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The rise of video compression in a connected world

The rise of video compression in a connected world

Twenty years ago, our digital world looked vastly different. Smartphones and mobile devices were just making their way into our lives and the promise of watching or sharing content was on the horizon. But one thing was missing to make that happen. A small piece of invisible technology: video compression.

If you dial video compression back to its fundamental principles, it compresses or reduces the number of bits needed to represent an image or video. You do not know it is happening, but you could not stream videos, play online video games or hold video calls without it.

Half of global video traffic will soon only be seen by machines

For humans, video compression means high-quality, high-resolution deep colors in the videos and games we play on our devices. But for machines, video compression provides sight, delivering video optimized for machine vision tasks. And in less than a decade, half of global video traffic will only be seen by machines. This makes video compression even more crucial because it enables machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Autonomous cars, smart surveillance cameras, and industrial robots use video to sense and analyze their environments and fulfill automated tasks. It makes mobile devices truly smart, smart cities smarter and ushers in Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Why standardization matters

The global proliferation of multimedia mobile devices in the early 2000s required a worldwide consumer electronics video compression standard to ensure interoperability. In 2003 Nokia and industry partners created the MPEG (ISO/IEC) and ITU-T Advanced Video Coding AVC/H.264 standard. Nearly two decades later, the AVC/H.264 (MPEG/ITU-T) standard still enables the high-definition video we use today on our mobile devices. But H.264 did something more, it started a new revolution for business applications like video conferencing and surveillance.

In 2013, the world shifted again with the rise of video conferencing and ultra-high-definition 4K video. Building on the legacy of AVC/H.264, we helped develop and standardize the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC/H.265) standard. These standards are now embedded into more than two billion devices, including virtually every smartphone, PC, TV, digital video player and consumer camera in the world, along with communication and broadcasting networks and media cloud services. Our work on AVC/H.264 and HEVC/H.265 earned Nokia and its global standardization partners two Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award.

Next generation video standards

Seven years later, the world went into lockdown due to COVID-19, and Nokia’s 2020 Deepfield Network report showed sizable increases in usage for every type of video application. In March 2020 YouTube traffic increased by 13 percent in Europe. Netflix streaming increased by 58 percent and there was a 350 percent increase in traffic from video communications across all video conferencing apps in Europe.

During this surge in demand, we worked with industry partners to bring the next generation video compression standard - Versatile Video Coding (VVC)/H.266 - to market. VVC enables 50 percent more compression gain than the previous standard with the same picture quality. It delivers efficient transmission and storage of all video resolutions, even up to 16K for future wall TVs, and can support new emerging content experiences, such as game streaming, 360-degree video streaming and ultra-low latency video applications.

The intersection of visual and 3D worlds

Immersion and interaction are key aspects of virtual reality (VR) technology, but you can still only see about 140 degrees at a time when you are in a virtual environment. Our pioneering work with viewport-dependent streaming (VDS) addresses this challenge, updating the view as the user turns their head to give the best perspective and viewpoint, and delivering high-quality 360-degree video in a bandwidth-efficient way. VDS supports everything from entertainment at home to remote steering of trucks in mines.

Augmented reality (AR) gives users the freedom to walk around and explore content in 3D, providing more authentic real-life experience for users. For example, through AR on your smartphone you could watch me play the guitar from multiple different angles. Our work on MPEG Visual Volumetric Video-based Coding (V3C) standards enables this data hungry content to be consumed and shared.

Using compression to make connections

Video coding technologies and standards are fundamental, but other standards on file formats, video systems and transport are also required to establish end-to-end video services and solutions. Through more than two decades of development and standardization work, video and audio standards have opened new worlds for consumers and created connections for people and machines through any platform, on any device - anywhere in the world. Whether it is video-based M2M communication between connected IoT devices and the cloud for smart city surveillance or a video conferencing call that enables more real-life experience through spatial audio, our video and audio technologies make connections.

Ville-Veikko Mattila

About Ville-Veikko Mattila

Ville-Veikko has over 25 years of experience in developing breakthrough multimedia technologies. He has authored 50 scientific journal and conference papers, holds 70 patents and patent applications, and has been interviewed on his work by MIT Technology Review, New Scientist, The Economist, and The New York Times.


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