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HD Headed Under 2 Megabits: H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 20:05

The Tudors4K Ultra HD also coming, for sets over 100 inches. Those who think we need 50 meg and more for home TV haven't been tracking the improvements in video encoding. Most HD video watched in the U.S. is less than 4 megabits. A well-encoded Netflix version of The Tudors looks great on Jennie's 50 inch TV at under 3 meg. (I wouldn't have believed it either until I watched.) Two HD channels + plenty of web surfing fit fine in 12 meg; 20 meg easily handles three.

   The soon to be ratified HEVC standard is expected to double efficiency and further reduce the need for video bandwidth. The improvements are greatest at even lower bit rates, aimed at delivering video to mobile while using less capacity. Rick Merritt in EE Times thinks ratification may come in a few months although an MPEG press release targeted January. As far as I know, there is no reference encoder yet developed and practical chips are several years away. Merritt also reports chipmakers may hold back on design because as many as 500 patents may be involved. He notes Mediatek, Qualcomm and Samsung  are not interested in joining MPEG_LA and have essential patents. HEVC also includes coding for 4K "Ultra HD" screens, which will find little use at home for many years. Video expert Andy Setos believes few humans can distinguish between 720p and 1080i on a 40 inch monitor; the improvement from a 2048 line Ultra HD screen won't be visible except on much larger screens. 

    Separately, the state of the art of H.264 continues improving. ATEME is releasing a new encoder, EAVC4, which they claim is 20% more efficient. Expect a slew of similar announcement as we approach IBC.

    There's a good technical presentation of some of the new techniques in Towards high efficiency video coding: Subjective evaluation of potential coding technologies by Francesca De Simone, Lutz Goldmann, Jong-Seok Lee, Touradj Ebrahimi. I've included below the Wikipedia entry which is the most comprehensive less technical report I've found, as well as press releases from ATEME and MPEG. 

 

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Cordcutters: Roku, WD, Playstation or ??
Saturday, 02 July 2011 15:36
We made a mistake buying the Roku box. It's great for Netflix, but doesn't play AVI's and other common formats I get often. Dan Rayburn, the guru of Streaming Media, had a wall with more than a dozen boxes. Jennie asked him how to choose. His answer, alas, was "It depends ..." I learned we probably should have bought a Western Digital if we needed flexibility, or perhaps an XBox, Dan's favorite. Next to the add-on boxes was another choice: Samsung's Connected TV. Here's the video:
 
 
Avatar 3D Video Awesome. Really.
Saturday, 30 October 2010 13:24

truk_lagoonAvatar Producer Jon Landau blew me away with the 3D Blu-ray disk version of Avatar at the Waldorf. It's truly a "You are there" experience, almost as effective on a good 3D home screen as in the theatre. See it and you'll want to go buy a 3D TV. Three years ago, Jim Cameron made me a believer in 3D movies by showing clips at NAB. Now almost every major film is shooting for 3D. Wait until you see what Cameron does for Avatar 2. Landau talked of how he and Jim love diving in Truk Lagoon and to look for underwater sequences.

    3D TV however is going almost nowhere, slowly. The audience isn't there. The set makers have been spending $100's on millions on promotion but people aren't buying. Producers and Directors love what they can do in 3D when they master it. Landau mentioned all the major directors want to shoot 3D but none believes the audience is large enough to cover the costs. 

     3D TV can cost almost twice as much as a normal shoot. Anthony Bailey of ESPN needs to send two full trucks and crews each time, a very expensive way to work. He's getting the budget because "his CTO believes ESPN needs to always be ahead and even on the cutting edge."

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Microsoft: IPTV Doesn't Need QOS, Works on Xbox
Monday, 11 January 2010 01:11
Step_into_Liquid_looked_great_streaming_live"TV/video services powered by Mediaroom 2.0 can be delivered to any broadband consumer, not just to customers on a managed-QoS IPTV network," Microsoft's Scott Rowe writes. The new IIS Smooth Streaming was shown at SUPERCOMM to reporters who liked the HD. It will be a natural tool for British Telecom, Bell Canada, and others who don't offer IPTV but can easily support video-on-demand.  Profitabilty of full telco TV packages is rare; I believe both Verizon and AT&T are showing losses on TV after five years.

It shouldn't be news that "Microsoft enables operators to offer a premium, HD-quality video-on-demand service, with minimal buffering and fast startup times, even over IP-based networks of varying bandwidths," but a slew of lawyers, economists and registered lobbyists have been claiming otherwise in D.C. Some people who should know better believe them.

Netflix streaming movies look OK at 720p on our 50" plasma over Verizon 3 megabit DSL andI don't remember a single interruption because of line problems, even if I'm actively using the computer at the same time. When they bring us FiOS I expect streaming to be near perfect at 1080 as well. Bandwidth costs continue to come down rapidly, so streaming at full HD rates (AT&T and many cablecos uses 6.5 megabits or less) will soon be economical. Working with Microsoft and CacheLogic, I did a demo of live 6 megabit HD TV back in 2007. It works fine with a few seconds or less of buffer. Many of today's networks can handle those speeds. Jason Livingood of Comcast has pointed out their network very, very rarely drops below 8.4 megabits for standard service. When it is "traffic-managed" - far less than 1% of customers - the actual results is packets delayed minimally, something the buffer can usually handle invisibly to the consumers. As far as I'm concerned, a network that can live-stream 6 megabit HD video is effectively neutral.

