Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Digital Copy

I am now the happy owner of a Blu-Ray Disc player. For Christmas, I've just bought a copy of "The Dark Knight", the last Batman movie, which was basically the most awaited BD of the year. It is truly a great movie, I love it! You can read the review on High-Def Digest if you are intersted.

The package included an authorization code to download a Digital Copy from the Warner Bros. Internet site. Cut&paste from the WB support information FAQ:
What is a Digital Copy? Digital Copy is a Windows Media™ compatible copy of a movie which can be quickly and legally transferred from a purchased DVD to a PC or PlaysForSure™ portable media device.

How do I get started? To use Digital Copy, you will need a PC running Windows XP or Windows Vista, Windows Media Player 10 or above, a DVD-ROM drive, and an Internet connection. No downloading is required but you'll need to connect to the Internet the first time you run the disc to enter a special code to get your copy of the movie.

So I downloaded the Digital Copy of "The Dark Knight" in a couple of hours: there are two separate Windows Media files. The first one is 2 GB, 720x400 at 25 fps format with an average bit-rate of 4.5 Mb/s and includes five languages: English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. The second one is 625 MB, 320x176 at 25 fps format with an average bit-rate of 600 kb/s and includes only one language (Italian, in my case). The quality looks good, but nothing comparable to Blu-Ray, of course.

Oh, and by the way, be very careful with your authorization code:
How many times can my authorization code be used? The authorization code can be used once. One authorization code will provide 1 PC and 1 portable media device copy license.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NanoTouch Display

In collaboration with the Hasso Plattener Institute in Potsdam, Germany, Microsoft R&D argued that the key to touch-enabling very small devices is to use touch on the device backside. In order to study this, they have created the 2.4” prototype device shown here.

In a user study, participants completed a pointing task successfully across all display sizes when using a back-of device interface. The touchscreen-based control condition, in contrast, failed for screen diagonals below 1 inch, because the user’s fingers occlude contents and prevent precision.

The project webpage is here, including a paper (PDF) submitted to the Computer and Human Interaction conference.

Grid Streaming

FilmOn is a Video-On-Demand (VOD) Internet service using a cluster of net-based computers to let people watch broadcast quality movies over a basic broadband connection: the computer cluster helps shrink the films so the high-quality images can be sent through the available connection bandwidth.

Richard Crosby, Chief Scientist, declared "The FilmOn Network Operation Centre makes use of the same grid and cloud technology used by CERN and government agencies. The processing power is spread out across the globe, rather than on a single server. We start off with a few servers in select places and as demand picks up, a fresh cluster kicks in. What makes us different from a traditional grid is that the CPU's actually talk to each other across the global network. So it knows where the loads are and where projected loads will occur."

More details at BBC News.

Monday, December 22, 2008

EBU technical review 2008-Q4

The new edition of the quarterly EBU technical review is available at a new location and includes the following articles:
  • Editorial : Downturns, upturns and media development
  • Evolution of the BBC iPlayer
  • Open source handhelds - a broadcaster-led innovation for BTH services
  • Mobile TV standards: DVB-T vs. DVB-H
  • DSO - the Swedish experience

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sky moves toward 3D broadcast

Sky TV says it has made a significant step towards bringing 3D television to British viewers.

The satellite broadcaster has successfully tested the delivery of 3D programming to a domestic television, via a high-definition set-top box.

Sky has been filming a number of events using 3D cameras over recent months. Such broadcasts would require the use of 3D televisions, not yet available in UK stores, and viewers would need to wear 3D polarising glasses.

Sky says it has gone further by showing that 3D could be delivered into homes, straight to its Sky+HD set-top box, without much difficulty. Sky is stressing it is not making a product launch, but producing a technological demonstration.

Source: BBC News.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Numonyx goes to 41nm

Numonyx yesterday announced a new line-up of flash memories for wireless, embedded and storage applications built on the advanced 41nm technology, the top-level silicon process in today memory industry.

NAND memory continues to be one of the largest segments of the semiconductor industry, driven primarily by the high levels of digital content found in everything from set-top boxes to mobile phones.

