Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ETIA: How can we improve multimedia quality over the Internet

Going forward there is clearly plenty of room for improving the quality of Internet-delivered media. Joyce Farrell, Stanford SCIEN, led the next panel on some of the strategies for making this happen. To get started, John Apostolopoulos, VP & CTO, Cisco took us through how media gets from the cloud to the home.

Today's cloud features highly-customized and expensive clouds like YouTube, Netflix and AWS. John touted the future benefits of OpenStack as a way to do large-scale, cloud-based delivery more easily and at lower cost. He expects the result to be a greater diversity of user-generated content. Comcast is already an early adopter of OpenStack technology for its cloud-based video services.
Cisco's Apostolopoulos shows that Comcast is on record as supporting OpenStack.
Photo by David Cardinal
Pushing the envelope of immersive audio experiences is the job of Dr. Sunil Bharitkar, Director of Technology Strategy at Dolby Labratories. Beginning by arguing that audio should get a larger share of the total bandwidth -- quoting George Lucas that "audio is 50% of the user's experience" -- Sunil went on to explain some of the ways it could be used. An important "first step" is the continued migration of audio technologies from the cinema to the home. Further migration of those technologies to mobile has some of the same challenges as Ricardo Motta mentioned with video -- in this case mediocre speakers and noisy and unpredictable listening environments.

Dolby's variable backlight displays have established a reputation for excellence. Scott Daly, Principal MTS at Dolby Laboratories plays a large role in ensuring that continues. He took us through how Dolby thinks about video quality, and how it depends on the image source material and the viewer. Using the example of tuning an HDR image for viewing on a variety of monitors Scott showed how it required adaptive tone mapping to look its best as the quality of display and the viewing conditions are changed.

Like the last panel, these experts largely agreed that better communication between the content creators (whether it is through literal tools, metadata, or additional content streams) and the display devices will be needed for improved display quality under a variety of conditions. Whether that turns into head-end rendering into narrowcast streams as Scott discussed, or metadata-enhanced single-streams that Pixar and nVidia would prefer -- or a combination of both -- still remains to be seen. -- David Cardinal

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