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for the HEVC Era
As media enterprises begin to realize the promise of HEVC for next-generation
OTT delivery, advanced encoding technologies will be a key enabler. Therefore,
operators should choose carefully when evaluating encoding/transcoding
solutions and look for the following key attributes:
Future-proof design. The encoding platform should not only support today’s
H.264 delivery via all major ABR streaming formats but also be extensible
enough to accommodate HEVC, MPEG-DASH, and other emerging standards
into the future through a software upgrade.
Robust functionality. With the right encoding solution, operators should be able
to approach bandwidth efficiency from two perspectives: maintaining current
levels of video quality while using less bandwidth, or improving video resolution
at the same bit rates. The system should include capabilities for encoding live
content as well as offline encoding and pre-recorded files for delayed streaming;
e.g. VOD services and catch-up TV. In addition, the system should provide
content protection features and support subtitles and multiple languages.
Pristine picture quality. In the quest for bandwidth efficiency, quality should never
be a victim – especially since viewers are holding the quality of their OTT content
to the same standard as home TV output.
Reliability. It goes without saying, but every second of downtime in an OTT
operation represents a significant loss of revenue. Therefore, the encoding
solution should provide multiple mechanisms and redundancies for each delivery
platform to prevent any service interruptions.
By definition, traditional broadcasting
is a multicast workflow that sends a
single stream to many viewers. OTT,
however, is a unicast, point-to-point
distribution mechanism that presents
obvious bandwidth challenges as
the number of users multiplies; since
every 1,000 viewers represents 1,000
streams, it follows that you need 1,000
times the bandwidth. This inefficiency
has dire economic consequences for
large-scale OTT providers that rely on
content distribution networks (CDNs)
to deliver their services over the open
Internet, since most CDN providers
base their fees on user volume.
The ultimate OTT irony, therefore, is
that the more popular the service is,
the more expensive and less profitable
it is to operate unless bandwidth
usage is somehow reduced – and
that’s where HEVC compression
enters the picture. Since HEVC will
allow operators to send the same
streams using half the bandwidth, OTT
will not only become a more profitable
venture but the picture quality will be
able to keep pace with consumers’
ever-evolving expectations as UHD
delivery appears on the horizon.
The future is here
Chip manufacturers are already introducing 4K HEVC decoder chipsets, which is
driving some encoding manufacturers to begin building HEVC functionality into
their platforms. One of the first worldwide implementations of HEVC is Thomson
Video Networks’ ViBE™ VS7000 multi-screen video encoding/transcoding
system, which features the company’s own HEVC compression technology.
Attendees at the upcoming IBC2013 show will get a glimpse of the OTT future
when HISPASAT, a leading satellite transmission operator with a strong presence
in South America, demonstrates a trial deployment of the VS7000 to deliver
live HEVC-encoded Ultra HD content to air via its satellite platform. In addition,
Sky Italia, Italy’s leading DTH satellite pay TV provider, has launched a trial
demonstration of the VS7000 to create an end-to-end Ultra HD platform from
content acquisition and transcoding in HEVC, to delivery and display on 4K
With these demonstrations and technology advances, can widespread
commercial adoption of HEVC and Ultra HD delivery over 4K networks be far
away? Since HEVC already demonstrating bandwidth reductions of up to 50
percent for 4K delivery, the future looks bright for HD and UHD content delivery
on any type of device and network – especially when HEVC is combined with
exciting new technologies such as MPEG-DASH, eMBMS, and LTE. In the near
term, the bandwidth savings afforded by these technologies translate directly
into reduced operating expenses, while easing the path of video delivery in
today’s multiplatform world.
Ludovic Pertuisel is Web TV/OTT product line manager for Thomson Video
Networks, a global leader in advanced video compression solutions. Thomson
Video Networks helps media companies, video service providers, and
broadcasters deliver superior video quality at the lowest-possible bandwidth for
contribution, terrestrial, satellite, cable, IPTV, and OTT services.
TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 83 NOVEMBER 2013 | 73