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NGCodec Presents the Next Generation of Video at CES 2019

The Intersection of 5G and Emerging Video Standards Makes it Possible to Deliver Live Streams at Broadcast Quality to Any Screen

NGCoded has the highest performance, lowest latency, best visual quality video encoders available and is demonstrating the future of live video streams and mixed reality experiences at CES 2019. If you would like to meet with us, use our online scheduling tool at www.ngcodec.com/ces online or visit our booth at Sands Expo Center,Level 1, Hall G, Booth 52786 at CES 2019.  

Video streams are a massive component - 70% -  of internet traffic and growing fast. At CES 2019 NGCodec will for the first time have our own booth and will be demonstrating the future of live, interactive internet video. We are announcing our upcoming AV1 support and double density encoding - a 2X performance improvement - coming later this year. We are also demonstrating VR encoding for real time, interactive games at the full resolution and spec of the HTC Vive featuring our latest latency improvements, delivering an ultra low latency video stream with performance and visual quality indistinguishable from the native stream at less than 20Mbits/second.

Today’s Fastest, Highest Visual Quality Video Encoders

Today, NGCodec has the highest performance video encoder available and the only encoders which can provide broadcast quality live streams on H.265/HEVC and VP9. It produces encoded video at the highest quality and lowest bitrate employing the latest video standards. At CES 2019 you can see our new NGCodec developer platform, a small dedicated video encoder for prototyping cloud-scale encoding.

Emerging codecs including H.265/HEVC and VP9 offer higher compression rates with the same or better visual quality and encoding costs. Implementations vary – the compression rate and visual quality of a given encoder can be dramatically different. NGCodec has developed state-of-the-art encoders, using Xilinx FPGAs, providing over 30% better compression with H.265/HEVC and VP9 compared to existing H.264/AVC encoders targeting live workloads. For video streaming, better compression means reduction in bandwidth.

Google, Twitch, and NGCodec recently published a VP9 implementation white paper on hardware based encoding for live VP9 encoding and Twitch has created a pubic test stream as a technology demonstration. You need VP9 decoder support in your browser which is available with Chrome and can be viewed at https://www.twitch.tv/vp9dev online.

“FPGA-based real-time VP9 encoding can deliver at least 25% bitrate savings compared to the highest-quality H.264 encoders deployed in Twitch’s production today.” -- The Twitch Blog, December 2018

A 5G Future - Streaming Interactive Applications to VR/AR Screens

In the future, improving performance in video encoding makes it possible to deliver broadcast quality interactive experiences at modest bitrates to all consumers on all devices. Emerging services will stream experiences from the cloud and cloud edge - virtual reality, augmented reality, and interactive video - with low latency indistinguishable from a local PC.

On emerging 5G networks, users can experience the performance of a high performance computer on lightweight VR and AR glasses with applications processed and encoded to video with low latency in the cloud. NGCodec is working with Ericsson and other industry leaders to demonstrate VR over 5G. In 2018 we provide the first demo of interactive VR on a live 5G network at the Ericsson Silicon Valley Experience Center, encoding video to H.265/HEVC at less than 20Mbits/second using the HTC Vive at full resolution and framerate spec with no perceived latency when compared to use on a desktop PC.
For more information feel free to reach out to info@ngcodec.com or feel free to book some time with our online tool www.ngcodec.com/ces at CES 2019.

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Can video encoding properly really save the Polar Bears?

The case for energy saving using FPGA architecture is compelling.  If you look at most data centres, 99% of data centers are using Intel Xeon Processors which with software running on standard operating system, just continues to burn power. This could be cut by almost 85% when using FPGA architecture.

 

So how does this save the polar bears?

To answer this, we need to understand FPGA. And the data center consumption of global power.

 

What is FPGA architecture?

 FPGA stands for Field Programmable Gate Array and is basically a semiconductor chip made up of many silicon layers which sits within its own circuit board.   Its function, as in the case of NGCodec with their encoding applications, are hard wired into the chip as firmware. It means a separate software application running on a specific operating system is not required as the FPGA will take over much of the CPU and GPU functionality. But the upshot is is that FPGA boards do not require a host computer to operate, since they have their own input and output interface. This has many advantages in terms of efficiency and performance, but one major advantage is that is utilizes a lot less power. This alone has a huge environmental benefit.

 

 Can using FPGA save the world?

 “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

To put things in prospective, cloud services are hugely reliant on data centers with many of the major internet and IT companies building their own massive infrastructures including Microsoft, Apple, Cisco and Amazon. Data centers in the USA alone use more than 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. This requires approximately 34 giant (500-megawatt) coal-powered plants. On a global scale, data centres used roughly 416 terawatts (4.16 x 1014 watts) or about 3% of the total world’s electricity which equates to approximately 40% of the entire electricity consumed by the United Kingdom in 2017.  Shockingly this consumption is forecast to double every four years.

In terms of environmental impact, Anders Andrae, a Swedish researcher and Senior Expert Life Cycle Assessment at Huawei is quoted in Climate Change News that the ICT industry is posed to be responsible for up to 3.5% of global emissions by 2020, with this value potentially escalating to 14% by 2040.  It is claimed that the data centre sector could be using 20% of all available electricity in the world by 2025 since data is being created at a more accelerated speed than ever before experienced.

