Video: LCEVC – The Latest MPEG Standard

Video is so pervasive in our world that we need to move past thinking of codecs and compression being about reducing bitrate. That will always be a major consideration, but speed of compression and the computation needed can also be deal breakers. Millions of embedded devices need to encode video which don’t have the grunt available to the live AV1-encoding clusters in the cloud. Further more, the structure of the final data itself can be important for later processing and decoding. So we can see how use-cases can arise out needs of various industries, far beyond broadcast, which mean that codecs need to do more than make files small.

This year LCEVC from MPEG will be standardised. Called Low Complexity Enhancement Video Coding, this codec provides compression both where computing is constrained and where it is plentiful. Guido Meardi, CEO of V-Nova, talks us through what LCEVC is starting with a chart showing how computation has increased vastly as compression has improved. It’s this trend that this codec intends to put an end to by adding, Guido explains, an enhancement layer over some lower-resolution video. By encoding a lower-resolution, computational processing is minimised. When displayed, an enhancement layer allows this low resolution video to be sharpened again to bring it back to the original.

After demonstrating the business benefits, we see the block diagram of the encoder and decoder which helps visualise how this enhancement might be calculated and work. Guido then shows us what the enhancement layer looks like – a fairy flat image with lots of thin edges on it but, importantly, it also captures a lot of almost random detail which can’t be guessed by upsamplers. This, of course, is the point. If it were possible to upscale the low-resolution video and guess/infer all the data, then we would always do that. Rather, downscaling and upscaling is a lossy process. Here, that loss is worth it because of the computational gains and because the enhancement layer will put back much of what was once lost.

In order to demonstrate LCEVC’s ability, Guido shows graphs comparing LCEVC at UHD for x264 showing improvements of between 20 and 45% and image examples of artefacts which are avoided using LCEVC. We then see that when applied to AVC, HEVC and VVC it speeds up encodes at least two fold. Guido finishes this presentation showing how you can test out the encoder and decoder yourself.

The last segment of this video, Tarek Amara from Twitch sits down to talk with Guido about the codec and the background behind it. Their talk covers V-Nova’s approach to open source, licensing, LCEVC’s gradual improvements as it went through the proving process as part of MPEG standardisation plus questions from the floor.

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Speakers

Guido Meardi Guido Meardi
CEO & Co-Founder,
V-Nova
Tarek Amara Tarek Amara
Principal Video Specialist,
Twitch

Video: AV1 at Netflix

Netflix have continually been pushing forward video compression and analysis because their assets are played so many times that every bit saved is real money saved. VMAF is a great example of Netflix’s desire to push the state of the art forward. Developed by Netflix and two universities, this new objective metric allowed them to better evaluate the quality of videos using computer analysis and has continued to be the foundation of their work since.

One use of VMAF has been to verify the results of Netflix’s Per-Shot Encoding method which alters encoding parameters for each shot of the film rather than using a fixed set of parameters for the whole film. The Broadcast Knowledge has featured talks on their previous technique, per-title encoding (among others).

AV1, however must be the most famous innovation that Neflix is behind. A founding member of the Alliance for Open Media (AoM), Netflix saw a need a for a better codec and by making an open one, which also played to the needs of other internet giants such as Google, was a good way to create a vibrant community around it driving submissions to the codec itself but also, it is hoped, in the implementation and adoption.

In this two-part talk, LiWei Guo starts off by explaining the ways in which AV1 will be used by Netflix. Since this talk took place, Netflix has started streaming in AV1 to Android clients. LiWei points out that AV1 supports 10-bit video as standard – a notable difference from other codecs like AVC and HEVC. This allows Netflix to use 10-bit without worrying about decoder compatibility and he shows examples of skies and water which are significantly by the use of 10-bit.

Another feature of AV1 is the Film Grain synthesis which seeks to improve encoding efficiency by removing the random film grain of the source during the encode process then inserting a similar random noise on top to recreate the same look and feel. As anything random can’t be predicted, noise such of this is very wasteful for a codec to try and encode, therefore it’s not <a surprise that this can result in as much as a 30% reduction in bitrate. Before concluding, LiWei briefly explains per-shot encoding then shows data showing the overall improvements.

Andrey Norkin, also from Netflix explains their work with Intel on the SVT-AV1 software video encoder which leverages Intel’s SVT technology, a framework optimised for Xeon chips for video encoding and analysis. Netflix’s motivations are to further increase adoption by delivering a data centre-ready, optimised encoder and to create an AV1 encoder they can use to support their own internal research activities (did someone say AV2?). SVT allows for parallelisation, important for any computer nowadays with so many cores available.

Finishing up, Andrey points us to the Github repository, lets us know the development statement (as of November 2019) and looks at the speed increases that have taken off, comparing SVT-AV1 against the reference libaom encoder.

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Speakers

Andrey Norkin Andrey Norkin
Senior Research Scientist,
Netflix
LiWei Guo LiWei Guo
Senior Software Engineer,
Netflix

Video: Virtues of Recycling in Multi-rate Encoding

Recycling may be good for the environment, but it turns out it’s good for bit rate too. Remembering that MPEG (and similar) video compression includes splitting the picture into blocks, decomposing them into basic patterns and also estimating their motion, this talk wonders whether calculations made on the blocks and the motion of these blocks done on the SD picture can be re-used on the HD picture and then again on the UHD picture. If so, this would surely reduce the computation needed.

“The content is perceptually identical,” explains Alex Giladi from Comcast, “…the only difference is how many pixels it occupies.” as he highlights the apparent wastefulness of ABR encoding where the same video is taken in multiple resolutions and encoded independently. The technique starts by analysing the lowest resolution video for motion and re-using the calculations at a higher resolution. Naturally there are aspects which can’t be captured in the lower resolutions, but also there are sensitivities to the bitrate so Alex explains the refinement options which have been developed to adapt to those.

As the talk wraps up, Alex presents the results found which show that the quality is not degraded and there is a better than 2x speed increase. Finally we look at a real-life flow of encoding.

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Speakers

Alex Giladi Alex Giladi
Distinguished Architect,
Comcast

Video: What to do after per-title encoding

Per-title encoding is a common method of optimising quality and compression by changing the encoding options on a file-by-file basis. Although some would say the start of per-scene encoding is the death knell for per-title encoding, either is much better than the more traditional plan of applying exactly the same settings to each video.

This talk with Mux’s Nick Chadwick and Ben Dodson looks at what per-title encoding is and how to go about doing it. The initial work involves doing many encodes of the same video and analysing each for quality. This allows you to out which resolutions and bitrates to encode at and how to deliver the best vide.

Ben Dodson explains the way they implemented this at Mux using machine learning. This was done by getting computers to ‘watch’ videos and extract metadata. That metadata can then be used to inform the encoding parameters without the computer watching the whole of a new video.

Nick takes some time to explain MUX’s ‘convex hulls’ which give a shape to the content’s performance at different bitrates and helps visualise the optimum encoding parameters the content. Moreover we see that using this technique, we can explore how to change resolution to create the best encode. This doesn’t always mean reducing the resolution; there are some surprising circumstances when it makes sense to start at high resolutions, even for low bitrates.

The next stage after per-title encoding is to segment the video and encode each segment differently which Nick explores and explains how to deliver different resolutions throughout the stream seamlessly switching between them. Ben takes over and explains how this can be implemented and how to chose the segment boundaries correctly, again, using a machine learning approach to analysis and decision making.

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Speakers

Nick Chadwick Nick Chadwick
Software Engineer,
Mux
Ben Dodson Ben Dodson
Data Scientist,
Mux