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February 27, 2023

Spin Digital Makes Live VVC Encoding Breakthrough

Spin Digital announced that it has released Spin Enc. Live v2.0, which is said to be a breakthrough in encoding live video using the VVC codec. The technology has achieved bitrate savings of 27% for 8K video compared to the earlier HEVC codec technology. The encoder enables, on a single dual-socket server, live encoding and streaming of 4Kp60 and 8Kp30 video. 8Kp60 is coming soon.

The encoder is available as a complete application, as an SDK for incorporation into other applications and as a plug-in for the open-source FFmpeg framework. There are more details in the firm’s press release

The company has also released a White Paper that digs into the technology

Why is This Important?

Codecs are complex technologies and the two sides of the process (encoding and decoding) are quite different.

  • Decoders are very standardised in what they do. They have a clear function to accurately follow the standard to translate the compressed video. Building a decoder is fundamentally an engineering challenge to build a decoder that is the right balance of quality, speed and complexity. A decoder design may find its way into millions or tens or hundreds of millions of chips in video playback devices. A decoder from Spin Digital was available in 2021 as the 8KA reported at the time.
  • Encoders are a bit different. The encoding process allows the controller of the process to select from and optimize many different parameters and options. These include the degree of compression desired, the final quality desired and the amount of time and resource available to perform the encoding. In the early days of new codecs, encoding is typically done on general purpose computers and initially can be very slow. As the technology is improved and better understood, the encoders get faster and specialized hardware may start to be available to perform encoding more quickly. Early encoding is typically ‘file-based’ – that is to say, a file of original video is input and, after some (often very significant) time, a compressed file of video comes out the other end. Live encoding is very different with encoded content coming out while more content is being input. That’s how broadcast digital video content is created in live TV. With established codecs and dedicated hardware, the delay is very low, but with newer codecs it is always longer. As the Spin Digital white paper points out, offline or file-based VVC encoding can reduce the bitrate needed for a given quality by up to 50%, but at the expense of 50 times the computational complexity (which means more hardware, power and time is needed)!

Ben Schwarz gave a flavour of this development in his article just before IBC last year. (Live VVC 8K Encoding at 40 Mbps to be Demoed by Spin Digital at IBC 2022). At the time, Spin Digital was anticipating the release of 4th-gen Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs which could boost performance and Intel announced those processors on January 10th.

Following that Intel announcement, new workstations based on this generation of chips have been launched. (We’re planning a separate article on that topic, soon).

We are planning an interview with Spin Digital, which is a member of the 8K Association, to hear more about this development.

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