Google estimates that a typical search using its search engine needs as much energy as illuminating a light for 17 seconds,  and is responsible for emitting 0.2 grams of CO2. It may not sound much, but now think about how many searches you might make in a year and multiple that by the number of people using Google. And Google is data-lite!

Streaming video through the internet is what really increases the data count. IT company Cisco, claims that video will make up 82 percent of internet traffic by 2021, up from 73 percent in 2016. Around a third of internet traffic in North America is already dedicated to streaming Netflix services alone which is based on traditional software encoding.

With additional video services combined with the booming demand of IOT devices, demand will continue to rise dramatically and it is estimated that 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.  With the addition of driverless cars each with dozens of embedded sensors, and crypto-currencies like Bitcoin needing vast amounts of energy there will be no let up for energy demand for data centers.

The research from Andrae suggests that data centres will be one of the biggest energy consumers on the planet, beating many countries’ energy consumption levels. This could make data centres one of the biggest polluters in just seven years.

Of course the data center industry is not ignoring this and are promoting renewable green energy and starting to place data centers in cooler locations that don’t require a huge amount of air conditioning. It seems strange now that any of the world’s largest centers are in hot or temperate climates, where vast amounts of energy are used just to keep them from overheating.

Almost as important as switching data centers is for them to utilize low energy devices which will help in improving their energy efficiency. This is where FPGA technology can help, especially when deployed in cloud environments where resources can be shared with many disparate customers. This will reduce energy consumption caused by many companies having their own in-house data centers or machine rooms, a major benefit of cloud.

Greenpeace says given the very size of the internet business, and its exposure to criticism for its contribution to climate change means that they need to modify their stance from being part of the problem to being part of the solution, which the industry takes very seriously.

The hope is that they will bring many other giant corporations with them. “The leadership by major internet companies has been an important catalyst among a much broader range of corporations to adopt 100 percent renewable goals,” says Gary Cook, the lead author of a Greenpeace report. “Their actions send an important market signal.”

Gary Cook believes that many companies offering internet services will fully expect to see green labelling for digital sources as routine. The video industry has to move from being energy sappers helping in the demise of the polar ice caps to instead helping save the polar bears from extinction.

But apart from helping save polar bears, there is of course another major advantage of using FPGA. Efficiency.  The NGCodec allows full H265 HEVC or VP9 encoding with low bit rates at around 1MB/sec with extremely low latency. But that aside let’s just do our bit to save the planet!

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What’s in a codec? HEVC versus VP9

What’s in a codec? HEVC versus VP9

As video resolutions evolve from HD to UHD and beyond to 8K, encoding technologies to compress video also evolve. They must do so to accommodate the larger resolutions as well as the bandwidth and storage requirements of the broadcast and media industry. Today we are experiencing a codec war between two competing standards, H.265/HEVC and VP9. This is a continuation of the previous generation codec battle between H.264/AVC and VP8.

Analysis shows that H.265/HEVC and VP9 are in many practical situations equally efficient, providing similar levels of compression efficiency and visual quality with the same given hardware. So when choosing between the two codecs, pure quality should not be the major differentiator.

In last decade’s battle between H264/AVC and VP8, both standards were widely adopted by encoding products, browsers and players alike - but arguably H.264/AVC won out by being employed on just about every operating system, browser, player and encoding device in existence. Apple’s decision not to implement VP8 may have had a contribution to the success of H.264/AVC, but even so it did not stop other mobile players from supporting VP8.

With the current generation H.265/HEVC and VP9 encoders, there are many reasons why companies may deploy either in their products and services, which we will examine further in this article.

Royalties

One of the main obstacles delaying H.265/HEVC adoption is the licensing and royalty situation, which is confusing and still subject to uncertainty. Many companies contributed to the development of the H.265/HEVC standard, and as a result there are three patent pools that are demand royalties – MPEG LA, HEVC Advance and Velos Media with a further number of IP holders not in any patent pool. See diagram below by Jonatan Samuelsson from IBC 2018 paper.

A subset of the organizations that have declared to hold HEVC essential patents.

A subset of the organizations that have declared to hold HEVC essential patents.

Conversely, the VP9 standard is an open source, royalty free format that was developed by Google.  Google originally developed VP9 mainly for YouTube content. In fact if you want to utilize YouTube in 4K, you have no choice but to use VP9. Google has licensed a number of patents to provide cover for VP9 and future codecs.

 

Browser Support

VP9 has a much larger potential user base, as decoding support has been adopted within Firefox, Edge and Chrome, the most popular global browsers. H.265/HEVC has only been adopted by Edge and Safari. Given every Android phone ships with Chrome, the numbers of potential decoders is huge.

Decoder Browser Support    (As of September 2017)

Decoder Browser Support

(As of September 2017)

  

Industry Adoption

For video contribution within the enterprise space, only H.265/HEVC solutions have been adopted by the major manufacturers as the next generation after their H.264/AVC products. However these are specialized solutions used for ingest of streaming video from a remote live location back to a broadcast center, typically used for live remote productions. At the receiving end they are typically encoded again for production.

