Cisco’s Virtualized, Software-Only 4K Encoding Solution: The Secret Ingredient Winning in Customer “Bake-offs” Around the World
If there’s one common element across the major television/video trade shows this year — the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, and likely those that follow, it’s the focus on “the rest of the ecosystem,” as it relates to 4K, Ultra High-Definition (UHD) TV. Meaning, the televisions are out there. Everything else is still catching up.
With NAB coming up, and video picture quality a hot topic, I wanted to highlight what’s been going on with Cisco’s 4K encoder work, as evidenced by customer wins — some of which we can discuss, some of which we can’t — in a series of recent “encoder bake-offs” around the world.
One that we can discuss is our work with India’s Videocon d2h, which last month chose our AnyRes Live UHD Encoders to launch its 4K-enabled UHD viewing experience. It happened, not coincidentally, in conjunction with the biggest event on the world cricket calendar, the 2015 Cricket World Cup, which is played every four years. Videocon d2h is India’s first- ever provider to deliver 4K signals from the games, which conclude in Australia and New Zealand at the end of the month. Another 4K bake-off win came in the Pacific Rim region, where sports are also the driving force of 4K-enabled UHD viewing, so far. Likewise for a satellite service provider in Europe, where the evaluations involved comprehensive subjective “golden eye”-styled tests.
The feedback we received from customers about why our HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec)/h.264 encoders were selected centered on our picture quality and overall stability, especially in scenarios where fast scene changes were required.
Achieving that picture and stability when the whole ecosystem is still rapidly evolving, stems from the fact that we very deliberately lead with a software-only solution for HEVC 4K, running on general processing compute resources.
It’s all very much in line with Cisco’s companion Unified Computing System (UCS) data center components, a big plus to the solution.
Here are some additional features of the Cisco AnyRes Live UHD Encoders:
- Highest quality HEVC/H.265 codec
- Frame rate support rom 24 to 60 frames per second (fps)
- Virtually flawless pictures, achieved using 10-bit color depth
- Sturdy transmission, with an UltraHD input / front end reliably sync’d to live signal feeds
- Ability to encode for SD, HD, full HD, or multi-format ABR (adaptive bit rate), using H.264 and H.265
- Various baseband graphics processing features, including logo insertion.
We’re showing our full UHD/4K encoder line in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, booth #N802. We will showcase to anyone considering a 4K launch, that we have real 4K encoders — optimized, in market, and ready to go. We’re at work now on the inclusion of HDR (High Dynamic Range), which is also likely to be a big thread of 4K conversations at NAB.
So, to close with a “this moment in time” snapshot of the Spring 2015 UHD/4K landscape: Is the 4K video chain all perfect, ready to go? No, it’s not. But it’s moving well beyond the end point / television set domain, as the year unfolds. And it’s proving now that UHD/4K encoding and distribution can all be linked together properly, in a way that works — stunningly, if I may say so myself.
For questions or comments, tweet us @CiscoSPVideo.