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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Scalable video standard emerges

The electronics industry now has a global, open standard for scalable video that will allow the same bitstream to be used for many different devices and connections. This is potentially huge for the hardware, software and content industry as it can dramatically simplify the costs and implementation of providing video.

The Scalable Video Coding (SVC) standard has been developed by the MPEG Joint Video Team (JVT) in collaboration with the International telecommunications Union and provides scalable video with full compatibility of base layer information so that it can be decoded by existing AVC decoders.

The SVC design enables the creation of a video bitstream that is structured in layers so that devices can decode either the full bitstream or a subset of it with the removal of enhancement layers. Data remaining after the removal of enhancement layers is still decodable, and these scalability modes include higher frame rates, increase of picture resolution and higher quality.

Unlike previous scalable compression solutions, the compression efficiency of SVC is very high and hardly distinguishable from "single-layer" AVC codecs in most operation modes. Due to a novel design which re-uses major components of ordinary AVC decoders and runs only one motion compensation loop, the complexity increase for supporting the scalability features in decoders is kept to a minimum, so decoders supporting SVC will not face a significant cost penalty.

The standard is open and global, being approved as Amendment 3 of the Advanced Video Coding (AVC) standard ISO/IEC 14496-10 (also published as ITU-T Rec. H.264).

A new amendment to MPEG-2 Systems also enables the carriage of scalable video data within MPEG-2 program and transport streams, and this is moving to the PDAM (proposed draft amendment) ballot stage of the ISO/IEC approval process. This allows the more efficient AVC video to be carried over MPEG-2 streams for higher spatial or temporal resolution, or higher picture fidelity at the same resolution. One application would be to provide broadcasters with the ability to efficiently deploy premium services without affecting their existing customer base. Set-top boxes with 1080p50/60 SVC capability on top of the existing HD AVC formats can be shipped to premium customers without the need to replace existing HD AVC set-top boxes.

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