In the IEEE Signal Processing Magazine issue November 2006 article “Future of Video Coding and Transmission” Prof. Edward Delp started by asking the panelists “Is video coding dead? Some feel that, with the higher coding efficiency of the H.264/MPEG-4 . . . perhaps there is not much more to do. I must admit that I have heard this compression is dead argument at least four times since I started working in image and video coding in 1976.”
People were postulating that video coding was dead more than four decades ago. And yet here we are in 2018, organizing the 33rd edition of Picture Coding Symposium (PCS).
Is image and video coding dead? From the standpoint of application and relevance, video compression is very much alive and kicking and thriving on the internet. The Cisco white paper “The Zettabyte Era: Trends and Analysis (June 2017)” reported that in 2016, IP video traffic accounted for 73% of total IP traffic. This is estimated to go up to 82% by 2021. Sandvine reported in the “Global Internet Phenomena Report, June 2016” that 60% of peak download traffic on fixed access networks in North America was accounted for by four VOD services: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video and Hulu. Ericsson’s “Mobility Report November 2017” estimated that for mobile data traffic in 2017, video applications occupied 55% of the traffic. This is expected to increase to 75% by 2023.
As for industry involvement in video coding research, it appears that the area is more active than ever before. The Alliance for Open Media (AOM) was founded in 2015 by leading tech companies to collaborate on an open and royalty-free video codec. The goal of AOM was to develop video coding technology that was efficient, cost-effective, high quality and interoperable, leading to the launch of AV1 this year. In the ITU-T VCEG and ISO/IEC MPEG standardization world, the Joint Video Experts Team (JVET) was formed in October 2017 to develop a new video standard that has capabilities beyond HEVC. The recently-concluded Call for Proposals attracted an impressive number of 32 institutions from industry and academia, with a combined 22 submissions. The new standard, which will be called Versatile Video Coding (VVC), is expected to be finalized by October 2020.
Like many global internet companies, Netflix realizes that advancements in video coding technology are crucial for delivering more engaging video experiences. On one end, many people are constrained by unreliable networks or limited data plans, restricting the video quality that can be delivered with current technology. On the other side of the spectrum, premium video experiences like 4K UHD, 360-degree video and VR, are extremely data-heavy. Video compression gains are necessary to fuel the adoption of these immersive video technologies.
So how will we get to deliver HD quality Stranger Things at 100 kbps for the mobile user in rural Philippines? How will we stream a perfectly crisp 4K-HDR-WCG episode of Chef’s Table without requiring a 25 Mbps broadband connection? Radically new ideas. Collaboration. And forums like the Picture Coding Symposium 2018 where the video coding community can share, learn and introspect.
Influenced by our product roles at Netflix, exposure to the standardization community and industry partnerships, and research collaboration with academic institutions, we share some of our questions and thoughts on the current state of video coding research. These ideas have inspired us as we embarked on organizing the special sessions, keynote speeches and invited talks for PCS 2018.