However for OTT, consumer products, and use in set top boxes, the penetration has been rather different, with VP9 being adopted at least as much if not more than H.265/HEVC:-

Connected TV Decoder Support    (As of 2016)

Connected TV Decoder Support

(As of 2016)

 

Roadmap

There has been little focus in the media industry on H.266/VVC (Versatile Video Coding), considered to be the next encoding standard after H.265/HEVC from MPEG/ITU. Its aim is to give a +30%-bit rate improvement over H.265/HEVC and will lend itself to formats for 4K, 8K and even 16K.

Instead, there is now an industry focus on AV1. This is generally considered to be the successor to VP9 and initial tests are showing a 25% improvement in bit rate. The general feeling is that it could be very widely adopted due to the nature of its open source approach. There are also potential improvements over H.265/HEVC, although this has yet to be fully quantified.

AV1 was initially called VP10, and was being developed by Google as the successor to VP9. Along the way Google decided to throw the development of the new standard open to a larger community, creating the Alliance for Open Media (AOM) which was announced on September 1, 2015, with Google contributing its VP10 program to AOM. The founding members were Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Netflix. At the time, the formation consolidated the development of three potentially competitive open source codecs including VP10 but also Cisco's Thor and Mozilla's Daala.

There is some concern about potential litigation around AV1  – Nokia sued Apple in 2016 around patent infringement of H.264/AVC, which was settled out of court. There is no suggestion a lawsuit is imminent with AV1 but there have been some rumblings in the industry, with so much at stake. But despite that, the prospects for AV1 seems positive, especially given the royalty issues around H.265/HEVC. At the end of the day, it’s all about adoption rates. It could take a few years to determine a winner. Nevertheless AV1 has some very large companies behind it.

 

Summary

As an encoding company that specializes in FPGA technology for low bitrate encoding, including VP9 and HEVC, NGCodec firmly believes in a multi codec approach for their customers.  By providing the backbone to many cloud based encoding solutions,  NGCodec technology is optimized for low bandwidth, high-quality applications for H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC, VP9, AV1, and will be keeping a close eye on H.266/VVC as part of its future roadmap.  So in summary, despite the extra complexity, customers will demand all four codecs: H.264/AVC for legacy devices, H.265/HEVC for premium and enterprise, VP9 for mass market Android support, and AV1 as a possible successor for the whole market.               

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Live Streaming Visual Quality - The World is Watching

Backlash to poor quality live-streaming is now a thing. Live events are cornerstones of broadcast, and Amazon’s recent experience with the US Open broadcast in the UK is an example of the challenges of hyperscale live streaming. While consumers may have pushed back on the price, content available, and advertising on cable and satellite, they enjoyed a consistent and reliable video experience. Streaming has broken into live broadcast for headline events, broadening access and opening business models. Yet consumer experiences have been inconsistent, challenged with poor video quality and feature gaps creating newsworthy backlash. As expectations grow for live streaming of major events, technical hurdles including core technology, hyperscaling, and user experience remain.

Live streaming is a fast moving opportunity. CISCO predicts live video will grow at an astounding rate, increasing 15-fold from 2016 to 2021, ultimately accounting for 13 percent of  Internet video traffic, with video traffic being 82 percent of all Internet traffic in 2021. Live video sourced from consumers is being curated and broadcast from tens to hundreds of thousands on emerging mobile-social platforms. Streaming broadcasters are picking up sporting events and season coverage. Leagues are rapidly ramping direct access. Comprehensive coverage of complex events is ideal for streaming, allowing viewers to choose the events, stars and matches they want, and seamlessly move between live, delayed, and recorded content.

Video quality matters. Streaming broadcasters are still working to nail the basics of hyperscale broadcast of live events. And consumer expectations are not standing still, with 4K HDR and 360 VR ramping and viewer comparisons to high-quality cable broadcast and VOD streaming. Viewers want click-to-watch simplicity with broadcast quality. And they notice when they have paid for streaming services but those services fail to deliver on simple - but technically challenging - video quality and reliability expectations.

Efficient video encoding promises to reduce bandwidth requirements and improve live stream quality. The emergence of H.265/HEVC and VP9 are making it possible to deliver broadcast quality 2K and 4K video with reasonable bandwidth for recorded content. Unfortunately good software encoders do not run in realtime. Live software encoders supporting H.265/HEVC and VP9 have little or no compression efficiency gains over the legacy H.264/AVC resulting in a huge difference in Visual Quality (VQ) between live and recorded content.

 

NGCodec has been developing solutions for encoding live streams and has launched cloud and private cloud encoders ready to meet the challenge of broadcast-quality live streaming. At the upcoming International Broadcasting Convention - IBC 2018 - NGCodec is demonstrating HD at 1Mbps using Adaptive Bit Rate encoding with the H.265/HEVC and VP9 codecs. The solution is powered by RealityCodec, an FPGA based solution for video encoding with the best possible performance per watt and scalability for broadcast-quality HD and 4K UHD video.

 

If you want to discuss hyperscale live streaming, you can meet up me at IBC using the online tool at www.ngcodec.com/ibc online.

 

 

 

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4 Reasons Why VP9 is Important

VP9 video is everywhere even if you don't realize it, thanks to the likes of YouTube and Netflix. But, what is it and why should you care about it?

