Thursday, September 10, 2009

What's next after H.264 ?

H.264 Advanced Video Compression (also known as MPEG-4 Part 10) is widely accepted as a leading video compression standard. Other formats such as VC-1 and AVS can (arguably) offer similar performance but H.264 is definitely a front runner in terms of coding efficiency. First standardized in 2003, H.264/AVC is now a mature technology. So what is next ?

The Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) are examining the need for a new video compression standard. At the recent MPEG meeting (June 2009), several proposals for improved video compression were presented. The consensus was that (a) there is likely to be a need for a new compression format, as consumers demand higher-quality video and as processing capacity improves and (b) there is potential to deliver better performance than the current state-of-the art.

The current plan is to set up a Joint Collaborative Team (JCT) of MPEG and VCEG representatives to work on a new video coding standard. Proposals for the new standard will be reviewed in early 2010 and a new standard could be finalized around 2012/2013. It will aim to deliver significantly better compression performance than H.264/AVC, probably at a higher computational cost. Its working title ? High Performance Video Coding or Enhanced Performance Video Coding.

- Iain.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Video coding and cloud computing ?

The announcement of OnLive's "on-demand gaming" platform has generated a lot of interest. The basic idea is that a video game runs on a central server, not on your PC or games platform. You interact with the game via a broadband connection. The key to making this work is response time - the time lag between your input reaching the server and the updated game screen reaching your display. The gameplay video is rendered on the server and so a critical question is whether a high-definition, high framerate game display can be streamed to your display in real time.

OnLive claim that this can be done using video compression; i.e. compression of the rendered scene, streaming, decompression and display in a fraction of a second. If the platform matches up to the claims, then this might be the start of a trend towards cloud computing, in which high-performance computing is done on a remote server and the results (a rendered screen in this case) are sent to your display using video compression. Are current video compression algorithms good enough to support the cloud computing model ? We'll soon find out...