Technology is constantly evolving. Sometimes the impact of those changes is small, and other times it can be groundbreaking. It is the significant changes that help to power a next-generation user experience for consumers and additional revenue streams and/or significant cost savings for service providers.
The key challenge video service providers are facing is how to deliver high-quality video more efficiently and cost-effectively in the over-the-top (OTT) and multiscreen environment. Given the complexity involved with preparing and delivering content to multiple devices, major technology improvements are needed. There are indeed several solutions in the pipeline to address these issues but let us focus on two new technology standards that Harmonic believes will make a significant impact on OTT and multiscreen services: HEVC and MPEG-DASH.
HEVC, or high efficiency video coding, is a new video compression standard that is currently being drafted by ISO to replace the current standard H.264 AVC (advanced video coding). The word “efficiency” is central to the name of the standard for a reason: The primary goal of HEVC is to reduce the data rate needed for high-quality video coding by as much as 50% — a huge improvement that will help content providers deploy higher quality OTT video services using the same amount of bandwidth, or half the bandwidth at the same quality.
If the video coding efficiency provided by HEVC is not enough to get content providers excited, there are other upsides to the standard too. HEVC simplifies video coding management in addition to paving the way for the development of affordable decoders and encoders for small operators and emerging markets. Another benefit is that HEVC maximizes the efficiency of multi-view video coding or stereo 3D video, along with scalable video coding. This means a video stream, sequence, or image can easily be represented in multiple ways or multiple formats. The end result is that video content can be prepared in different resolutions and different frame or bitrates and still look great on any device — from an 80-inch HDTV to a smartphone — all while retaining a high level of coding efficiency. For these reasons, HEVC has the ability to impact a wide range of video applications, most notably OTT delivery.
MPEG-DASH is another industry standard that promises to bring efficiency to the multiscreen environment. DASH provides operators with a universal delivery format and uses common encryption to ensure compatibility with multiple DRM systems. Relying on the standard, content providers no longer have to encode, store, and stream content separately for each end user device, saving them a significant amount of time and money. They can also guarantee that a DRM system is not blocking consumers from viewing their precious paid content. Content is encrypted once and then streamed to a client that supports a variety of DRM systems. Each client has a separate set of decryption keys specific to the DRM format being used. The commonly encrypted content can then be streamed from the same server, further saving costs.
Harmonic is a big supporter of both HEVC and MPEG-DASH because we see the incredible cost savings and efficiencies that each standard will bring to powering a next-generation user experience on any device. More information about HEVC and MPEG-DASH is available online as part of our ongoing VidTech Insider video series.
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