VP9 is an open and royalty-free codec. That’s one immediate reason why it is a very lucrative option especially for hyper scale internet video services who have embraced it as an upgrade over the immensely popular previous generation H.264 codec. VP9 was developed by Google as part of it's WebM project, and was historically used primarily on YouTube. However, the format has gradually expanded to Netflix and others. When Netflix began using it towards the end of 2016, reports showed they were able to save up to 36% bandwidth by using VP9 encoding together with their video chunking approach. The momentum around upgrading to VP9 has since grown as the codec has garnered the interest of other enterprises and developers alike. In fact, with the highest installation rate amongst the codecs available on the market, it is currently the most relevant codec for online streaming. Here's why:

Huge install base

It’s already an adopted format by Chrome (naturally) and Firefox browsers with a huge install base on several low-end and high-end Android devices. Despite it's incompatibility with Safari, VP9 boasts support on almost 3 Billion devices - nearly double of HEVC's support on about 1.7 Billion devices. More details on this can be found here. With Apple's joining AOM, a possibility of an initial support for VP9 and later addition of AV1 support on Safari can't be ruled out.

High Quality Encoding Tools

With High Quality Encoding tool sets, VP9 delivers a low bandwidth streaming option suitable for an array of resolutions from mobile through 4K. Google claimed in 2015 that this codec actually cuts the size of the average video in half, which is important when it comes to enhancing user experience with lower bandwidths and higher resolutions. Google had earlier stated in their blog post that their vision is for every internet user to enjoy high-quality videos without having to wait a second for them to buffer. VP9 does put them one step closer to achieving that goal with it's incredible compression efficiency thereby enabling a size decrease of HD video to something that can be easily consumed on most internet connections. VP9 video codec is also engineered to get more efficient at larger resolutions than its predecessors making it a natural migration option for 4K services.

It’s free

Unlike other codecs that came before VP9, VP9 is open-source and it’s going to stay that way. Because it’s free to use, more and more developers are reviewing to incorporate it into their products, including some big names in the streaming video industry. Why would you pay for something when you can get a comparable quality codec that's proven and deployed for free?

Established Roadmap

VP9 is the predecessor to AV1 - AOM's next generation video codec that was released this week. While AV1 shows a lot of potential and promise, the reality is that it may be at least a few years away as far as hyperscale mass hardware deployments are concerned. Furthermore, the codec is highly complex and will take time for implementations to come about that have high quality real-time encoding with significant gains. In the meanwhile, VP9 fits in as the perfect option that's available today, with proven deployments and excellent video quality improvements all rolled in to one codec at an excellent price point.

 

Naturally, you can expect to see VP9 continue to grow in popularity as most developers begin to adopt it as their standard video codec. Considering that days’ worth of video is published to YouTube every minute, investing on improving compression and lowering the bandwidth needed for streaming content was a smart move from Google. The reduced size of video files for the same output quality delivered means that, even as 4K videos get added into the mix more often, everyone will get to enjoy pristine quality content with faster loading times and decreased buffering using this new codec. It's only a matter of time until this gets implemented on other mass online video platforms which choose to migrate to VP9 from existing H.264 codec to leverage on all the freebies that come with it.

 

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HEVC Advance’s royalty removal is a step in the right direction. Here’s why.

On March 13, HEVC Advance announced that it has removed its license fees for subscription, title-by-title encoding and distribution for all non-physical media using the Emmy Award winning HEVC video compression standard.

This essentially means that cable, on-air broadcast and satellite streaming will no longer be subject to royalty fees previously sought by HEVC Advance. According to HEVC Advance, this move is part of an effort to accelerate the adoption of HEVC compression especially as 4K resolution content become more and more ubiquitous in streaming-video markets.

Additionally, HEVC Advance also announced it has expanded its discount program for Region 1 (which includes North America, Europe, Middle-east and A-Pac excluding emerging markets like India & China) Lower-Priced Connected Home and Other Devices Category to include units costing up to $80. It also consolidated and reduced it’s enterprise cap to $40M and further expanded it’s Trademark Program discounts to include physical media. This makes HEVC easier to implement in a greater number of devices.

This is, however, not the first move of its kind. Back in 2016, HEVC Advance waived fees on software applications like browsers and media players that implement HEVC encoding and decoding only using a general purpose CPU and no hardware acceleration. Essentially, this move was to drive the market for HEVC by allowing free software implementations on hardware that lacked HEVC acceleration functions but equipped with the horsepower needed to handle HEVC compression in software. Fast forward a year, in October 2017, HEVC Advance again announced discounted royalty rates specifically to increase adoption of HEVC among lower-priced devices

Earlier, there was another major shift in 2017 when Apple, at its Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC17), announced that it would support HEVC in both its computer and smartphone operating systems. This put HEVC at the forefront over other parallel open source compression formats, as the most prominent phone-maker in the world and one of the most popular and well-known computer-makers worldwide was supporting HEVC. This was definitely music to the ears of the video community including companies like NGCodec that had invested heavily in HEVC.  

