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Rovi Introduces MainConcept HEVC SDK

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With today's announcement that it is releasing version 1.0 of the MainConcept software development kit (SDK) for H.265, Rovi Corporation hopes to jumpstart usage of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) in existing digital media workflows. 

"The new MainConcept HEVC SDK 1.0 not only enables developers to increase the ease with which high-quality video content is delivered through existing cable, internet and wireless channels," stated a company press release, "but it also features innovative new technology to significantly reduce content conversion times."

The new SDK offers an Application Programming Interface (API) and is based on the MainConcept library of codecs. The intent of the SDK and integrated API, according to Rovi, is to "ease the process of adding HEVC support to new or in-market solutions." The SDK also includes an HEVC encoder and decoder. It is available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, in both 32- and 64-bit version with a low-level C++ API and DirectShow filters.

Rovi says that more than 50 companies participated in its HEVC beta program. Launched earlier this year, the beta program "included representatives from some of the leading companies in digital media creation, transcoding, and delivery" such as Castis, Marex Broadcast Systems, MTI Film, and Wohler Technologies.

"The release of the MainConcept HEVC SDK 1.0 marks the opportunity to transition from evaluating and testing the new compression standard," the press release stated, "to driving toward the release of compatible products and services."

Lowering transcoding conversion times has been a key feature of hardware-based transcoding appliances, which take advantage of file-based decodes into native color space to leverage multiple re-encodes from a single decode.

Rovi's approach to solving this issue in software, which it's calling Smart Adaptive Bitrate Encoding Technology (SABET), also takes advantage of a single decoded stream, offering up to 10 simultaneous re-encodes for any given stream.

"One of the major challenges service providers and content owners face in switching to a new codec is converting their vast entertainment catalogs,” said Avni Rambhia, Senior Industry Analyst of Frost & Sullivan’s Digital Media Practice.

“The challenge becomes even greater," she added, "given the requirement to support streaming and adaptive bitrate formats that involve transcoding each piece of content into as many as 10 different profiles or individual streams."

Rambhia's numbers are a bit low, since many of today's streams are converted into 15-20 different profiles—and some upwards of 30 different profiles if all adaptive bitrate (ABR) technologies are deployed—but she brings up the very valid point: Today's transcoding solutions must smartly use processing resources to leverage decoding for like-type encoding.

The press release claims that SABET will allow the delivery of a variety of adaptive formats using the HEVC codec, mentioning Rovi's own DivX Plus Streaming as one path for the HEVC SDK but also calling out examples of industry standards such as Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) and MPEG-DASH.

Neither of these two latter ABR technologies yet support H.265 video decoding, though, and DASH-IF's announcement of DASH-AVC/264 at last month's Streaming Media East was seen as the industry clamping down on the number of codec and transport options.

H.265 certainly holds promise, but as pointed out in recent StreamingMedia.com articles on H.265, the bandwidth gains are less than one-third compared to H.264/AVC and the computational cost of decoding is significantly higher.  Rovi says it expects to see additional gains for the HEVC SDK, doubling efficiencies from the current 20 percent gains, as it further optimizes its HEVC codec.

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