The new Numoyx products will provide manufacturers of mobile phones, personal navigation devices, and other consumer electronics with easy-to-manage and simple-to-design memory solutions and will give consumers significantly more room on their devices to store pictures, videos, songs and operate popular multimedia applications.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Intel's advancement in Silicon Photonics

The latest Intel's press release - entitled "Intel's Silicon Photonics Advancement Aims to Accelerate Future Computing, Communications" - unveils a major achievement in Silicon Photonics, an emerging technology using standard silicon to send and receive optical information among computers and other electronic devices, allowing ultra-fast data transfer for future bandwidth-intensive computing applications, such as remote medicine and lifelike 3-D virtual worlds.

A team led by Intel researchers created the silicon-based APD (Avalanche Photodetector), a light sensor that achieves superior sensitivity by detecting light and amplifying weak signals as light is directed onto silicon. This APD device used silicon and CMOS processing to achieve a "gain-bandwidth product" of 340 GHz -- the best result ever measured for this key APD performance metric. This opens the door to lower the cost of optical links running at data rates of 40Gbps or higher and proves, for the first time, that a silicon photonics device can exceed the performance of a device made with traditional, more expensive optical materials such as indium phosphide.

Mario Paniccia, Ph.D., Intel Fellow and director of the company's Photonics Technology Lab declared "In addition to optical communication, these silicon-based APDs could also be applied to other areas such as sensing, imaging, quantum cryptography or biological applications."

Numonyx, a leading maker of NOR, NAND, RAM and phase change non-volatile memory technologies, provided manufacturing and process expertise.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holographic 3DTV by 2018

3DTV NoE is a Network of Excellence funded by the European Commission 6th Framework Information Society Technologies Programme. The consortium of 19 entities, led by Bilkent University, has been working on a 48-month project on 3DTV, concluded on September 2008.

After that, Professor John Watson of the University of Aberdeen (one of the project partners) declared: "It's likely that within three years we will see a TV on the market which will use autostereo systems to create 3D images, so that viewers do not need to wear traditional 3D glasses. However, in ten years time it is highly probable that TV using holographic images, which would appear to float as if in mid air, will be available for consumers to purchase."

See for further details.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nokia unveils N97

Yesterday in Barcelona, during the Nokia World 2008 event, Nokia unveiled its new flagship cellular phone model N97.

As we can read in the press release, "the Nokia N97 combines a large 3.5" touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard, providing an 'always open' window to favorite social networking sites and Internet destinations". And furthermore "[N97] introduces leading technology - including multiple sensors, memory, processing power and connection speeds - for people to create a personal Internet and share their 'social location. (...) With integrated A-GPS sensors and an electronic compass, the Nokia N97 mobile computer intuitively understands where it is."

Notable features include 16:9 widescreen display, 48 GB of storage, 5-Megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and support for services like Share on Ovi for immediate sharing over HSDPA and WLAN.

You may be interested in the product datasheet.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Scalable Video Coding within DVB

The last issue of DVB-SCENE (the quarterly magazine of the DVB Project) includes an article by Ken McCann (Zetacast and Chairman of TM Ad Hoc Group on Audio-Visual Content, TM-AVC) entitled "Scalable Video Coding within DVB".

Here is the abstract:
The two main DVB Audio-Visual Coding specifications, for broadcast applications based on the MPEG-2 Transport Stream and for DVB applications delivered directly over IP protocols, are currently being revised to add new options to the toolboxes. Probably the most significant of these new options is Scalable Video Coding, defined by an amendment to the H.264/AVC specification. The objective is to produce an encoded signal that has the capability of being decoded to give video, albeit at reduced quality, from only part of the bit-stream.

Scalable Video Coding is a worthy addition to the DVB toolbox, applicable to a wide range of potential applications. However, as with the other tools, it should be selected for use when appropriate; it is not a 'magic bullet' that gives benefits under all circumstances.

DVB-SCENE #28 is available for download in PDF at this link.

Other articles include:
  • Making the Content and Device Value Chains Work for All Stakeholders
  • Synchronised Interactivity with MHP
  • Mobile Return Channel
  • Market Watch

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Is 3D the future for sports TV?

The upcoming Sports Broadcast Europe conference will feature key members of the team involved in the groundbreaking Six Nations Rugby 3D broadcast project earlier this year.

How will 3D make it to the home? What are the technical challenges now and in the future? What are the creative differences compared to 2D? Don't miss this case study, with Duncan Humphreys, director of Can Communicate and Andy Millns, director of Ignition.

Source: TVB Europe.

