Just when analysts were asking why anyone would want to replace their existing HD digital TV, Mediatek Incorporated came out with a compelling reason: a system-on-a-chip (SOC) for decoding HEVC video -- which the company claims is a world first.
So, why should viewers care about HEVC? High Efficiency Video Coding -- for that's what it is -- is a successor to the widely used H.264/AVC high-definition codec. The H.246 video compression format was developed 10 years ago. It became the standard format for compression and distribution of video content for HD TVs, as well as for online streaming services like Vimeo and YouTube, and in particular for Blu-Ray discs.
As demand for ever higher video resolution has increased, however, the H.264 codec has showed its limitations. For example, 4K Ultra HD video content features four times as many pixels as standard Full HD. With the H.264 codec, this requires a correspondingly higher bitrate to maintain perceived image quality. Not with the HEVC codec.
The HEVC standard was jointly developed by groups at ISO/IEC and ITU-T, and published just last year, and it reduces the required bitrate for high quality video coding by some 50%. As the ITU-UT Recommendation says, HEVC substantially increases "coding effiency." This should combat possible lag problems with the move from Full to HD TV -- good news for all viewers, and especially for gamers.
Mediatek, globally the major digital TV chip player, is strategically well-placed to help drive what seems likely to be a breakout year for Ultra HD TV. NPD Group's DisplaySearch is predicting shipment of half a million Ultra HD sets in 2014, increasing to global shipments of seven million by 2016.
Raising the technology's profile still higher, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be produced in Ultra HD, and networks carrying the event -- like the BBC and BSkyB in the UK -- are developing Ultra HD technology both for broadcasts and for streaming video.
As Paul Gray, director of TV electronics research for DisplaySearch says, "The availability of content is key to consumer adoption of 4K×2K TVs, and TV manufacturers are anxious to prevent any potential delays that could stall adoption, as was the case with 3DTVs."
What could be better incentive to adoption than Ultra HD programming of the world's premiere television sports event?
If that's not enough, Netflix is planning to launch an Ultra HD service this year, while satellite broadcasters from Europe (Eutalsat) to South Korea (KBS and LG Uplus) have already launched Ultra HD channels. Albertis Telecom is set to transmit the first Ultra HD signals over digital terrestrial television from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month.
Joe Chen, general manager of Mediatek's home entertainment business unit, said, "We are uniquely placed to deliver innovative and engaging technology to our customers. Our 4K2K DTV SOC is yet another example and with growing demand for Ultra HD TV worldwide, it will, drive the uptake of this exciting new format, making it accessible to a wider audience."
Looks like it's almost time for one more boob tube upgrade.
— Kim Davis , Managing Editor, SaaS in the Enterprise