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April 4, 2024

Sony Explains the Benefits of ULL HEVC

On a recent TV Tech Summit (registration still available here at publishing time), Deon LeCointe of Sony Professional, where he is Director of Product Management, Networked Solutions, gave a talk about HEVC as the broadcast environment changes. Compression during content creation is a key technology for wider use of 8K, so we listened to the talk which was titled ‘HEVC encoding and software-based technology’. 

LeCointe started by saying that there are three big trends in creation infrastructure technology: 

  • Network & Resource Orchestration
  • Media Transport
  • Hybrid processing & Operations

The use of ultra-low latency (ULL) HEVC is really related to the second and third topics. Media Transport and Hybrid Processing and Operations are both enabling and driving an evolution in content creation. There is a move away from hardware solutions to the use of ST2110 networked video in content centers but outside these centers, evolution is moving towards 5G and other cloud technologies. Increasingly, production hardware and staff could be anywhere around the world and production could be at almost any scale.

LeCointe said that compression is always desirable in these cases, but that there is usually a trade off between three considerations:

  • Video quality
  • Data rates 
  • Latency

You Had/Have to Choose

Historically, you had to choose two positive factors, but the third would be negative. Now, he said, you can enjoy positive results in all three with rapid encoding of HEVC. His talk positioned HEVC in contrast to JPEG XS (which we have recently written about here and here). 

HEVC has much higher compression, but longer latency

Looking at quality, tests that Sony has done have shown that the use of HEVC can match the ‘visually lossless’ quality of JPEG XS. Data rates are, of course, much lower than JPEG XS for the same quality. Encoding takes around 2 frames for 4K 60P content, while he said that JPEG XS takes around 1 frame. 

(We found this claim to be somewhat contentious. JPEG XS is said to perform the compression in a small number of lines – and in a live production a delay of a few lines vs two frames could be significant. Editor)

Sony will have three new products at NAB. They are 

  • NXL-ME80 ULL encoder for low latency – it can support eight FullHD or two 4k channels and output to ST2110 for transmission across WANs
  • CBK-RPU7 – a camera add-on to transmit HEVC via 5G – although to do this it also needs a 5G modem. It can be used for live sports with 100msec delay.
  • M2L-X  allows 24 inputs of HD to be sent for software processing but also integrates with MLS-X1 control panel without additional hardware.

8K Association Comments

There is nearly always a trade-off with codecs between complexity and compression. HEVC is much more complex than JPEG XS so takes more time and silicon. However, it compresses much further. A decision between the two technologies seems, to us, to depend on whether the latencies in HEVC encoding, even with Sony’s very fast process, is acceptable for production and whether there is sufficient bandwidth for JPEG XS.

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