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Streaming Media West '15: Stop Equating Video Quality with Bit Rate

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Tim Siglin: Welcome to the second day of Streaming Media West 2015. We're almost live here at the show and I have with me Zhou Wang, who is the chairman and chief scientist of a company called SSIMWave. Zhou you're also a professor at a university. Do you want to talk about what you do there and what your credentials are?

Zhou Wang: I'm a professor at the University of Waterloo and I have a research lab, about 10 people, 4 post docs, 5 PhD students, and a bunch of research associates. Our research is mostly assessing quality of video. We do quality-of-experience assessments. We also use those to optimize all kinds of image and video processing applications. We also started a company called SSIMWave.

Tim Siglin: Tell me a little bit about SSIMWave.

Zhou Wang: SSIMWave is trying to provide industries with a tool to allow you to gain awareness of the quality of the video being transmitted over the network. With this awareness of the quality you can use that to do all kinds of optimization work. You can use that to improve the user experience and you can also use that to optimize the resource or location. For example, you can use that to optimize your encoder, optimize your streaming strategy so that you can save a lot of bandwidth. At the same time to improve user experience.

Tim Siglin: Is the solution something that happens pre-encoder, at the encoder, post processing or on the network for delivery?

Zhou Wang: We have different kinds of solutions for this. You can our tool at the server side, encoder and transcoder side. You can also use at the player side. You can also use at the streaming server side. We have different solutions and we also have different strategies. The key thing of all these approaches that we are providing is that we are doing this quality-driven optimization.

Tim Siglin: From a quality-of-experience standpoint, let’s take an example of the player. You have other companies who provide tools to large media properties that enhance the player experience. How would you enhance the quality of experience on a player level and on the transport level?

Zhou Wang: The first thing is that we have a deep understanding about human virtual system. This is what we are good at. In India we have by far the most cited work in the field. A few weeks back we won the Emmy Award for our contribution to the industry to provide a tool to do video quality assessment. This is our credential so basically we have the best technology to evaluate quality of experience of viewers. When people are viewing video on different devices.

Tim Siglin: From a practical standpoint, how does that work at the player level?

Zhou Wang: For the current streaming media industry, a big mistake in this industry is equating quality with bit rates. You still see people justify their player but saying "We have a better average bit rate." But this is wrong. We believe the industry needs to change the mindset. The more important thing is that you need to deliver the best quality and this quality doesn't need bit rate because the same bit rate you compress the same... different video content with the same bit rate, you can get very different quality. First thing is you have to be aware of the quality of experience of your viewer and then you can use that to optimize the whole delivery chain starting from the encoder, transcoder, streaming approaches, and also the player decision making.

Tim Siglin: Thank you very much for your time. Again we've been here with Zhou Wang from SSIMWAVE, Almost Live from Streaming Media West 2015.

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