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Video Compression That's Future Proof
by Rod Tiede, President + CEO,Broadcast Int’l

The ability to reduce video bandwidth needs has become critical as the demand for video skyrockets among consumers and businesses alike. A new study from TNS and the Conference Board shows that, since 2006, the number of U.S. households watching TV programming online has nearly doubled.

A front page New York Times story warns of the threat posed by “video road hogs” which are jamming up the Internet by users uploading and downloading videos. At the same time, traditional TV viewing has not decreased; rather, users are demanding more and higher-quality content. In 2007, Stan Schatt of ABI Research, a leading broadcast industry research firm, warned, “Cable providers are going to get killed on bandwidth as HD programming becomes more commonplace.” All media delivery platforms, whether satellite, broadcast TV, IPTV, Internet video, and wireless all face the same challenge: lack of video bandwidth.

Broadcast International has developed CodecSys video compression technology to break the video bandwidth barrier. CodecSys is a family of ultra-high performance, video compression solutions, built on the industry’s first “future-proof” open software architecture. The CodecSys software suite ranges from market-specific solutions, such as H.264 encoding for the IPTV and Internet video markets, to the industry’s first Video Operating System (VOS), supporting multiple codecs and providing advanced transcoding capabilities for video re-purposing and media management.

“These solutions are designed from the ground up to evolve and change with the video delivery infrastructure, while providing the highest quality video at the lowest possible bandwidth,” said Rod Tiede, Broadcast International president and CEO. “The key advantage of the CodecSys software in the rapidly changing world of video delivery is its completely open architecture, enabling it to readily accommodate new codecs and standards as they come on the market.”

This concept is in sharp contrast to other competitive solutions, which rely on single codecs and embedded hardware/software architectures that are rendered obsolete as soon as a new codec or standard emerges. For example, there are literally billions of dollars in video compression infrastructure on the market that will become useless when the new generation of H.264 standard codecs are widely adopted. Following closely on the heels of that standard is JPEG 2000. With CodecSys, upgrading to a new codec standard is as simple as downloading a new software upgrade. Only the patented open architecture of CodecSys can readily incorporate new standards and technologies, providing an “ever-green,” future-proof solution to customers.

CodecSys Patented Multi-Codec Support
CodecSys multi-codec software is patented video compression technology that reduces bandwidth needs by more than 80 percent for HD-quality video over satellite, cable, IP and wireless networks. By dramatically reducing video bandwidth requirements, CodecSys’s multi-codec software will enable a new generation of video applications — live streaming video over the Internet and via mobile devices. For existing applications such as HDTV over satellite or cable, CodecSys currently provides unprecedented price/performance benefits enabling multiple HDTV channels to be broadcast over the same media that currently support only single channels.

CodecSys achieves its breakthrough performance through a patented architecture that uses artificial intelligence to analyze a video stream and then select the codec best-suited to a particular video frame sequence from an entire library of specialist codecs. These specialist codecs are designed to handle particular types of high-bandwidth video frames or streams, such as fast-motion sequences in a basketball game or explosions in an action movie. These video streams are extremely bandwidth-intensive and pose chokepoints to generalist codecs. By selecting the best expert codec for the job, CodecSys is able to eliminate these chokepoints and offer performance several times higher than competitive products based on single, general-purpose codecs for every type of video stream. The graphic below depicts the benefits of switching between multiple codecs.

CodecSys: How it Works
CodecSys is suited to solving the problems posed by video delivery over any platform, whether IPTV, cable, wireless or Internet. A key feature of the system is its use of a library of video and audio compression codecs in a “just-in-time” fashion in order to dynamically leverage the strength of each codec rather than trying to use a “one-size-fits-all” approach. This produces a multi-codec video stream that exhibits superior compression, quality, security, and adaptability over the traditional uni-codec encoded multimedia stream.

“The CodecSys software can be applied in any live or on-demand video environment over virtually any delivery platform – whether cable, telco, satellite, wireless, IPTV or Internet streaming,” said Tiede. “With on-demand applications, content can be pre-recorded and made available as needed.”

