Stating that is was four years in the making, Paris-based Ateme (www.ateme.com/), a provider of video compression technology, has announced a new addition to its family of H.264 compliant video encoding technologies, called “EAVC4.” Founded in 1991, Ateme is a small company, at around 100 employees, with $20 million in annual revenue that is focused on supporting “tier-1” multichannel system operators. DirecTV and Turner Broadcasting are two of its long-time customers.
Leveraging a redesigned multi-processor and multi-core 64-bit architecture, the new EAVC4 technology goes a step beyond Ateme’s existing EAVC3 technology and promises a 10-20 percent bandwidth gain in signal-to-noise ratio picture quality for progressive and interlaced content. It also offers the ability to adjust parameters of speed versus quality based on individual business models. In general, the faster the encoding setting (processing speed or concurrent linear channel transcoding on a blade server), the lower the quality of the resulting video image (typically used on cell phones and tablets) will be.
“The goal is to meet the challenges of today’s multi-profile, multi-screen delivery and ensure a satisfying consumer experience,” said Benoit Fouchard, Chief Strategy Officer at Ateme, adding that the technology disputes the notion of hardware as the only options for simultaneous, multi-codec processing. “This underlying EAVC4 is not yet a product, but a new research development that we think is quite significant. All of the speed-versus-quality compromises that we have built into these new algorithms are of a quality that broadcasters will judge 'good enough' for professional applications.”
EAVC4 is the next generation of Ateme’s software-based compression products, found within its Titan product line—which includes the company’s Titan File, Titan Live and Titan KFE packages—that use a new software core for transcoding video for different sized screens (from 64 kbps for smart phones up to 8K resolutions). The company said the algorithm is not proprietary—it’s compliant with most MPEG-4 infrastructures—and can be deployed “within a few weeks” by using a separate application from Ateme and other third parties in the future.
The company said the unique EAVC4 video encoding architecture draws its efficiency from multi-threading from a slice level up through a macro block level; algorithmic optimization at multiple levels: video sequence, GOP, frame and macroblock; extensive use of hand-optimized assembly code to leverage Intel processors capabilities (including the emerging Sandy Bridge specific instruction set) and software architecture optimization (patented approach, free of any IP challenges).
The result, according to Fouchard, is significant performance improvements in both file transcoding and live transcoding environments. This, they say, includes up to three times more speed for file transcoding workflows, such as VOD processing—enabling the completion of jobs within one third of the previous time—and three times as many linear channels per processor blade to benefit live transcoding workflows, such as IPTV.
EAVC4 includes a patented technique called “Multi-Screen by Design,” a new approach to processing video for multi-screen output. Relying on intelligent parallelization to perform common processes only one time for all bit-rates and screen formats, the new algorithms are designed to deliver speed improvements and optimize video fidelity for multiple outputs from a single content stream. This, Fouchard said, enables broadcast and broadband professionals to offer an optimal blend of processing speed, video quality, multi-screen capabilities and resource efficiency.
“The primary benefit with this technology is the gain in video quality, at all bit rate levels,” Fouchard said. “Customers that do not need to change their bandwidth requirements gain a visual quality that is measurable and immediately more pleasing to the human eye. We’re seeing the same ‘psycho-visual’ quality at 4 Mbps that others in the industry are claiming at 5 Mbps. This is huge for a multi-screen content distributor.”
With video content being streamed and downloaded by an ever-burgeoning consumer base, the ability to tailor video content for specific screen sizes and available bandwidths is critical to ensure an optimized end-user viewing experience. EAVC4 offers broadcasters, broadband providers, and content creators improved performance and flexibility in an environment where bandwidth and speed are critical to success.
While the industry is moving to High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC)—also known as H.265 or MPEG-H Part 2—to gain new efficiencies for multi-screen delivery, it will take some time for the current joint video coding standardization work of the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (ITU-T Q.6/SG 16) and ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29/WG 11) to be commercially deployed. Until then, evolutionary improvements like EACV4 are vital to keep multichannel operators in business.
“It is clear that the need for higher performance, encoding flexibility and improved multi-screen capabilities is not something that users can simply defer until the full testing and adoption of future HEVC solutions,” said Pierre Larbier, Ateme’s chief technology officer. He added that the company is working on several HEVC products of its own, “Today’s video encoding systems must not only support large-scale, continuous video encoding operations, but they must also offer a high degree of flexibility for outputting different levels of video quality, frame-rates, bit-rates and screen resolution. The release of EAVC4 addresses the ever-escalating consumer demand for rich video content now, and empowers broad access across an increasing number of viewer devices.”