Friday, August 28, 2015

One Year of MPEG

In my last MPEG report (index) I’ve mentioned that the 112th MPEG meeting in Warsaw was my 50th MPEG meeting which roughly accumulates to one year of MPEG meetings. That is, one year of my life I've spend in MPEG meetings - scary, isn't it? Thus, I thought it’s time to recap what I have done in MPEG so far featuring the following topics/standards where I had significant contributions:
  • MPEG-21 - The Multimedia Framework 
  • MPEG-M - MPEG extensible middleware (MXM), later renamed to multimedia service platform technologies 
  • MPEG-V - Information exchange with Virtual Worlds, later renamed to media context and control
  • MPEG-DASH - Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP

MPEG-21 - The Multimedia Framework

I started my work with standards, specifically MPEG, with Part 7 of MPEG-21 referred to as Digital Item Adaptation (DIA) and developed the generic Bitstream Syntax Description (gBSD) in collaboration with SIEMENS which allows for a coding-format independent (generic) adaptation of scalable multimedia content towards the actual usage environment (e.g., different devices, resolution, bitrate). The main goal of DIA was to enable the Universal Media Access (UMA) -- any content, anytime, anywhere on any device -- and also motivated me to start this blog. I also wrote a series of blog entries on this topic: O Universal Multimedia Access, Where Art Thou? which gives an overview about this topic and basically is also what I’ve done in my Ph.D. thesis. Later I helped a lot in various MPEG-21 parts including its dissemination and documented where it has been used. In the past, I saw many forms of Digital Items (e.g., iTunesLP was one of the first) but unfortunately the need for a standardised format is very low. Instead, proprietary formats are used and I realised that developers are more into APIs than formats. The format comes with the API but it’s the availability of an API that attracts developers and makes them to adopt a certain technology. 


The lessons learned from MPEG-21 was one reason why I joined the MPEG-M project as it was exactly the purpose to create an API into various MPEG technologies, providing developers a tool that makes it easy for them to adopt new technologies and, thus, new formats/standards. We created an entire architecture, APIs, and reference software to make it easy for external people to adopt MPEG technologies. The goal was to hide the complexity of the technology through simple to use APIs which should enable the accelerated development of components, solutions, and applications utilising digital media content. A good overview about MPEG-M can found on this poster.


When MPEG started working on MPEG-V (it was not called like that in the beginning), I saw it as an extension of UMA and MPEG-21 DIA to go beyond audio-visual experiences by stimulating potentially all human senses. We created and standardised an XML-based language that enables the annotation of multimedia content with sensory effects. Later the scope was extended to include virtual worlds which resulted in the acronym MPEG-V. It also brought me to start working on Quality of Experience (QoE) and we coined the term Quality of Sensory Experience (QuASE) as part of the (virtual) SELab at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt which offers a rich set of open-source software tools and datasets around this topic on top of off-the-shelf hardware (still in use in my office).


The latest project I’m working on is MPEG-DASH where I’ve also co-founded bitmovin, now a successful startup offering fastest transcoding in the cloud (bitcodin) and high quality MPEG-DASH players (bitdash). It all started when MPEG asked me to chair the evaluation of call for proposals on HTTP streaming of MPEG media. We then created that offers a huge set of open source tools and datasets used by both academia and industry worldwide (e.g., listed on DASH-IF). I think I can proudly state that this is the most successful MPEG activity I've been involved so far... (note: a live deployment can be found here which shows 24/7 music videos over the Internet using bitcodin and bitdash).

DASH and QuASE are also part of my habilitation which brought me into the current position at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt as Associate Professor. Finally, one might ask the question, was it all worth spending so much time for MPEG and at MPEG meetings. I would say YES and there are many reasons which could easily results in another blog post (or more) but it’s better to discuss this face to face, I'm sure there will be plenty of possibilities in the (near) future or you come to Klagenfurt, e.g., for ACM MMSys 2016 ...

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