In today’s modern poly-device lifestyle, consumers shift seamlessly across phones, computers, televisions and tablets, devouring rich media content wherever they are. This hyper-connected culture has spawned a new breed of consumer who expects high-quality entertainment on-demand – and at lightning-fast speed.
Despite consumers’ voracious appetites for such content, the ability to capture video with state-of-the-art equipment in increasingly higher-resolution formats has far surpassed the technical infrastructure in distribution.
For example, the increased resolution made possible by HD (high-definition) video and the developing UltraHD (4K) resolution standard means higher bitrates, creating a massive burden on both fixed and mobile networks. A technically efficient and low-cost solution for disseminating the massive amount of data required for high-quality video has yet to be adopted.
So How Can We Fix This?
An obvious solution is limiting the video bitrate, but doing so in “brute force” causes noticeable degradation in image quality — an unacceptable trade-off for consumers and content providers alike.
The ability to provide high-quality video quickly comes down to bandwidth for content providers. If videos were a liquid, bandwidth would refer to the size of the pipe. If too much liquid tries to enter the pipe, it will travel at slower pace, impeding video delivery. Wedge even larger high quality video files into the pipe and it’s only a matter of time before it clogs completely.
A Change in Culture
In just the past few years, we have witnessed a fundamental shift away from video content delivery over traditional broadcast networks (over-the-air, cable and satellite) to virtually spot-delivery via over-the-top (OTT) Internet delivery. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant video and iTunes have emerged as household names, seizing market share in their quest to satiate consumers’ intensifying appetites for content choice, flexibility and value.
Mobile video delivery has also grown at a dizzying pace as YouTube, Vimeo and Hulu continue to proliferate mobile OTT services, along with robust “TV Everywhere” offerings launched by the majority of cable and satellite networks.
The mainstreaming of these popular services, along with revolutionary mobile technologies that make viewing videos as simple as switching on an iPhone, now mean Americans are spending more online time than ever consuming video content.
Cisco’s Visual Networking Index estimates that video delivery monopolizes more than 50 percent of Internet bandwidth today, instigating the main source of Internet bottlenecks and ultimately, the primary cause of consumer frustration over poor performance. Mobile video streaming is swelling so rapidly that it will account for the majority of the 65 times increase in wireless data traffic estimated by Cisco in 2014. If Cisco’s forecast is upheld, the influx of video traffic may grind mobile networks to a halt as 3G and 4G wireless fail to support the increased demand.
The combination of the demand for both fixed and mobile video delivery, which is growing exponentially, along with the increasing resolution and quality of video capture and display devices, means it’s only a matter of time before bandwidth demand exceeds capacity.
But… Are There Ways to Improve Things?
The recently proposed HEVC (H.265) video compression standard promises up to 50 percent bitrate reduction compared to the existing H.264 standard, but it will take at least five to seven years for mass-market penetration.
Regardless of future standards, what’s indisputable is that compression of higher-quality video content is mission critical. A video optimization solution is needed now, but only if it possesses the capability to lower video stream bitrates without the loss of quality.
Investigations by academia and industry have resulted in limited, and thus far, incremental improvements in compression – until recently. To improve the delivery system and user experience, our media optimization experts at Beamr have developed novel algorithms that could be integrated into either the content creation or delivery systems to optimize video streams and make videos more storage and distribution-friendly.
Beamr’s Improvements to the System
Our patented optimization algorithm reduces the bitrate of H.264 video streams by up to 75 percent (4X), without affecting their perceptual quality. And because it works in the domain of standard H.264 video, the resulting video streams are fully compatible with any media player or consumer device.
Already proven in our popular JPEGmini photo recompression platform, the optimization algorithm imitates the perceptual qualities of the human eye, ensuring the video stream is compressed to the maximum extent possible by removing redundancies, without creating any visual artifacts in the process.
Regardless of how you prefer to devour your favorite videos across media platforms, new optimization tools based on proven scientific algorithms can streamline the delivery process, unclogging the bandwidth pipes to ensure that you can effortlessly hit “play” and watch high-quality video on-demand without interruption across multiple screens.
(To learn more about Beamr, please visit its website.)