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HD TV Over Home Wireless in Everyday Use at Swisscom
Friday, 23 September 2011 20:30
Saving a $200-$400 truckroll?  Vendors have been promising for years video quality wireless around the home, but Swisscom is the first Western carrier to offer a "Wireless HDTV connecting kit" as a standard product on their website to any interested customer. The cost is CHF 199., which the customer recovers by not requiring an expensive installation. Swisscom seems happy and Sam Heidari of Quantenna is confident many other telcos are about to deploy similar.
      3x3 or 4x4 MIMO 802.11n WiFi is designed to carry tens and even hundreds of megabits around the home. Each antenna sends out a separate, non-interfering (orthogonal) signal. It's available today from several chip vendors and only adds about $5 to the bill of materials. Because it's so cheap, everyone soon will be incorporating MIMO WiFi standard. Deutsche Telekom and Free in France already are, as well as HD Voice.
Swisscom offers "Would you like to connect your modem to the Swisscom TV box wirelessly and also enjoy HDTV? The HDTV connecting kit is which is especially designed and tested for transmitting video signals between a modem and the Swisscom TV box and also enables thetransmission of HDTV signals. We therefore recommend using this facility especially if the distance and number of obstacles between the two adapters is not toogreat. The rule of thumb is: the fewer walls and floors in between, the more suitable and efficient the technology." It's a Netgear box with Quantenna 4x4 chips. Here's a press release from earlier; the news is that this is now a production tool.
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Progress on Sony Linux Bugfix
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 03:15

The Sony Playstation 3 was ahead of its time with a remarkable 8 core CPU so it was welcome news when a way was found to run Linux. Sony's automatic update procedure is badly broken, regularly interfering with improvements people make to the machines they own. Kevin Butler of Sony tweeted the USB dongle ID generator key 46 DC EA D3 17 FE 45 D8 09 23 EB 97 E4 95 64 10 D4 CD B2 C2. That makes it difficult for Sony to sue those who reproduce the code.

 

Microsoft has taken the opposite approach with Kinect. Alex Kipman, Xbox Director of Incubation, on  Science Friday pointed out they by design did not protect the USB connection which now has an open source driver. Shannon Loftis of Microsoft added “I'm very excited to see that people are so inspired that it was less than a week after the Kinect came out before they they had started creating and thinking about what they could do.” (Via Digitizer.com)

 

The Kinect is the hottest product from Microsoft in years and drove Xbox sales past Sony last quarter.

 
Avatar and Alice 3D Exclusives for Sony and Panasonic
Saturday, 22 May 2010 11:04
Audiences loved Avatar 3D in theaters. But if you want to see it in 3D at home be prepared for a big gotcha. Avatar 3D, scheduled for November release, will be only be sold with Panasonic 3D  players, Scott Hettrick Avatarreports. Sony has made a similar deal for Alice in Wonderland. At least for a time, Netflix will probably not get either film. The studios will collect $millions in return for exclusive deals. At the beginning, there will be so few homes to buy the disks the studios wouldn't sell many anyway. No word yet whether 3D films will reliably work on the earlier Blu-ray players such as the Sony Playstation.

    Will people wear annoying glasses and sit still for 3D TV? Comcast says only sports and "events" like a major movie will draw a 3d audience. Hollywood, on the other hand, is dreaming 3D for everything everywhere, including classrooms and industrial video. Avatar proved that well-shot 3D is remarkable. A slew of movies coming out in the next year will prove 3D adds little to most films.
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"Hollywood Seized by 3D Mania" but ...
Saturday, 26 December 2009 21:15
the_wrapWhen I wrote After Avatar, You Must Move On 3D Channels, I had no idea just how powerful the movie would prove. As I write, it's passing $600M at the box office in two weeks. Sharon Waxman writes "even the most hard-bitten moguls (from David Geffen: “a complete gamechanger”) now -- faster than you can say "man the lifeboats!" -- everyone is on board." Ridley Scott wants to spend $7M to add 3D to Robin Hood, already in the can in 2D and therefore extremely limited in what can be done with 3D. Even the next Jackass movie is adding a dimension.  The 3D hype at CES in a few weeks will be overwhelming. Sky in Britain will have a 3D channel in 2010. So will the World cup. HDGuru reports DirecTV will launch a channel in the spring, but that's unconfirmed. The Blu-ray folks agreed to use MPEG4-MVC for 3D and some believe it will work in the Sony Playstation. There's no doubt which way the wind is blowing.
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$40 IPTV Set Tops, Quantity 3 Million
Monday, 29 August 2011 06:13

