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UPDATE New Codecs Bring 4K Video Streams to Slower Broadband

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 (8:55 am) - Score 4,241

At present you generally need a stable 25Mbps broadband connection to run a single 4K (Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution) quality Internet video stream via Netflix (although the actual streams usually vary from 12-16Mbps) and some rival services, although the new V-Nova technology is promising to make three 4K streams fit down the same connection.

As computers get faster then so too do the mathematically intensive compression algorithms for shrinking video content into an ever smaller package, which means you can deliver higher quality content without using as much bandwidth.

The last big leap came from the H.265 (ITU-T H.265 / ISO/IEC 23008-2 HEVC) video standard a few short years ago (here), which among other things made it possible to deliver stable 720p HD quality streaming via connections as slow as just 1Mbps. Now London-based V-Nova has released a new compression codec based on its PERSEUS technology that aims to do something similar for the 4K and 8K generation.

According to the PR blurb, PERSEUS “rewrites the rules of compression“, demonstrating in testing and live operations a 2x – 3x average compression gain, at all quality levels, under practical real-time operating scenarios versus h.264, HEVC and JPEG2000. It’s also backed by 20 major industry players, such as Sky, Broadcom, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and Intel.

Guido Meardi, CEO & Founder of V-Nova, said:

With PERSEUS we are able to shift the entire bitrate-quality curve toward the mass population, offering UHD quality at HD bitrates, HD at SD bitrates, and SD video at audio bitrates. This allows our partners to differentiate their products, increase market penetration, and provide new services.

In particular, PERSEUS makes 4K commercially viable at scale, enables HD over 3G/4G mobile networks and makes video available to millions who do not yet have it. Most importantly, PERSEUS achieves this within currently available bandwidth and infrastructure. This guarantees rapid, seamless deployment and an extremely high return on investment.

Sky Italia has been working with V-Nova over the past years to refine and test the PERSEUS technology to ensure that it is industrially scalable and integrates seamlessly into the existing ecosystem and workflows. We are currently deploying it and are extremely satisfied with the results of this joint effort.”

Apparently PERSEUS® is based on the “principles underlying human vision“, which tells us absolutely nothing. But it’s interesting to note that, despite the significant advances above, PERSEUS is actually said to be less processor intensive than the legacy state-of-the-art codecs. Indeed testing by third-parties apparently indicated that it used 15%-35% less processor power than h.264 and offers even greater power savings with respect to the more recent H.265/HEVC codec.

At present PERSEUS is only just coming out of the woodwork and it would take a major move by Google (YouTube) or Netflix to really help shift it into the prime time, although that will no doubt depend upon how flexible their licence conditions are. Never the less this could make 4K streams more accessible on slower connections and that might in turn mean that some consumers would be able to delay jumping on the “superfast broadband” bandwagon for a little longer.

At the same time most of the Internet’s consumer data traffic is made up of video content and so ISPs will no doubt be happy to see less strain on their networks. But historically such codec improvements have also heralded a demand for even higher quality content and this usually rebalances the scales back to where they were before.

UPDATE 10th April 2015

Another company called COGO has announced the successful field trial of a new patent-pending technology, which compresses HD and UHD (4K) video to a very low bit rate – in the range of 3Mbps for 1080p and 6Mbps for 4K/UHD – while still claiming to “maintain remarkable picture quality“. The big bonus of COGO’s solution is that it can work with the older H.264 standard rather than requiring an upgrade to the latest H.265 / HEVC method.

As part of the trial the content was distributed in several streams over four days, including a 4K one that used less than 10Mbps of bandwidth and a 720p (HD) stream that ran as low as 3Mbps. The content was streamed to an Akamai entry point via Streammonkey and was subsequently viewed by consumers on a range of multiscreen devices including Smart TVs.

However the improvements stated by COGO don’t sound a million miles off what vanilla H.264 / HEVC can already achieve as standard and indeed we’d need to see a proper independent comparison of the content quality and performance in order to judge whether this is really a major change.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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