MADISON, Wis. — There's no end in sight for the consumer's insatiable appetite for bandwidth. That demand continues to stress transmission networks and storage systems throughout the world.
But what if someone said there's a way to significantly reduce the bit rate requirements of video content -- other than current compression schemes -- without damaging the image quality?
That would make people sit up and listen -- especially when that someone is Yves Faroudja, a legend in the video industry. Faroudja has been behind almost every video processing and scaling technology development for decades and is a recipient of three Emmy technology awards.
So, of course, everyone in Las Vegas at this year's NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show listened when Faroudja Enterprises, a privately funded startup, trotted out its new technology, a video bit rate reducer designed to provide up to 50 percent reduction in video bit rates without reduction in image quality.
In a hotel suite at the NAB show in Las Vegas, Faroudja Enterprises showed off its new technology, a video bit rate reducer.
The Faroudja's scheme doesn't alter current compression standards (MPEG2, MPEG 4, HEVC). It's rooted in Faroudja's belief that such compression systems aren't using all the available redundancies to improve compression efficiency.
Under the new scheme, Faroudja introduces a new pre-processor (prior to compression) and post-processor (after compression decoding). "We take an image and simplify it; and that simplified image goes through the regular [standards-based] compression process," he explained. "But we never throw away information."
Instead, in parallel with the conventional compression path, Faroudja inserts what he calls a "support layer." This compresses signals not used in Faroudja's so-called simplified image. Together with the decompressed simplified image, the support layer helps reconstruct the original image in full resolution -- at a reduced bit rate.
Faroudja claims "a bit rate reduction of 35% to 50% for an equivalent image quality [and] a significant improvement of the image quality on low bit rate content."
Details, of course, remain tightly wrapped in the black box. Faroudja hasn't decided on the initial market focus for his new technology. He said he's keeping his options open for a business model -- for now. Faroudja's team, however, has completed proof-of-concept and done a public demonstration.
Potential markets for the new technology include broadcast, cable and satellite, streaming media over the Internet, or Skype-like video conferencing.
Faroudja Enterprises is about to embark upon "market implementation" of the technology "over the next couple of months" by tailoring it to market demands, Faroujda told EE Times in an interview this week.
Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research, said that there is no one else who has rolled out anything similar to what Faroudja has done. "Faroudja is not displacing any company or technology. They are augmenting the existing CODECS, including X.265," said Peddie.
But when it comes to its potential competitors, there are many. Richard Doherty, research director at Envisioneering Group, says future competitors are "universities with strong analytical math departments," including Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Stanford, Princeton, Georgia Tech, U.C. Berkeley, Purdue, and the Fraunhofer institute.
Doherty predicts, "Once this is known to work, other low-key efforts might get ramped up." They'd be all racing to "receive funding to uncover other methods which do not infringe on Yves's."
Faroudja's video bit rate reducer has many advantages. It's compatible with existing standards. The new process is compression-standard agnostic. It applies to all existing standards, from MPEG2 to HEVC, and reduces bit rate in all cases, the company claims. Faroudja explained that a final image will be preserved even if just the pre-processor is used, without the post-processor. The image survives even if the support layer is interrupted. Images with two levels of resolution can be made available at the same time -- for example, simultaneous availability of a program in both 1080 lines and 4K resolutions, according to the firm.
System overview shows an example of how Faroudja Enterprises' process works when applied to 4K video.
Click here for larger image.
Moreover, Faroudja's support layer "can further be configured as a transcoder" to help convert video among existing compression formats, such as MPEG2, H.264, etc., to and from Faroudja's support layer format "to save bandwidth, bit rate, or file size in the cloud without sacrificing image quality."
Next page: The industry reaction