The Challenge of Internet Video Delivery
Video compression technology is becoming an increasingly critical requirement for video sent over the Internet. Last year, a report from Nemertes Research cited in a recent New York Times story, video uploading and downloading from sites such as You Tube, “consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet did in 2000.” Most experts agree that a bandwidth crisis looms if new technologies are not developed and implemented to alleviate the congestion.

The bandwidth crisis will be particularly severe in the U.S., which has dropped from fourth to 15th place on the broadband ranking maintained by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Michael Kleeman, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Sourthern California, has cited video compression as a technology critical to the resolution of the bandwidth crisis.

There is no question that better video compression technology would take the pressure off the Internet — especially as more and more users want to upload video to sites like YouTube and MySpace, in order to share experiences. At present, many content providers are forced to use proprietary streaming solutions that do not solve the fundamental problems associated with Internet video and thus have unsatisfactory quality. IP networks impose packet loss on data, which can severely impede the quality of a compressed video and audio stream with interdependencies and can impair sound synchronization.

Most current solutions offer only a 25 percent reduction in bandwidth at best, with compromised picture quality. Even new fiber initiatives such as those from Verizon and AT&T will be challenged to deliver the quantity and quality users are going to demand. CodecSys promises a much more effective and longer-range solution, offering bandwidth reductions up to 80 percent, an open software platform for upgrading compression technology, and scalable hardware to accommodate inevitable volume increases.

The Cable Industry... Staying Competitive
Broadcast television and HD video have long been the stronghold of cable companies, but that may well change as IPTV initiatives promise new alternatives to consumers, delivering HD-quality video over newly tooled IP infrastructures. In order to stay competitive, cable providers need to fight back with new and improved services such as more HD programming, Internet gaming, pay-per-view, even social networking, but the cable infrastructure is not up to the task because of inadequate video compression technology.

A recent press release announcing a new report by CMP market research group, Heavy Reading, states, “surging demand for HDTV, video on demand, time-shifting video services such as digital video recorders, and Internet video is rapidly depleting bandwidth reserves on cable networks and will force cable MSOs to upgrade their networks with new technologies aimed at conserving bandwidth.”

“Solutions such as switched digital video (SDV) are currently being explored by cable providers to address the bandwidth crisis, said Tiede. “SDV is an extremely expensive solution involving change-out of end-user devices, and will not address the critical upstream bandwidth issues. It will likely be used with more efficient encoding technologies as well as plant upgrades in order to provide a longer-term solution.”

Nexgen video compression technology, such as CodecSys, offers a much more effective and economical solution. Currently, the vast majority of video is delivered at the MPEG-2 standard of 19.4 Mbps. However, that number needs to come down by nearly 80 percent for live and pre-recorded video in order to make a real impact on the bandwidth crisis in the cable industry. As CodecSys delivers live HD video at 3 Mbps, it provides a critical solution to the bandwidth crisis in the cable industry.

Satellite bandwidth space is an expensive commodity. The space that a company leases for transmission of their video content is set and if the company wants to add more channels or wants to add band-width intensive HD channels they have to rent more space which increases their expenses. The other option is to decrease their band-width requirements. The BI CodecSys AVC Encoder/Transcoder using the patented CodecSys technology allows for better compression of video without loss of quality. Better compression means more channels on the same bandwidth or the ability to add HD channels.

Both content providers and satellite service providers can benefit from this. Content providers can expect to transmit more channels on the same bandwidth space, therefore increasing their ROI. Satellite service providers can attract more customers because of a better ROI to their customers and can service more customers on the same satellite space.

About the author
Rod Tiede is the President and CEO of Broadcast International andis responsible for fostering the vision, directing the overall management and providing progressive leadership for the company. Since 1988, Rod has been instrumental in directing the worldwide reach of Broadcast International and his forward-looking strategy has made BI a preferred international technology integrator.