While Apple’s move and it’s adoption of HEVC in it’s iPhones, iPads and Macs showed a great deal of promise, the adoption rate of HEVC for streaming content still suffered primarily due to the royalty issues that had plagued it for years coupled with the huge market share of royalty-free VP9 codec in browsers and Android smartphones. NGCodec has also publicly stated that both VP9 and HEVC may be required because the Premium segment lead by Apple is HEVC only and Mass market led by Google Android is VP9 Only.Apple has since joined AOM, fueling uncertainties and speculations about the future of MPEG video codecs for streaming applications. Recently, MPEG’s founding chairman Leonard Chiariglione also wrote a critical blog post titled 'A crisis, the causes and a solution' that portrayed a rather bleak future for MPEG Video standards. In his article, it is shown that while there are indeed concerns about the future of video compression technology, there are also solutions available.

HEVC Advance’s latest move is a good step in the right direction towards helping broadcasters and internet video encoding providers provide HEVC as part of their codec portfolio and leverage it’s superior compression gains over the earlier dominant H.264 standard. Broadcasters can now use HEVC’s best-in-class compression royalty-free for their ingest and contribution workflows either on-prem or in the cloud. This will enable providers to expand their offerings to higher resolutions like 4K and also offer higher resolutions for a given bit rate or reduce bandwidth consumption for existing resolutions. MSOs can now effectively use HEVC encoding for distribution over cable, satellite or OTT thereby providing a far richer video experience for consumers.

It should be noted however that HEVC has three patent pools (the other two being MPEG LA and Velos Media) and a host of other patent holders who're not a part of neither pool and it remains to be seen how the other two patent pools respond to this move. HEVC Advance's announcement comes right in time as the industry gears up for the annual NAB show next month in Las Vegas. 

 

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NGCodec Joins New Huawei 5G Cloud VR/AR/MR SIG at Mobile World Congress 2018

Barcelona, Spain. NGCodec, a pioneer in cloud video processing, has joined the 5G Cloud VR/AR/MR Special Interest Group (SIG) established by Huawei’s Wireless Xlabs at the 2018 Mobile World Congress (MWC). The participants include leading VR and wireless technology providers seeking to stream experiences through the cloud targeting upcoming 5G wireless networks. Consumer applications hold the promise of speeding the adoption of 5G, but must break new ground, beyond today’s ubiquitous mobile broadband networks. NGCodec believes that streaming the cloud directly to the user interface can create a new wave of consumer application innovation. This vision is detailed in a new white paper by TIRIAS Research entitled “The Instantaneous Cloud: Emerging Consumer Applications of 5G Wireless Networks” now available at www.ngcodec.com online.

“NGCodec is working actively with service and network providers to demonstrate the synergy between low latency 5G wireless networks and high quality, low latency video streaming technology,” said the company’s new VP of Worldwide Business Development, Ian Jefferson. “Today’s Cloud video streaming technology from NGCodec designed for the most demanding live video streaming applications will continue to develop in support of upcoming cloud VR services on 5G networks.”

“Without new consumer applications, 5G will be unable to drive new models or monetization and risks slow adoption.” said Oliver Gunasekara CEO and Founder of NGCodec. “Taking advantage of the massive improvement in latency with 5G technology can unlock an instantaneous cloud with new and inventive business models. The next generation of immersive, high performance VR/AR/MR applications will be streamed directly to affordable and ubiquitous mobile devices.”

The company’s RealityCodec™  is optimized for low latency, streaming VR over a network with no noticeable difference between the encoded stream and a directly connected head mounted display. Today, this technology delivers broadcast quality H.265/HEVC for real-time streaming in the Amazon EC2 F1 Cloud and low latency H.265/HEVC for interactive virtual reality.

About NGCodec Inc.
NGCodec® has been in passionate pursuit of next generation video compression since 2012. With the support of investors including Xilinx, NGCodec’s agile startup team has created Reality Codec™, a compressor-decompressor technology optimized for ultra-low latency, high-quality applications. Headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, NGCodec leverages FPGA acceleration in the Cloud to lower encoding costs by 10x over traditional CPU encoders. Learn more at www.ngcodec.com online.

5G Cloud VR SIG Meeting on Monday 26th February at MWC 2018

5G Cloud VR SIG Meeting on Monday 26th February at MWC 2018

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Xilinx demos the new VU37P FPGA with embedded HBM DRAM

Virtex UltraScale+ FPGA augmented with co-packaged HBM DRAM operating at full speed (460Gbytes/sec), error-free, on the very first day of silicon bringup
 
The 2-minute video below shows you an operational Xilinx Virtex UltraScale+ XCVU37P FPGA, which is enhanced with co-packaged HBM (high-bandwidth memory) DRAM using Xilinx’s well-proven, 3rd-generation 3D manufacturing process. (Xilinx started shipping 3D FPGAs way back in 2011, starting with the Virtex-7 2000T and we’ve been shipping these types of devices ever since.)
 
This video was made on the very first day of silicon bringup for the device and it is already operating at full speed (460Gbytes/sec), error-free, over 32 channels. The Virtex UltraScale+ XCVU37P is one big All Programmable device with:

  • 2852K System Logic Cells
  • 9Mbits of BRAM
  • 270Mbits of UltraRAM
  • 9024 DSP48E2 slices
  • 8Gbytes of integrated HBM DRAM
  • 96 32.75Gbps GTY SerDes transceivers

This will significantly reduce the system power and board size of a Cloud Video Transcoder.

https://www.xilinx.com/memory This video shows the world's largest and fastest HBM-enabled FPGA up and running error free within the first day of silicon bring up. This Virtex® UltraScale+™ HBM-enabled FPGA provides 460 GB/s integrated memory bandwidth and three million logic cells.

