hdtv.biz-news.com spoke to Mark Horchler, corporate marketing director with video compression provider ATEME, about its plans to deliver video of Blu-ray quality and beyond.

The Blu-ray Disc Association doesn’t take kindly to satellite and cable providers claiming their products deliver high definition picture and sound “equal” to that delivered by Blu-ray Disc.

The trade body recently described just such assertions of equality as irresponsible and misleading to the consumer.

Yet if the noises coming out of video compression provider ATEME are anything to go by, the BDA might have to get used to it.

ATEME is a leading provider of MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 video compression technology.

Its offline and streaming encoders power numerous high-end digital video applications, including mobile TV, Video on Demand (VOD) and IPTV.

These solutions support both standard and HD content, deployed across any platform – from mobile to Ultra HD.

Mark Horchler, corporate marketing director with ATEME, said there was room for continued improvement with H.264.
He said the 3rd generation of the codec had just been released and was 25 per cent more efficient.

“I think we are reaching near Blu-ray quality,” he said. “I have not made a set by set comparison but we are there.”

Horchler said image quality was continually improving and the company was experimenting with Ultra High Definition video.

“That’s the future of high definition,” he said. “H.264 will take us to Blu-ray quality and beyond. Blu-ray is largely based on H.264 technology.”

France, where ATEME was founded in 1991 and has its head office at Bièvres near Paris, is a strong market for the company.

It recently announced that its H.264 encoding solutions were now serving over one million French IPTV customers in HD.

This was as a result of major French broadcasters using the encoders to provide HD video over low bitrates.

IPTV has reached mass market status in France, largely because of its strong ADSL subscriber base of over 15 million customers, value for money offered by triple play services and healthy competition amongst ISPs.

By the end of this year, France is expected to have up to six million IPTV subscribers, with a quarter having access to HD channels such as France 2 and M6 that use ATEME’s H.264 encoders.

“France is a leading market for IPTV and is miles ahead of any other country in Europe, if not the world,” said Horchler.

However, he said that while there was a lack of HD content in some markets, it was only a matter of time before that changed.

“The potential for HDTV is huge. We are only at the beginning,” he said.

“As more and more people adopt HD equipment, flat-screen TVs and so on, there will be a snowball effect. People will ask for more HD content.”

Every market is different

While IPTV is particularly strong in France, Horchler said that in other countries the infrastructure favored cable or satellite.

In the US, where the cable market uses MPEG-2, he said there was a strong argument for using H.264 and he believed cable providers would start adopting it.

“Our solutions carry over all these platforms,” he said.

Another area where ATEME saw potential for H.264 was the mobile market, something that fitted well with its partnership agreement with Adobe.

Horchler said the codec could adapt to various sizes and shapes of media device and had a scaleability that allowed the same video to be broadcast on HDTV or a mobile phone, for instance.

This was a feature that would fit well with the live broadcast of sporting events.

The internet offers immense possibilities for video and Horchler said he was confident that H.264 would be able to adapt to new opportunities as they emerged.

He said there were many interesting applications, such as bundling video with advertising services, that were just beginning to take shape.

“We are in that space. We work with Adobe Flash and this is compatible with 90 per cent of PCs out there,” he said. “I am sure by next year there will be some crazy idea for a business.

“But the codec will adapt to the business model. It’s so flexible.”

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