecs 

VC-6, CAE and how AI/ML could transform video compression

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AI: Transforming video codecs

One major recent development in codecs is the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in transforming video compression.

Online video providers have never been under so much pressure. Excess demand has caused Netflix, YouTube and Disney+ to tune down their bitrates and ease bandwidth consumption for everyone, in the process deliberately compromising the ultimate quality of their service.

Even once the crisis has subsided operators will have to equate scaling growth with the cost of technical investment and bandwidth efficiency. Even in a world with universal 5G, bandwidth is not a finite resource.

For example, how can an esports streaming operator grow from 100,000 to a million simultaneous live channels and simultaneously transition to UHD?

“Companies with planet scale steaming services like YouTube and Netflix have started to talk about hitting the tech walls,” says Sergio Grce, CEO at codec developer iSize Technologies. “Their content is generating millions and millions of views but they cannot adopt a new codec or build new data centres fast enough to cope with such an increase in streaming demand.”

New codecs are meant to provide an answer to the needs of better quality and greater efficiency but the industry is coming to realise that traditional methods of development have reached the end of the line.

AV1: Codec wars erupt

Reporting on developments in compression is like building with sand. No sooner do you think you’ve grasped it than the silica slips through your hand. Imagine how exasperating that must be for device manufacturers and online content providers who need to get a fix on tomorrow’s roadmap.

The good news for supporters of AV1, a rival or successor to HEVC, is that there is growing momentum behind its implementation - but there’s a fly in the ointment.

On the plus side, Samsung announced its intent to join AV1 development board Alliance for Open Media and seems likely to put the codec into its consumer devices from TVs to Galaxy smartphones.

With Apple, Amazon, Netflix, NVIDIA, ARM, Facebook, Microsoft and Google already AOMedia members the move would seem to lock down AV1 as the codec of choice for streaming media distribution.

It’s only been a year since AV1 specifications were launched but according to analyst Jeff Baumgartner of Light Reading, the codec has made significant progress in terms of adoption and commercial-readiness with “ample evidence that a decoding and encoding product ecosystem is building around AV1.”

Read more: AV1 codec wars erupt

Technical papers: Codecs

Codecs is a popular and regular topic for IBC whitepapers, submitted for the show in Amsterdam each year.

Papers from Ateme, BBC R&D and Divideon lifted the lid on serious disquiet in the world of video compression, giving an overview of new developments and discussing formats such as AV1 and XVC.

Download the technical papers:

Interview: Bruce Devlin, SMPTE

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Bruce Devlin

Rightly famous as Mr MXF, Bruce Devlin has found a new format love in his life with IMF, and for noble reasons.

As SMPTE Standards VP, and as a top-level technology consultant he is the ideal MC for a free session on monetisation via IMF 101 on the Saturday of IBC (14 September).

“It will be a co-ordinated gig involving myself plus the vendors Ownzones, Dalet, Marquise and Venera, plus Fraunhofer Digital Cinema Group,” says Devlin. “We will explain what IMF is, and show people that IMF is ready for action right now.”

Read more: Interview: Bruce Devlin, SMPTE