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NGCodec has opened a new office in Waterloo, Canada

We have now opened our office in Waterloo Canada. Two people currently headed by our new CTO. We are now looking for more people.

https://ngcodec.com/open-jobs/

Specifically we are looking for (Job descriptions on the links): 

Anyone you can recommend?

Thanks Oliver

P.S. We announced a $8M Series A at CES.

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How can you make Wellness Initiatives work at your startup?

pexels-photo-289586.jpeg

In many startups, employee wellness initiatives is not an everyday topic of discussion and is often neglected. As founders and employees cope with the pressures of winning investors and customers by delivering high quality products, the reality around them can be counter-demanding. Entrepreneurs and employees at every small startup face phenomenal stress dealing with several do or die decisions in addition to struggles to remain motivated and deliver critical milestones. Believe it or not, wellness initiatives even in startups, when envisioned and executed right, can be a game changer in boosting employee and company morale, focus and productivity.

The classic Wikipedia definition of 'Workplace wellness' is 'any workplace health promotion activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace and to improve health outcomes'. While health and physical wellness is the focus in many organizations which usually offer incentives for physical fitness activities and lifestyle, the concept of wellness is more holistic and encompasses activities far beyond physical health initiatives.

"Wellness is the compete integration of body, mind, and spirit - the realization that everything we do, think, feel, and believe has an effect on our state of well-being" - Greg Anderson

At NGCodec, we strive to tailor our wellness program around a number of well rounded structured activities. In fact, a successful wellness initiative, we believe, needs to cover all of the following four aspects:

Physical:

Health is wealth. It's the lifeline of every employee and company and every wellness program is rightly structured around it. We include simple health wellness activities like speaker sessions focusing on healthy living, diet trends and workplace fitness. We could also plan to include webinars on different physical fitness and health related topics. While this is usually the prime focus in several organizations, wellness initiatives don't have to stop here.

Personal:

This includes activities that motivate employees, makes people feel they are part of a family that grows with a common purpose. Common activities in this category could include going out for lunch with the team with every new hire, subsidizing employee training programs, books and memberships, celebrating milestones. It could also include employee training sessions, financial guidance etc. Also, when companies take extra efforts to communicate the company mission and how employee contributions fit in the grand scheme of things, it goes a long way in keeping employees engaged thereby significantly boosting productivity. 

Social:

Effective team collaborations don't happen on their own. They need to be carefully planted, nurtured and grown. This in turn builds the company culture as it grows. Employees who have friends at work tend to collaborate better, are more passionate and hence more productive. Social activities like happy hours, company lunches, team off sites or a simple hike to a nearby park are perfect yet simple solutions where employees get to know each other better in a much informal setting. Our plan is to include some of these activities during this year.

Community:

'The more we give, the more we receive'. Activities like participating in a charity walk, identifying and supporting a charity or cause, volunteering at local community events in turn enhance the sense of belonging in people. As people become motivated and engaged in community activities together it bonds them with a higher purpose and the workplace is no longer a dull environment that simply brings with it a paycheck. At NGCodec, we strive to focus on one charity identified by consensus and structure a series of fun fundraising activities around it.

Watch this space for more on our chosen charity and activities!

Do you have a fun filled wellness promoting idea at the workplace? Feel free to share and let us know!

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NGCodec CES 2018 Round up

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NGCodec was at the America’s Seed Fund Powered by the National Science Foundation at Eureka Park. It was a great show and we demonstrated our RealityCodec Video compression technology for VR application. Cloud-based VR is an emerging application for cloud video encoding where high end graphics applications are run in the cloud, and output is converted to compressed video streams for rapid transmission to untethered mobile users. The performance of cloud servers is 20x that of smartphone clients, bringing today's PC class performance to any head-mounted display. Our RealityCodec is optimized for ultra low latency enabling streaming VR content over a network with no noticeable difference between the encoded stream and a directly connected head mounted display. By deploying mobile edge servers with built-in RealityCodec encoders, we believe service providers will be well positioned to provide VR experiences as a service to consumers in the near term.

The demo set up at CES2018 consisted a PC running a high-end game powered by SteamVR and rendered using a high-performance Nvidia PC graphics card. The uncompressed video graphics from the Nvidia card were fed as input to the Hardware accelerated FPGA RealityCodec Ultra Low Latency Encoder. The output of the encoder was connected to a low latency decoder through a network switch with the decoder output connected to the HMD over HDMI. The head and hand movements from the user were also captured in real-time and fed back to the PC application to render the next frame.

Check the video below where Oliver Gunasekara, our CEO explains and showcases the technology.

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Five Critical blockers to immersive cloud VR

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Desktop VR has phenomenal mature ecosystems but suffers from the limitation that users are wired due to high bandwidth needed to transfer video from the desktop to the HMD. On the other hand, standalone Mobile VR suffers from serious processing and battery life limitations. Cloud VR, which marries the two technologies, is an excellent fit and this white paper by Tirias Research highlights the current industry challenges and the solution proposed using Cloud VR.

