Saturday, October 31, 2009

MPEG news: a report from the 90th meeting in Xi'an, China

The 90th MPEG meeting in Xi’an, China is coming up with some very interesting news which are briefly highlighted here. First and, I think, most importantly, the timeline for the new MPEG/ITU-T video coding format has been discussed and it seems the final Call for Proposals (CfP) will be ready in January 2010. A draft CfP is available now and hopefully will be also publicly available if they solve all the editing issues until early November. This means that the proposals will be evaluated in April 2010 (note: this will be a busy meeting as a couple of other calls need to be evaluated too; see later). The CfP defines five classes of test sequences with the following characteristics (number of sequences available in brackets):
  • Class A with 2560x1600 cropped from 4Kx2K (2);
  • Class B with 1920x1080p at 24/50-60 fps (5);
  • Class C with 832x480 WVGA (4);
  • Class D with 416x240 WQVGA (4); and
  • Class E with 1280x720p at 50-60fps (3).
For classes B, C, and E subjective tests will be performed whereas classes A and D will be only evaluated objectively using PSNR. The reason for evaluating A and D using objective measurements is due to its insignificant subjective differences with B and C respectively. Finally, they’re still discussing about the actual common nickname name of the standard as it seems some are not happy with high-performance video coding but that’s yet another story…

Second, 3D video coding is still a major topic in MPEG but you probably need to wait yet another year until a Call for Proposals will be issued. That is, a 3DV standard will be probably available around the beginning of 2013 at the earliest. The major issue right now is the availability of content – as usual – and different device manufacturer standards with respect to 3D video.

The third major topic at this meeting was around AIT and MMT, two acronyms you shall become more familiar in the future. The former is referred to as Advanced IPTV Terminal (AIT) and aims to develop an ecosystem for media value chains and networks. Therefore, basic (atomic) services will be defined including protocols (payload formats) to enable users to call these services, Application Programming Interfaces to access services, and bindings to specific programming languages. Currently, 30 of these basic services are foreseen which can be clustered in services pertaining to the identification, authentication, description, storage, adaptation, posting, packaging, delivery, presentation, interaction, aggregation, management, search, negotiation, and transaction. The timeline is similar as for HVC which means that proposals will be evaluated in April 2010. The latter is referred to as MPEG Media Transport (MMT) and basically aims to become a successor of the well-known MPEG-2 Transport Stream. Currently, two topics are explored for which also requirements have been formulated. The first topic covers adaptive, progressive transport and the second topic is in the area of cross-layer design. Further topics where this activity might look into are hybrid delivery and conversational services. As for HVC and AIT, the proposals are going to be evaluated in April 2010. However, in order to further refine this possible new work item, MPEG will held a workshop in January 2010 on the Wednesday during the Kyoto meeting focusing on “adaptive progressive transport” and “cross-layer design”.

However, MPEG is looking forward to a very busy meeting in April 2010 which by the way will be held in Dresden, Germany.

Another issue that has been discussed in Xi’an was (again) the development of a royalty free codec within MPEG. While some might say that within MPEG, trying to establish a royalty free codec is a first step towards failure, others argue that MPEG-1 is already royalty free, for MPEG-2 most patents expire in 2011, the Internet community is requesting this (e.g., IETF established coded group and Google has chosen On2, a royalty free codec), and, finally, MPEG-4 Part 10 royalty free baseline basically failed. Thus, maybe (or hopefully) this is the right time for a royalty free codec within MPEG and who can predict the future? Anyway, there’s some activity going on in this area and if you’re interested, stay tuned…

Finally, I’d like to note that MPEG-V (Media Context & Control) and MPEG-U (Rich Media User Interface) are progressing smoothly and both going hand in hand towards its finalization. This meeting, the FCDs have been approved which forms a major milestone as this was the last chance for substantial new contributions. One such input was related to advanced user interaction like the Wiimote, etc. which will become part of MPEG-V but used also by MPEG-U. Hence, one might argue merging these two standards into one single standard called MPEG-W (i.e., U+V=W) and a wedding ceremony could be performed at the next meeting in Kyoto with Geishas as witnesses … why not? Please raise your voice now or be silent forever!

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