A Boston-area company claims to have developed video compression technology that can help MSOs meet a big challenge: improve the bandwidth efficiency of millions of MPEG-2-only set-tops as the industry continues to migrate video services to more advanced encoding schemes such as H.264/MPEG-4 and, eventually, HEVC.
Euclid Discoveries says tests of the first iteration of its software, which plugs into existing MPEG-2 encoders, have produced encoding efficiency improvements of 10% to 30%. An updated version of its software, called EuclidVision, will be completed in about 30 days and will achieve higher levels of efficiency, said company CEO and co-founder Richard Wingard.
If it’s successful on hitting the high end of its current range, it could enable MSOs to squeeze one more hi-def MPEG-2 stream into a 6MHz-channel slot, which typically have enough room for three MPEG-2 HD streams. Its technology is designed to work with encoders that handle both live and on-demand video, Wingard said.
Euclid’s software module plugs into the “prediction chamber” of existing encoders, where it monitors the complexity and bandwidth peaks of different regions of the video. By making more accurate predictions at the front edge of the video encoding phase, Euclid claims its cleaning-up approach reduces the overall bandwidth load before the video exits the encoder and eventually reaches the set-top box. .
The company likewise claims that its technology maintains “full compliance” with MPEG-2 decoders, meaning that no changes are required at the set-top box. “Our encoded file will play on any MPEG-2 decoder,” Wingard said.
The company acknowledges that it doesn’t have any deals in place yet, but discussions with major operators are underway, and its business plan is centered on licensing its software to encoding vendors, according to Wingard.
Euclid will have a coming out party of sorts next week when it demonstrates its system at the CableLabs Summer Conference in Keystone, Colo.
MSOs have begun to deploy hybrid MPEG-2/MPEG-4 boxes and move some video services to H.264. They're also eyeing HEVC compression as a way to reduce bandwidth requirements even further as 4K video starts to enter the picture. Because it’s not cost-effective to swap out millions of MPEG-2-only boxes just for the sake of improved bandwidth efficiency, Euclid thinks its technology could help MSOs increase the value and shelf life of those older boxes.
“We found enormous need in the MPEG-2 world,” Wingard said.
Euclid is also working on an H.264-complaint version of its software that will become available later this year, hopeful that MSOs might find it attractive for IP-based TV Everywhere apps that stream video to tablets and smartphones in that format.
And while it Euclid might sound like a startup trying to find its place in the cable world, it’s not exactly a spring chicken. The Concord, Mass.-based company was founded in 1999, originally focused on intellectual property protection. It has 29 granted patents and another 30 in the hopper, according to Wingard.