CES 2013, HEVC, 4K, 8K, soft screens and more

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At CES 2013 Orange presented video on demand service on Samsung connected TV based on the new HEVC video codec. This codec enables the bit rate to be cut in half in relation to MPEG4 AVC/H.264 and still provide equivalent quality. So, high definition content (1080p) is accessible at speeds of close to 3Mbps (half of what would be necessary in H.264). HEVC is a new video compression standard (High Efficiency Video Coding). It is also known as H265 and is currently being standardised (draft publication in July 2012 for approval at the end of January 2013) ITU and ISO experts are working on its standardisation terms as part of a joint JCT-VT (Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding) working group:

Samsung 2013 TVs support the HEVC decoding function on Series 8 and 9 models. Orange and Samsung have therefore joined forces to introduce a VOD service on these terminals in France from spring this year, which would be a world first for a service based on this new coding technology. Samsung is also planning on part of its installed Smart TV park to be updated via a development kit, which is inserted into the back of the television.

Orange can see two immediate opportunities in this:
  • It will enable users to benefit from better quality of experience while controlling video traffic over its networks.
  • It will also extend accessibility to video content to as many people as possible by increasing eligibility to Orange services thanks to the reduction in bit rate offered by HEVC.
In the slightly longer term, HEVC is also the compression codec which is best suited to 4K (see the article on 4K). And to complete this topic, Sharp was going to demonstrate 8K. Why more long term? Because at the moment the production resources correspond to 4K and this park is not planned for renewal in the medium term: the race towards higher resolution may have hit a level with 4K.

In terms of 4K, Sony is also demonstrating "upscaling", or how, from a single Blu-Ray disk, generated "mastered in 4K", it is possible to have a standard FullHD output on a FullHD TV and enhanced content, notably in terms of the colour palette on a 4K television. Like Orange and Samsung's VoD project, this is intended to produce content enhanced by 4K as soon as possible in order to attract customers.

A few words on 3D with glasses (active or passive): LG is continuing to produce a lot of communication on this, but the small amount of content and the fact that viewers don't like wearing glasses mean that all manufacturers are now looking towards 4K with higher resolution, a larger colour palette and improved contrast. While "dual vision" (3D is characterised by one image for the left eye and one image for the right eye and with passive glasses technology the polarised glass performs this left-right filter; in "dual vision" the polarisation is no longer left-right but between the 2, users do not have the same glasses) apparently made a major splash in France, it did not generate much interest on site with the participants: it is mostly seen as the last gasp from 3D. Finally, a fantastic announcement but also a disappointment: Sharp at their stand and Samsung during their CEO's keynote address presented flexible screens, which are a technological marvel. The disappointment comes from the fact that these technological advances did not lead to the announcement or presentation of new products. During the keynote address Samsung did its utmost to present itself as a supplier of technological components, leaving it to its American partners (Electronic Arts, HP, Microsoft, etc.) to present products.

A little more information on HEVC: At Images & Réseaux, the 4EVER (For Enhanced Video ExpeRience, see  http://www.4ever-project.com/ and LinkedIn group "4EVER PROJECT") project, which is supported by Orange and was certified in 2012, deals with this issue of video experience quality in all situations (home, mobile, cinema). The project should lead to the prototyping of HEVC codecs and contribute to the definition of the Ultra HD format. The other partners are Dorémi Technologies, France Télévisions, Teamcast, Technicolor, GlobeCast, Ateme, Telecom Paris Tech and INSA Rennes. For a scientific presentation of what HEVC can provide, see the excellent article co-written by several entities, including Images & Réseaux: here Other announcements on HEVC, notably during the last IBC in Amsterdam in September 2012:
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