The digital video industry seems to be gradually succumbing to the allure of the 50% bandwidth savings promised by HEVC, aka h.265. What if those savings can be achieved with the existing AVC, h.264, technology? Cinova thinks its post-processing product, Crunch, can do just that.
The benefits the video industry can realize from a reduction of 50% in the amount of bandwidth necessary to deliver video are enormous. From saving money in bandwidth charges to delivering higher quality video on mobile networks, there are few places in the chain of delivery that don’t benefit in some way.
However, the cost and time required to move to a new codec, like HEVC, are similarly enormous. Devices such as televisions, set-top boxes and smartphones need to be replaced, video encoders upgraded, not to mention all the video that needs to be re-encoded in the new format. The change from MPEG2 encoding to AVC based MPEG4 took the better part of a decade. Likely, HEVC adoption will take a similar length of time.
Sunil Sanghavi, COO of Cinova, believes there is a lot more efficiency to be wrung out of AVC, and that it will get us to 50% savings right now.
Last year, I talked about how EyeIO was bringing a lot of the techniques used in HEVC to AVC. Though these techniques require the video to be re-encoded, they provide up to 50% bandwidth savings and the resulting video can still be played on todays connected devices.
Cinova’s approach is different to EyeIO’s, because it does not require any changes to the encoded video. Yet it still provides up 50% bandwidth savings and can also be played with today’s connected devices.
According to Mr. Sanghavi, Cinova’s Crunch operates on the video after it has been encoded. Rather than attempting to compress the video even further, Crunch looks for “extraneous data” in the compressed video and eliminates it. This can reduce the amount of bandwidth required to deliver the video 20-50%, without any noticeable difference in the video quality.
What is this extraneous data? Mr. Sanghavi explained that a video encoder figures out how to compress a video into a specified bandwidth while maintaining the highest video quality. In other words, once the video fits into the bandwidth budget and meets the quality goal, the encoder stops compressing the video. This often leaves data in the video that has no perceptible impact on the image quality. Crunch identifies this extra data and eliminates it.
Crunch is a software product that can be used for both on-demand and live video streams, and can also be used to compress jpeg images up to 90% with, again, no perceptible loss of image quality. Crunch is already being used by premium video providers and photo sites, though Mr. Sanghavi declined to name names.
Because Crunch operates on video after it has been encoded and compressed, there is the intriguing possibility it can be combined with other encoding techniques. Though Mr. Sanghavi wouldn’t speculate on Crunch’s impact on HEVC video, he was optimistic that it could bring similar savings.
There is also the possibility that EyeIO pre-processing and Crunch post-processing could be combined for bandwidth savings in excess of 50% for AVC video. We can only hope the two companies will give it a try.
Why it matters
The 50% bandwidth savings promised by HEVC come at a high price and will take years to roll out to the market.
There is evidence that considerable savings, even up to the 50% promised by HEVC, can still be achieved from existing AVC-based video codecs.
These savings can be applied to the video business today, without the long wait required for HEVC roll-out.