SMPTE Forum addresses emerging bandwidth crunch…and not just for consumers

The SMPTE Emerging Technology Forum in Geneva gave attendees a chance to glimpse into a future that will see large growth in VOD, new higher-resolution video formats, and delivery of content via the Internet, satellite, and cable networks. The challenge ahead? The battle over bandwidth.

“Bandwidth is precious,” says Dr. Albert Heuberger, Fraunhofer IIS, deputy director. “So we need to find the highest bandwidth efficiencies we can to keep up with new demands like 3D and interactivity.”

The explosion in the delivery of video over the Internet is expected to make up 90% of Internet traffic within four years. “That will put huge pressure on bandwidth and we will need to see encoding and compression improvements,” says Dr. Giles Wilson, Ericsson, head of technology, Solution Area TV. “And the demand for bandwidth is increasing more quickly and I am not sure I see any reason that that will change going forward.”

The demand on bandwidth will do more than just require new and more efficient ways to deliver content to viewers. It will also require new content-creation and delivery workflows as post-production facilities, TV stations and networks, and even remote OB production units all move towards collaborative workflows that make use of Internet and IP-based delivery.

Dr. Heuberger, for example, believes facilities will need to become format agnostic and able to handle any resolution or video format. Content will arrive in a facility at a “master level of quality” but then be able to be accessed throughout at lesser resolutions. Editors and others then work with those preview (or proxy) files and then rich metadata can automatically integrate edit decision lists, scene selection, and other picture adjustments to be coupled with the high-quality master, allowing for virtual collaboration from multiple points back to one piece of content.

“Producers will need new freedom in content creation where they can select the dynamic range, set focus, and work with one version that is the master format,” he explains. “And then they can derive other versions and down mixes via derivative encoding that moves the content down to the distribution chain.”
Odds are that the final master format will contain images that are higher resolution than those that are currently part of the production process. Dr. Heuberger also sees audio making advances as well, courtesy of formats like the High Efficiency Advanced Audio Codec (HE-AAC).

“It will offer reasonably good stereo quality at only 16 kbps and down to mono at only 8 kbps,” he says. “And for distribution over mobile devices it helps to have those lower bit rates.”

He also expects the user at home to have more control over audio as well. The MPEG DASH standard for and object oriented audio, for example, can allow sports fans to change the balance between the commentary and ambient sounds.

“This gives new possibilities to support those who are hearing impaired,” he adds.

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