Live 8Kp60 Demo Based on World’s First Single-Card 8K HEVC Encoder Board Wins Award at CEATEC!

Last week at the CEATEC show in Japan, we were honored to learn that Socionext, our key strategic partner for video processing solutions, had been presented with a “Technology and Software Innovation” Grand Prix award for a live 8K demonstration featuring the new VEGA-3304 8K HEVC Encoder Card from Advantech. The VEGA-3304 was recently introduced at IBC where it caught lots of attention for its impressive encoding capacity with the horsepower to do a broadcast-quality 8K HEVC encode in a single PCI Express format card.

 

How to efficiently cope with 8K video encoding

The case of 8K television may still appear over the horizon for American or European broadcasters but it is a reality for Asian ones. The Japanese pioneer NHK has just completed the first regular 8K UHD satellite broadcasts for the Rio Olympics as part of their Super Hi-Vision test channel which aims to provide full coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. While 8K UHD television shipments have yet to begin commercial volume, they are expected to steadily increase over the next years according to IHS reaching nearly 2 million units by 2020, in time for when aired services are expected to be fully operational.

The significant quality enhancement brought by 8K UHD is achieved by packing 16x more pixels than current Full HD. But it is not just a matter of pixels, the WOW experience of 8K is built on other technologies such as High Dynamic Range (HDR) that add to the UHD complexity. The direct consequence is the broader bandwidth required to bring the video signals to consumers through the delivery network. The Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC) was created in 2010 with the objective of keeping bit rates under control by developing a codec that improved existing codec efficiency to cope with UHD resolutions. The resulting High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) has demonstrated its ability to deliver the same subjective quality with a bit rate reduction of 50% or more over the widely used H.264/AVC codec. However, these advantages come at the expense of vastly increased computational complexity that makes software-based implementations impractical.

The first HEVC encoder for 8K UHD TV was jointly developed by NHK and Mitsubishi Electric in 2013 and was able to encode a 60 fps 7680×4320 video at 85 Mbps following the HEVC Main 10 profile with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling and 10 bit depth. This impressive piece of engineering leveraged 17 encoding boards distributed across a chassis.

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The functionality of this large box can now be replaced by a single plug-in board consuming less than 80W power. The VEGA-3304, which we believe is the first commercially-available single-card real-time 8K HEVC encoder, is based on four Socionext MB86M31 devices each able of performing 4Kp60 HEVC 4:2:2 10 bit encoding on a single chip. Driven by the convergence of broadcasting and IT technologies, the VEGA-3304 enables x86-based applications to easily offload 8K HEVC video processing to a plug-in PCI Express encoder board that can be accessed via an SDK. The VEGA-3304 also features sixteen 3G-SDI inputs, thus combining the video acquisition and encoding functions in one single card. The VEGA-3304 can be integrated into a VEGA-7000 server enabling real-time 8Kp60 HEVC acquisition and encoding in 1RU.

Virtual reality and 360 video

While 8K broadcasting is developing slowly, there is one other area that could make use of 8K capability. Many analysts agree that VR and 360 video are a “next big thing”: IHS predicts that the installed base of VR headsets will soar from 4 million in 2015 to 81 million in 2020. Virtual reality and 360 degree video are usually built by combining the inputs from different cameras, with the resultant stitched and de-warped images being anything up to 8K resolution. If not stitched locally, the outputs from each camera need to be sent to central or cloud-based processing engines. Being able to handle 8K natively, or multiple 4K or HD channels, the VEGA-3304 can deliver unrivaled contribution-grade HEVC processing capabilities to VR and 360 video applications in one single, low power implementation.

About the award-winning demo

The awarded CEATEC demo reproduced a live 8K production where the video signal is acquired by an ASTRO 8K Super Hi-Vision camera that points at a scene featuring several moving elements. The camera output is converted to SDI and fed into the VEGA-3304 which is running in a standard PC. The encoded signal is sent through two elements that simulate an 8K TV set and are based on the Socionext single-chip demodulator and 8K decoder devices that were part of the technology awarded at the show along with the VEGA-3304.

For those of you lucky enough to speak Japanese, you can watch an intro for the live demo below. The rest of us can still enjoy the dancing figures.

Finally, a big thank you to CEATEC for this award that recognizes the effort and vision of the team which has made the VEGA-3304 possible together with our technology partners in Socionext. Kudos to the team! We are looking forward to many more VEGA-3304 success stories to come!

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