Highlights from NAB 2013: Advancements in HD Multiscreen Video Services, HEVC Encoding, Multiscreen Video Monetization and More

Last week we packed our bags and headed for Vegas to exhibit at the NAB Show.  For those unfamiliar with the conference, NAB is one of the largest events in the broadcasting industry, bringing together key people to talk about changing consumer habits and technologies impacting media.

In between taking the opportunity to showcase our multiscreen video solutions, we eagerly took to the floor to scour exhibits and panels for the latest trends and innovations.  Here are a few highlights that are worth noting:

HEVC Encoding – All the Quality, Half the Bandwidth of H.264

Many companies had demos of HEVC (high efficiency video coding) encoding at NAB. The prototype hardware and software solutions I found interesting were from Elemental Technologies, Fraunhofer Institute, and Motorola. Motorola had an interesting real-time demo, an HEVC encoder delivering streaming content to a Google Nexus 10 tablet for real-time decoding and playback.

HEVC is a successor of today’s very popular H.264 format. HEVC delivers a picture of the same perceived visual quality as H.264, but using only half the bandwidth. HEVC is going to alleviate the bandwidth pressure of delivering HD multiscreen video services. Some observers, like Dan Rayburn, streaming and online video expert, think video service providers are looking to launch HEVC based OTT multiscreen video services in the 2014 time frame.

There is also discussion in the hardware and software encoding community about HEVC enabling 4K multiscreen services. While theoretically this is possible, I think we are few years from seeing 4K coming to multiscreen OTT.

4K Resolution-UltraHD means the challenge of handling large data volumes

Much like CES this year, 4K resolution was plastered all over NAB. This strikes me as reminiscent of the splash 3D made at these shows a few years ago. So, perhaps we can take this one with a pinch of salt given the current state of 3D.

The most impressive demo was Sony’s 4K resolution. It had a 56” OLED screen on display, showing beautiful images from Rio Carnival. While North American broadcasters are looking to jump to 4K next, Japanese providers like NHK are going directly to 8K.

Today digital film dailies at 2K generate around 2.5TB of information per day in post production. By contrast a show in 8K is expected to average 187TB per day of new data. The difficulty of handling the large data volumes will be a big challenge in implementing ultraHD formats.

Multiscreen Video Monetization

The ability to optimize multiscreen service content for effective monetization is becoming another key area of focus among service providers. Of course, this is dependent on consumption analytics/trends informing future content purchases, promotions, advertising, and even the timing for publishing VoD content.

QuickPlay’s noSQL based reporting system will be very instrumental in capturing consumption behaviors of end-users. Moreover, our experience running multiscreen video services with different monetization models has given us deep insights about the optimal path to take for monetizing multiscreen video services.

Multiscreen Video needs Live TV

At NAB, a number of vendors in the multiscreen video space made passing references to live TV, but the focus for majority of the service providers are still on VoD. At QuickPlay, we recognize live video is the big missing piece of multiscreen video. We have invested in the future of live TV and have built our Multiscreen Video Control Center, a state-of-the-art live TV facility with satellite ingestion farm and dedicated data center.

QuickPlay showcased our end-to-end live TV capabilities and demonstrated live multiscreen TV services we power for our customers, TVB, Rogers and Bell. One of the big attractions at the QuickPlay booth was the nPVR (in alpha version) functionality that turns live to VoD for catch-up TV.