The cloud VR framework while practical is still in it's infancy and has problems which have to be solved before it can be deployed. Fortunately, the technical solution to these problems exist today and with efforts and collaboration amongst industry leaders, this solution is deployable in the near term.

So, what are the five key blockers that prevent an immersive Cloud VR experience today?

  • Low Latency Video Encode: The cloud VR architecture leverages the full processing capability of Desktop VRs and compresses the Video 300:1 and streams it across the cloud network. For the VR application, where frames are rendered based on user head movements, it means a very low end-end latency compression engine is required while preserving the fidelity of graphics rendered. NGCodec's hardware accelarated reality codec has ultra low sub-frame encode latency and solves this problem. NGCodec has also demonstrated the quality and latency of this encoder at CES2018.
  • Low Latency network: Seamless VR applications typically need an motion-to-photon latency of ~20ms. If video is rendered, compressed and delivered through a network, it's critical that network providers ensure network latency is bare minimum and 5G infrastructure and fiber optics plus WiFi can deliver ~2ms latency, ~0.1ms jitter and very low packet loss.
  • Proximity to the edge: It's crucial that cloud servers performing the heavy duty rendering and encoding be deployed at high density 'edge locations' to ensure maximum coverage. E.g. in a metropolitan area like NYC at an epicenter with up to 200 mile radius coverage. Due to speed of light and 50% overhead going through equipment every 60 miles is ~1ms round trip latency on a fiber optic network.
  • Low Latency Video Decode: The addition of a compression layer in VR processor will naturally require a decompresser at the consumption head set end. For a seamless experience, the HMD has to, in addition to the modem, also incorporate a low latency video decoder. It's important that a standard compliant decoder enabled with Low latency decode mode be integrated in chipset inside the HMD. The low latency video decode must be coupled with a low latency display controller.  
  • Inside out 6DoF tracking: 3DoF tracking currently used in most mobile HMDs has its limitations which 6DoF tracking is expected to alleviate and most leading HMD makers are working to incorporate built-in 6DoF tracking in the next generation HMDs. Furthermore, the outside-in tracking used in current Desktop VRs also needs to be replaced with Inside-Out architecture to avoid the need for the user to install external tracking infrastructure.

 

Download Cloud VR White Paper

 

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Industry definitions of Immersive Visual Experiences (VR/AR/MR)

Over a year ago (December 2016) the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™ reality working group* defined the following industry definitions:

  • "Virtual Reality" (VR) creates a digital environment that replaces the user’s real-world environment.
  • "Augmented Reality" (AR) overlays digitally-created content into the user’s real-world environment.
  • "Mixed Reality" (MR) is an experience that seamlessly blends the user’s real-world environment and digitally-created content, where both environments can coexist and interact with each other.
  • "360° Video" or "360 Video" allows the user to look in every direction around him/her.

I think they are a great start to help get consistency in the industry. I would add that VR and MR require a Head Mounted Display (HMD) where as AR uses a Smartphone or Tablet display. I would also add the following definitions:

  • 3DoF allow the viewer to change their view using three kinds (‘degrees’) of movement. (Three Degrees of Freedom i.e Yaw, Pitch, Roll).
  • 6DoF allow the viewer to change their view using six kinds (‘degrees’) of movement. (Six Degrees of Freedom).

I would expect they could be combined. E.g. a 360 Video 6DoF experence. Typically 6DoF camera capture light fields and point clouds. Below is a graphic from Facebook on 6DoF.

Above is video given at the Facebook developer conference in April 2017

Above is video given at the Facebook developer conference in April 2017

*The CTA reality working group includes member companies Amazon, AMD, Dolby Laboratories, the Fox Innovation Lab at Twentieth Century Fox, GoPro, HTC Vive, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Reverge VR, Samsung, Sony, STRIVR, Technicolor, and Translink Capital.

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NGCodec Closes $8M Series A, Launches Live Broadcast H.265/HEVC Cloud Video Encoding and Demonstrates Cloud VR

Company Demonstrates Broadcast & Virtual Reality Solutions with the National Science Foundation at 2018 Consumer Electronics Show Eureka Park (Booth 50322)

Upcoming AV1 Codec Support and Trial Deployments on 5G Network Technology to Follow with the Close of $8M in New Funding

Las Vegas, Nevada. Today NGCodec, the pioneer in cloud video processing, announced the availability of broadcast quality H.265/HEVC for real-time streaming in the Amazon AWS Marketplace and ultra low latency H.265/HEVC for interactive virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR). Streaming content from the cloud will activate the first billion users in VR by effectively transforming smartphones into high performance VR/MR clients. Broadcast quality video encoding will allow broadcasters to stream live events to millions of viewers with the same visual quality (VQ) as video on demand (VOD). The availability of the NGCodec H.265/HEVC encoder, followed in 2018 by support for the new Alliance for Open Media (AOM) AV1 Codec will provide the highest quality video encoding technology for real-time, interactive entertainment powered by scalable cloud infrastructures. Today’s high-speed fiber optic and emerging 5G wireless technology will deliver these experiences to users everywhere.

