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Encoding requirements for the HEVC Era As media enterprises begin to realize the promise of HEVC for next-generation OTT delivery, advanced encoding technologies will be a key enabler. Therefore, operators should choose carefully when evaluating encoding/transcoding solutions and look for the following key attributes: Future-proof design. The encoding platform should not only support today’s H.264 delivery via all major ABR streaming formats but also be extensible enough to accommodate HEVC, MPEG-DASH, and other emerging standards into the future through a software upgrade. Robust functionality. With the right encoding solution, operators should be able to approach bandwidth efficiency from two perspectives: maintaining current levels of video quality while using less bandwidth, or improving video resolution at the same bit rates. The system should include capabilities for encoding live content as well as offline encoding and pre-recorded files for delayed streaming; e.g. VOD services and catch-up TV. In addition, the system should provide content protection features and support subtitles and multiple languages. Pristine picture quality. In the quest for bandwidth efficiency, quality should never be a victim – especially since viewers are holding the quality of their OTT content to the same standard as home TV output. Reliability. It goes without saying, but every second of downtime in an OTT operation represents a significant loss of revenue. Therefore, the encoding solution should provide multiple mechanisms and redundancies for each delivery platform to prevent any service interruptions. By definition, traditional broadcasting is a multicast workflow that sends a single stream to many viewers. OTT, however, is a unicast, point-to-point distribution mechanism that presents obvious bandwidth challenges as the number of users multiplies; since every 1,000 viewers represents 1,000 streams, it follows that you need 1,000 times the bandwidth. This inefficiency has dire economic consequences for large-scale OTT providers that rely on content distribution networks (CDNs) to deliver their services over the open Internet, since most CDN providers base their fees on user volume. The ultimate OTT irony, therefore, is that the more popular the service is, the more expensive and less profitable it is to operate unless bandwidth usage is somehow reduced – and that’s where HEVC compression enters the picture. Since HEVC will allow operators to send the same streams using half the bandwidth, OTT will not only become a more profitable venture but the picture quality will be able to keep pace with consumers’ ever-evolving expectations as UHD delivery appears on the horizon. The future is here Chip manufacturers are already introducing 4K HEVC decoder chipsets, which is driving some encoding manufacturers to begin building HEVC functionality into their platforms. One of the first worldwide implementations of HEVC is Thomson Video Networks’ ViBE™ VS7000 multi-screen video encoding/transcoding system, which features the company’s own HEVC compression technology. Attendees at the upcoming IBC2013 show will get a glimpse of the OTT future when HISPASAT, a leading satellite transmission operator with a strong presence in South America, demonstrates a trial deployment of the VS7000 to deliver live HEVC-encoded Ultra HD content to air via its satellite platform. In addition, Sky Italia, Italy’s leading DTH satellite pay TV provider, has launched a trial demonstration of the VS7000 to create an end-to-end Ultra HD platform from content acquisition and transcoding in HEVC, to delivery and display on 4K television sets. With these demonstrations and technology advances, can widespread commercial adoption of HEVC and Ultra HD delivery over 4K networks be far away? Since HEVC already demonstrating bandwidth reductions of up to 50 percent for 4K delivery, the future looks bright for HD and UHD content delivery on any type of device and network – especially when HEVC is combined with exciting new technologies such as MPEG-DASH, eMBMS, and LTE. In the near term, the bandwidth savings afforded by these technologies translate directly into reduced operating expenses, while easing the path of video delivery in today’s multiplatform world. Ludovic Pertuisel Ludovic Pertuisel is Web TV/OTT product line manager for Thomson Video Networks, a global leader in advanced video compression solutions. Thomson Video Networks helps media companies, video service providers, and broadcasters deliver superior video quality at the lowest-possible bandwidth for contribution, terrestrial, satellite, cable, IPTV, and OTT services. TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 83 NOVEMBER 2013 | 73