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4K Stream Transmission requirements might get much lighter thanks to Beamr

by on February 10, 2015
 

Stephan Jukic – February 10, 2015

At the current standards of technological development for streaming 4K ultra HD signals via internet connections, the minimum amount of consistent connectivity your PC or TV needs to handle a 4K signal smoothly is about 20Mbps. Some sources claim 15 Mbps while others, such as Netflix request that users have an internet connection that gives at least 25 consistent Mbps of broadband juice.

And this 20 to 25Mbps represents an enormous improvement over the bandwidth needed for raw, uncompressed 4K video, which would be well above 60Mbps. For the dramatic level of compression, we can thank video compression codecs like the highly standardized HEVC (H.265) and the lesser known but roughly equal VP9 codec used by Google and a few other partners.

These two codecs, and HEVC in particular, are what has given millions of 4K TV owners with more powerful internet connections access to 4K entertainment from sources such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and, in some overseas markets, Wauki.tv and others.

However, HEVC and VP9 are still problematic because, quite simply, even 20Mbps of connectivity is something that only a minority percentage of households have access to. In the U.S that percentage hangs at around 19% and worldwide it’s even lower at less than 12%.

Of course, broadband speeds will keep growing and more people will have access to sufficiently fast high—speed internet but in the meantime, anything that can compress the large data load of 4K video even more is definitely going to welcome.

This is where the technology of a service called Beamr comes into the picture. While still largely in development for 4K compression (but already available for compression of 720p and 1080p Full HD), Beamr’s technology adds another layer of video compression on top of that which is already delivered by codecs like HEVC and VP9.

The result of this additional compression is a further reduction by 40% of the existing size of 4K video being transmitted via HEVC/VP9. Thus, according to Beamr itself, a 4K ultra HD stream can be reduced so that instead of needing at least 19 or 20Mbps, it can reach a subscriber over a connection of just 9.5 to 10Mbps.

This would be a massive boost to networks that are trying to send out 4K entertainment and a major cost cutter for services like Netflix, which pay a fortune in annual broadband transmission costs for both their 4K signals and regular HD transmissions.

Best of all, Beamr, works with the existing HEVC codec without interrupting or complicating service in any serious way.

The company fairly recently demonstrated their technology at the International CES in Las Vegas in January and claim that they are already working with streaming services and other broadcasters to start delivering 4K movies and shows via Beamr optimized HEVC signals and apparently already have a partnership established with the broadcasting service M-Go, which has just recently unveiled a limited 4K VoD service for owners of Samsung 4K TVs.

Beamr's 4K video optimization was showcased at the International CES in January of 2015

Beamr’s 4K video optimization was showcased at the International CES in January of 2015

What Beamr claims is that its optimization software chops down 4K video bitrates by being smarter than an encoder like HEVC. The Beamr technology is applied after HEVC encoding has already been done to a video and whittles everything down by removing bits where they won’t be needed or misses: smooth textures, blurry backgrounds, and parts of scenes that don’t need a high degree of UHD detail.

According to the company’s chief technology officer, Dror Gill, even expert observers can’t notice differences between content optimized by Beamr and original raw 4K video.

So far, Beamr for 4K is still being developed for public release and the company is working with studios themselves to push their software into a Go ahead from those content producing studios so that streaming providers like Netflix and Amazon will be more open to using the optimization technology on their content.

Story by 4k.com

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