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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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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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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.

Codec Browser support.png

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

Connected TV Decoder support.png

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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HEVC Deployment

There is some uncertainty in the market place about the deployment of HEVC.

The situation now it is no very different than how it was at the beginning of H.264/AVC and NGCodec is expecting that things will evolve on a similar way with similar conclusions.

In our opinion the main competitors of HEVC (and of NGCodec ) it is H.264/AVC and Dolby because of HDR.

•       H.264/AVC is a pretty good codec, good performance, good encoders available, decoded everywhere and the royalties are quite reasonable. 

•       Dolby has identified the HDR is needed for UHDTV earlier than many others and they are great at communicating their technology.  As they did with Dolby Digital they may be deployed in some markets.

In NGCodec opinion moving from one codec to another is based on two main reasons:

•       Is the old codec missing something that is offered by the new one. H.264/AVC is is not great in a number of places: 1080p and 4K support, HDR and 10 bits.

•       Economics. How much the cost is reduced if the new codec is used.

The main economic issue behind HEVC today seems to be the performance of encoders is not as good as people are expecting, that means the cost advantage of using HEVC is not that high yet, but those encoders will improve over time and they will get to be closer to the 50% gains that the specification has demonstrated. Then the cost advantage of the deploying the new codec will start being more apparent.

In addition there is still limited number of HEVC decoders available and that also greatly affects the situation as the cost reduction is limited until a substantial number of decoders are deployed. This will be addressed this year when nearly every new PC computer, TV and phone will support HEVC and specially the Main10 profile.

Economics lead by the constrained compression efficiency and not patents we think was the main problem with MPEG-4 and that was the reason why MPEG-4 was not as popular as H.264/AVC and many applications continued using MPEG-2 .

The current situation with VP9 is similar to how it was in the past with VC-1. The first encoders for H.264/AVC where not as good as the VC-1 encoders that were developed faster and by a single company, that actually made a very large investment on developing that video technology. Nevertheless, over time the H.264 encoders got better and they showed a much larger advantage over VC-1. Again cost playing a role and VC-1 progressively was used in less applications.

VP9 and AOM as a opportunity

VP9 is a good codec for some applications and specially for on-line streaming where the encoding is done in Software VP9 has shown to be better than H.264/AVC and that is why it makes economic sense for Youtube to use it, but HEVC needs a much lower bit rate than H.264/AVC or VP9 and once the encoders improve it will deliver a cost advantage compared with H.264/AVC or VP9.

VP9 has a number of mayor issues:

Real time V8 or VP9 encoder deliver much lower performance than the software encoders used off line. And they are not very competitive with the performance of HEVC or H.264/AVC real time encoders and that means that for many applications VP9 has actually no performance advantage. This is an economic disadvantage for VP9 against H.264/AVC. There is also a very limited number of decoders for VP9 that can support large resolutions that is another economic disadvantage.

I addition it is unlikely that companies will take the risk of not supporting HEVC decoding, that means that actually VP9 is an additional cost on top of the original cost of supporting HEVC and H.264/AVC.

This means that VP9 does not offer much of a advantage but as VC-1 did in the past can be used to try to reduce the cost of HEVC patents and offer competition.

The IP situation may actually be worse for VP9 than HEVC as there are many patents that Google does not have control and the companies owning those patents do not have to follow RAND rules as they did not commit to do so as they do when they develop standard based codecs. This means that thinking that the royalties for VP9 are cheaper than HEVC still needs to be proved and there are a number of companies that owns IP on VP9 that may asking for royalties for VP9 if it actually becomes more popular.

In relation to patents the situation was similar with VC-1, Microsoft was offering it for free and that was the perception for some time, but at the end a patent pool was created and companies also needed to pay for VC-1, that means that advantage also disappeared (they are 313 companies that are Licensees of that VC-1 patent pool).

VC-1 was very effective on reducing the royalties paid to the AVC/H.264 patent pool an applied competition to H.264/AVC and that led to a royalty for H.264/AVC that is very reasonable and much lower than MPEG-2 for example. After the royalties for AVC/H.264 where announced by MPEG-LA, the investment on the VC-1 project was greatly reduced by the company supporting it. The main goal of VC-1 was achieved.

Standard based royalties and patent pools

In relation to royalties, once one pool with a substantial number of essential patents for an standard set up a price that sets the precedence for the other and that has been proved in case on the Google vs Microsoft case that you see some more information bellow.

As a follow up in relation to patents for H.264/HEVC and the legal case that has created a precedent you can read the following.

http://www.fosspatents.com/2012/03/these-two-charts-show-that-motorolas.html

http://www.fosspatents.com/2012/06/googles-newest-h264-royalty-demand-is.html  

Our conclusion on this, one company having patents on a standard where it has claimed that will operate under FRAND cannot ask for numbers that are much larger than what the other parties are asking for, it is very difficult to ask for a percentage of the price of the final product and it is not possible to ask for an injunction.

These means that all of this is a question of cost of deploying technology and risk management. That mean that they are going to be some market where the cost of the royalties for HEVC is not a problem. Moreover in relation to risk management it is currently extremely risky to ignore HEVC and in our opinion most companies will not take such a high risk.

In the future it could be possible that a new technology will replace HEVC, and it may be developed somewhere else, but in NGCodec opinion this can only be achieved with the large investment needed to develop this very complex codecs, this technology (as wireless standards) need many people working in a collaborative way. The members of AOM could have the capital required to do the investment required on video compression to developed a much better codec than HEVC, but without that high level of investment it will be very difficult to compete with the international standard approach used on MPEG/VCEG/JCT-VC/JVET. 4 of the 7 AOM founders continue being very active at the international standard level that means that they continue to invest also on the standard way of developing multimedia technology, as the 150-200 companies that contributed to the development of HEVC.

Conclusion

HEVC encoders will get better over time and NGCodec is contributing to raise the bar on this area.

NGCodec believes that HEVC will be widely deployed in a large number of applications, it will deliver the cost advantages required to be able to do so. The royalty situation for HEVC will take some time to get clarified but it will end up being reasonable for a large number of applications and products and will allow HEVC to be widely used.

 

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