With basic IPTV selling for less than $3/month, China Telecom can't afford an expensive set top. To bring prices down, they are requesting bids for 2.83 mln SD STBs and 880,000 HD STBs (Marbridge). They expect prices for simple SD boxes well under $50. Huawei, ZTE, and UTStarcom have been the primary vendors for the first 9M IPTV homes that China Telecom has rolled out. Alcatel-Shanghai Bell and almost a dozen other firms have sent units to China Telecom Labs for testing. 
      "The price is very low," a vendor tells me, "but not impossible. There's almost no margin." Winning bids like this usually requires close cooperation by every step of the supply chain. Not merely does the chip vendor have to agree to a very aggressive price, they often request the chip foundry also make concessions to win the order. It's a dangerous game; if costs aren't well-controlled, large losses are possible. I remember Alcatel bidding so low to win a Chunghwa contract they demanded a re-negotiation midyear from a very unhappy customer.  
      Shanghai is the early leader, with over 1.5M homes connected. Internationally oriented Shanghai Media Group paved the way and UTStarcom provided equipment at a loss for several years to kickstart deployment. As much as possible, China Telecom is using WiFi rather than wiring apartments. Celeno has been supplying the chips in China. As 3x3 and 4x4 MIMO and beam forming become standard technologies, carriers around the world are hoping WiFi is becoming reliable enough to expand beyond trials.
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Today's Numbers: "Penny or Two/hour"
Thursday, 02 December 2010 16:06
"It's reasonable to think of the numbers involved today as a penny or two per hour," streaming media expert Dan Rayburn confirms to me. "What people are worried about is it could go much higher." Dan is at Frost and Sullivan and probably the best informed analyst in the field. I come to a similar figure. At current rates, this would have a significant impact on video over the net. But it is "not the end of the Internet as we know it."  
      Reaching families that watch 200-300 hours of TV would therefore cost several dollars more to connect over the net. Because the programming itself takes most of the dollars customers pay for subscription TV, that's enough to significantly handicap anyone competing with cable or satellite using the Internet. The 3+ TVs in most American homes average 110-180 hours/month depending on which figure you believe. Terminating fees will become an even more important factor in the future because the other costs of streaming, such as servers, are going down rapidly. Allowing terminating charges will affect video competition.
     For more typical web video usage today, say 5-10 hours a week, the increased costs of paying termination are less than $1/month. That's meaningful to all the players involved, but not necessarily devastating. Comcast refuses to tell anyone the amount they want to charge, which distorts the public discussion. I believe it is surprisingly little (for now) but they refuse to answer and their partners are under strict non-disclosure.
    Cablecos have the majority of U.S. broadband homes and have powerful incentives to jack up these rates to protect their video package. AT&T and Verizon have built $billions in video revenues and tell wall street video is important to their future. Comcast ihas so far "played fair." Time Warner is the bad actor, proposing 10 gig caps when the average U.S. broadband user is currently drawing 15 gig. Jules would be making a bad mistake ignoring this one. All the carriers have incentive to raise termination charges to abusive levels if not checked.
 
YouTube & Beyond: Smart Business, Great Quality, Top Results
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 07:22
By Jennie Bourne and Dave Burstein
Millions of people produce a YouTube video; only a select few get firstrate results and earn a living. We write of the people who have been there, done that, and are happy to share the lessons of their success.

About the Authors

Web_VideoJennie Bourne has produced hundreds of short videos for the Web and built a state-of-the-art Web video studio. Her credits include, launching PulverTV, creating video profiles for the Marconi Society and a documentary on ecological literacy, field producing for German TV, and editing news film for ABC and NBC TV. She anchored the Evening News at WBAI FM, studied film at NYU, journalism at Columbia University, and taught Web video at Rutgers University. She and Burstein are working on a documentary about Macintosh inventor Jef Raskin.

DSLDave Burstein is the publisher and editor of DSL Prime. An expert on broadband networks and award winning radio host, Burstein organized Web Video Summit where he wowed insiders with one of the world’s first demos of 6-MB HD video streaming live.
 
After Avatar, You Must Move on 3D Channels
Saturday, 05 December 2009 12:00
AvatarJim Cameron's Avatar premieres December 18 and it will open eyes about what 3D can be. The film inevitably won't live up to the hype, but today's 3D technology amazes everyone the first time they see it. Cameron made a believer out of me almost three years ago with a remarkable demonstration at NAB. He said then that all his friends  the A-List directors  will insist on shooting with 3D and that most of the big movies will be in 3D from now on.

The televisions soon will be much cheaper than the $10,000 units that will be at CES. 3D is created in the original program and post, not at the TV set, so it requires little modifications of the TV. Sony at NAB showed decent 3D on a current top of the line TV  unmodified.hr id="system-readmore" /> The main requirement is a rock solid high frame rate, which now is achievable.

BSkyB is already promising 3D channels soon because they are a valuable way to stand out from the competition. Verizon hasn't said anything, but 3D is a natural way to take advantage of FiOS' massive bandwidth. Severe difficulties with standards, etc. are putting people off. But if you can make it work, probably right to be in the vanguard. Your most affluent and technically sophisticated customers will want it, and they tend to have a strong influence on others.

For a taste on your computer today of what 3D can be, do see a remarkable video of Picasso's Guernica in three dimensions. http://bit.ly/7oPfky
 
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