The broadcast industry is in an evolving stage with no particular technology having a clear dominance and universal acceptance. Choosing the right transcoding solution and catering to multiple target devices has become a key to success in the market.

The need to deliver to more and more devices is complicated by the rise of video quality expectations for TV Everywhere. Consumers want to experience ever-better HD or UHD quality on any screen. These higher expectations are intimately linked with ensuring delivery to a maximum number of consumers through low-bandwidth networks where the threat of limited access, slow playback capabilities, and unreliable connections is constantly looming. Multi-screen encoding and transcoding solutions are key to helping broadcasters, programmers, content owners, and their multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) – such as cable, DTH satellite, or telecoms operators – and OTT players to overcome the numerous challenges of delivering reliable, high-quality video content to a wide variety of devices.

Advances in video compression technology have introduced dramatic efficiencies in terms of system bandwidth and storage consumption. Video systems are able to adopt newer advances in hardware and software to deliver features that were previously limited by the available system infrastructure. HEVC compression is unquestionably a key enabler in this evolution.

Video transcoding plays a critical role in a video streaming service. Content owners and publishers need video transcoders to adapt their videos to different formats, bitrates, and qualities before streaming them to end users with the best quality of service.

The demand for high-density multimedia transcoding has skyrocketed owing to variety in multimedia compression formats being followed in the industry, myriad delivery techniques, and disparate requirements of target devices. Multimedia transcoding is no longer just a conversion to compatible standard. Due to the vast array of devices, especially in the mobile broadcast segment, the same content is being transcoded to multiple formats, bit-rates, and resolutions. The broadcast industry itself is in an evolving stage with no particular technology having a clear dominance and universal acceptance. Choosing the right transcoding solution and catering to multiple target devices has become a key to success in the broadcast market.

Designing a dense and scalable multimedia transcoding solution, which caters to these fluid requirements, has become challenging. Today, there exist multiple formats in which multimedia content is contributed, archived, distributed, and broadcast.

Indian Scenario

The Indian video compression industry in 2015-16 is estimated at 135 crore.

The need for transcoding is being driven by the increase in multiscreen, over-the-top, and TV Everywhere services from content and pay-TV providers. Providers are offering content in more formats than ever to more devices with resolutions scaling from mobile to 4K. The increased demand is expected to boost transcoder revenue by more than 10 percent per year through 2020. The estimated revenue from the shipment of transcoding equipment grew by 14 percent in 2015, with file transcoding growing faster at 18 percent as compared to live transcoding at
11 percent. File transcoder growth rate will remain higher through 2020, causing file transcoder revenue to reach USD 286 million, up from USD 152 million in 2015. Live transcoder revenue is expected to grow from USD 176 million in 2015 to USD 287 million in 2020.

With the industry transitioning to IP workflows, it is equally important that encoding/decoding devices support both IP and traditional SDI interfaces, giving broadcasters the flexibility to deploy in architectures today and migrate to IP when appropriate.

The most recent non-proprietary video compression standard, high-efficiency video codec (HEVC), also known as H.265 is expected to become the video standard of choice for the next decade. As with each generation of video compression technology before it, HEVC promises to reduce the overall cost of delivering and storing video assets while maintaining or increasing the quality of experience for the viewer.

HEVC codec is the next-generation video codec, which promises to cut the bit rate in half when compared to the H264/AVC codec. HEVC has bigger block sizes, more prediction modes, and a whole lot of other algorithms to achieve the said target. However, this comes with substantially higher costs in terms of computational power requirement. HEVC, as it stands today, needs about eight times more computational power to deliver twice the compression ratio.

Raj Yadav

Regional Sales Head-South Asia, Imagine Communications

"Video compression is an integral part of the migration from traditional broadcast technology to a software-defined, IP-connected future. While there are a number of vendors providing software compression products, Imagine Communications is unique in taking the route of integration and transition.

The Selenio media convergence platform is a great example of this approach. In a single device it supports multiple compressed IP formats and also baseband. Along with excellent compression functionality and quality, it fits simply into the infrastructure, wherever the content company is on transition to IP.

The platform, in turn, supports a range of targeted products, such as the Selenio One high-density adaptive bitrate encoder and transcoder. This provides cost-effective, flexible, and high-performance content delivery over multiple platforms, allowing broadcasters, network operators, and video service providers meet the expectations of their consumers while maximizing revenues.

On your vision for the industry

The challenge today for all content companies, whether they are broadcasters or new media services, is to serve the huge range of consumer devices, each of which has a different combination of streaming format, wrapper, codec, and resolution. The only way to manage this complex delivery is through highly automated transcoding and packaging solutions.

These, in turn, depend upon software-defined infrastructures and automated workflows, managing the priorities and control of content creation, and just-in-time packaging. Using rules-based decision-making, the transcode operations have to define and redefine services on the fly, with the transcoding operations performed on virtual machines hosted in powerful, purpose-built engines.

Delivery platforms do not exist in isolation and need to be regarded as part of a single content flow from acquisition to consumption. The future of all content processing lies in the use of powerful, flexible software running on standardized hardware, all orchestrated by a workflow layer that interprets and responds to the business demands of the enterprise."

The techniques and algorithms used in HEVC are significantly more complex than those of H.264 and MPEG-2. There are more decisions to make when encoding a given video stream or file and as a result, more calculations need to be made in compressing video assets. This complexity, however, is an excellent fit for video processing solutions that seamlessly evolve from one compression generation to the next as they mitigate the risks that come with any large technological migration.

HEVC is the output of a joint effort between the ITU-T's Video Coding Experts Group and the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). The ITU-T facilitates the creation and adoption of telecommunication standards and the ISO/IEC manages standards for the electronics industry. Designed to evolve the video compression industry, HEVC intends to:

  • lDeliver an average bit rate reduction of 50 percent for a fixed video quality compared to H.264
  • lDeliver higher quality at the same bit rate
  • lDefine a standard syntax to simplify implementation and maximize interoperability
  • lRemain network friendly, i.e., wrapped in MPEG transport streams

HEVC also aligns with the push toward high-resolution Ultra HD 4K and 8K video in the mainstream market. With 4K resolution featuring four times the number of pixels as 1080p, the efficiencies provided by HEVC make broadcasting 4K much more feasible.

While HEVC/H.265 increases the compression ratio, at the same time it is also more effective at predicting the details of moving objects, subdividing the compression blocks to quarter size, and managing colors more efficiently. This is necessary because while the 4k sensors have an increased number of pixels, they may also have an increased number of frames per second (50, 60, 120 or even 240 fps).

Meanwhile, the TV and display world has moved to 4K, placing pressure on content delivery systems for higher-quality images, particularly with higher-dynamic-range content. Compression reduces the size of the original content, so it is easier to distribute to consumers. The development of higher-content-compression technologies such as HEVC is a key enabler of delivering 4K content to consumers. Yet, compression does nothing to relieve the pressure on production crews to capture as many high-quality pixels as possible.

Video compression, with newer codecs such as HEVC and higher resolutions such as 4K (38402160 pixels), is very compute intensive, particularly for live content.

To achieve reasonable power, space, cabling, and reliability requirements, hardware acceleration is often used. This can be in the form of dedicated ASICs, FPGAs, GPUs, or embedded encoding hardware inside Intel CPUs or integrated smartphone chipsets. Therefore, video compression systems often utilize one or several of these technologies to achieve the necessary performance

It has not been very long since the migration from MPEG-2 to H.264; the H.264 to HEVC transition will require a similar re-architecting of hardware and software.