“NGCodec RealityCodec™ delivers the best video quality for live H.265/HEVC video encoding in the AWS EC2 F1 public cloud” said Marc Todd Founder and CEO of Skreens. “It took just a few days to integrate and the SaaS based pricing avoids larger upfront costs.” Skreens, an NGCodec customer, delivers multi-video fusion solutions for broadcast, streaming, and AV to mobile, desktop and IOT users.

“We have worked diligently to bring our advanced video codecs to the Amazon Cloud and to demonstrate the potential for cloud media and virtual reality.” said Oliver Gunasekara CEO and Co-Founder of NGCodec. “Closing our Series A round will propel our technology into the 5G era, bringing our total raised to $15.9M from world-class institutions." 


“NGCodec is delivering two technically challenging entertainment experiences through the cloud: real time, live broadcast and low-latency, high resolution VR and MR,” said the company’s new CTO and VP of Algorithms, Pavel Novotny. “Our broadcast quality video processing technology will allow broadcasters to stream the highest quality live video at 60 frames per second to millions of viewers delivered with the same VQ as VOD with scalable cloud servers. Our VR streaming technology renders 90 frames per second and scales to meet the increasing resolution and frame rate demands of next generation headsets. Both will migrate to our AV1 codec implementation later in 2018 for even higher compression”


The company is demonstrating RealityCodec for VR at the America’s Seed Fund Powered by the National Science Foundation at 2018 CES Eureka Park (Booth 50322). Cloud-based VR is an emerging application for cloud video encoding where applications are run in the cloud, and output is converted to compressed video streams for rapid transmission to untethered mobile users. The performance of cloud computers is 20x that of smartphone clients, bringing PC class performance to any head-mounted display. RealityCodec is optimized for low latency, streaming VR over a network with no noticeable difference between the encoded stream and a directly connected head mounted display. To further explore the future of VR streaming, NGCodec and Tirias Research have announced the publication of a free white paper on the potential for cloud to activate a billion VR/MR users available at www.ngcodec.com/ces online.


NGCodec creates algorithms, silicon logic and FPGA implementations for cloud video processing, powering the next generation of real-time media experiences. The company’s RealityCodec technology streams interactive and real-time media at the highest performance levels. The company is announcing the completion of its most recent financing round of $8M bringing the total invested to date to $15.9M. 

About NGCodec Inc.

NGCodec® has been in passionate pursuit of next generation video compression since 2012. With the support of investors including Xilinx, NGCodec’s agile startup team has created Reality Codec™, a compressor-decompressor technology optimized for ultra-low latency, high-quality applications. Headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, NGCodec leverages FPGA acceleration in the Cloud to lower encoding costs by 10x over traditional CPU encoders. Learn more at https://ngcodec.com/ces or @NGCodec. NGCodec can be found On the NSF booth in Eureka Park, Sands Expo Level 1 Hall G, Booth Number 50322

 

Media Contact

Oliver Gunasekara, CEO

pr@ngcodec.com
 

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Why we are supporting VP9 (and AV1)

NGCodec has started to port our H.265/HEVC FPGA encoder to VP9. About ⅓ of our source code will not change (look ahead, rate control, adaptive quantization), ⅓ has minor changes, and ⅓ is new.

With the premium segment - led by Apple - now supporting H.265/HEVC, it is time content distributors leverage the massive user experience advantages of next generation compression (H.264/AVC was ratified back in 2003). Using ABR on congested networks an H.265/HEVC or VP9 stream can deliver HD whereas an H.264/AVC stream would be limited to SD. Of course this also saves bandwidth/CDN and storage costs.

The mass market segment lead by Google has decided not to support H.265/HEVC, but instead supports VP9. Despite lots of propaganda, VP9 can performs almost as well as H.265/HEVC (unlike most companies, we have built both encoders). So, post the 2003 H.264/AVC codec, both codecs will be required. Due to commercial and political reasons, both camps will not align around one next generation codec. In fact on a low cost Android phone priced under $100, it is impossble for the OEM to enable H.265/HEVC and have to pay royalties, since this would remove most of their profits. They will only enable VP9.

As of September 2017 here is the browser support for different video codecs on Desktop and Mobile as well as the estimated use by each.

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Connected TVs (latest versions) also have a high level of next generation codec support:

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In fact the installed base for VP9 is currently almost 2x the size of H.265/HEVC given the market share of Chrome and Android. Also if you want YouTube in 4K today you have to support VP9.

We also expect desktop/laptops using Chrome, Firefox and Edge Browser to add software decoding of AV1 in 2018 with hardware decoding coming to mobile/tablets and connected TVs in 2019. (The Nightly version for Firefox already supports AV1). We are a member of AOM and will support AV1 in the future.

In summary, despite the extra complexity, we believe consumers will demand all three codecs: H.264/AVC for legacy old devices, H.265/HEVC for premium, and VP9 for mass market support. The use experience benefits of HD vs SD on congested networks are compelling. The installed base of 4K capable devices is also rapidly growing, meaning next generation codecs will have to be supported. NGCodec with its Cloud FPGA encoders can help you reduce costs as you move to next generation codecs.

Sources of Data:

Browser Video Codec support

Browser Market Share

1.4B PC/Laptop Installed Base

3B Mobile/Tablet Installed Base (page 8)

US Connected TV devices by Device

646M Worldwide Connected TV in 2016

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