Friday, November 21, 2008


The Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) is the European Union´s chief instrument for funding research over the period 2007 to 2013.

On November 19th, the European Union launched the Fourth Call for project proposals on Information and Communication Technology in FP7, with an indicative whole budget of 801 Millions of €.

More details on the CORDIS page.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

ICIP 2009 CfP

Call For Papers/Special Sessions/Tutorials
2009 IEEE International Conference on Image Processing
November 7-11, 2009

Important Deadlines:
Special Session Proposals Due: December 15, 2008
Tutorial Proposals Due: January 9, 2009
Submission of Papers: January 30, 2009

Upcoming 3D movies

Walt Disney Studios has announced that the only full-length animated feature film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture is being converted into Digital Disney 3D: the 1991 Beauty and the Beast will be re-released in 2010.

Like many other Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney plans to release (or re-release) several 3D movies in the next years, including the upcoming Bolt.

You can find a comprehensive list on the 3D Movies List blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Free access to ITU-T standards

Maybe not everyone knows that since September 2007 all the standards produced by ITU — ITU-T Recommendations — are available without charge.

The announcement followed a highly successful trial conducted from January−October 2007, during which some two million ITU-T Recommendations were downloaded throughout the world.

For instance, the famous Rec.H.264 "Advanced video coding for generic audiovisual services" (including the Scalable Video Coding extension) can be freely downloaded in PDF format at this link.

Flash goes mobile

Adobe and ARM yesterday announced a technology collaboration to optimize and enable Adobe Flash Player 10 and Adobe AIR for ARM Powered devices, ranging from mobile phones to set-top boxes, mobile Internet devices, televisions, automotive platforms, personal media players and other mobile computing devices. The collaboration is expected to accelerate mobile graphics and video capabilities on ARM platforms to bring rich Internet applications and Web services to mobile devices and consumer electronics worldwide.

The joint technology optimization is targeted for the ARMv6 and ARMv7 architectures used in the ARM11 family and the Cortex-A series of processors and is expected to be available in the second half of 2009.

Go to the press releases here and here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Technology & engineering Emmy Awards 2009

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced the honorees for the 60th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy® Awards to be presented at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
  • In the Serial Interface and Protocols for Server/VTR control, awards will go to Harris Corporation and Sony.
  • The Delivery Confirmation Systems awards will be awarded to XOrbit and Scripps Networks.
  • Development and Standardization of File Formats for Video and Audio awards go to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and Thomson Grass Valley.
  • For Pioneering Development of MPEG-4 AVC systems for HDTV, the Emmys go to Tandberg Television and DirecTV.
  • For Pioneering RF Combiners for Adjacent Channels on Common Antenna Systems, the winners are Harris, Micro Communications Inc. (MCI) and Radio Frequency Systems (RFS).
  • For ongoing live global HD cinemacasting, the award goes to the Metropolitan Opera Association.
  • Lauded for their work in developing HDMI are Silicon Image, Thomson, Toshiba, Sony, Matsushita, Hitachi, Philips, Molex, Japan Aviation Electronics (JAE) and Intel.
  • Cited for helping with the Standardization of the ATSC Digital System are four organizations, the Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service, the Advanced Television System Committee, the Advanced Television Test Center and the Advanced Television Evaluation Laboratory.
  • Finally in the last Emmy category, the MPEG-4 AVC Standard awards go to Video Coding Expert Group (VCEG) and Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).
Go to the press release.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vidyo and Hitachi join forces on SVC

On November 3, Vidyo announced an agreement with Hitachi Communication Technologies that enables Hitachi to incorporate Vidyo technology into their personal telepresence products to deliver multi-point, HD quality video conferencing to room systems and desktops over converged IP networks.

Vidyo is the first company to offer OEMs the ability to license H.264/SVC based technology for use in building their future products.

Full press release available here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

YouTube to host MGM films

Reuters reports that YouTube has just signed an agreement with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to host full-length television shows and films from MGM's archives.

Just a few days ago YouTube surpassed Yahoo! becoming world's #2 search engine and today IMDB reports that YouTube will produce its first online show, to be presented on Nov. 22 and streamed internationally via a dedicated channel on the website.

MPEG considers the development of HVC

The 86th MPEG meeting was held in Busan, Korea from 13 to 17 October 2008.

In the press release MPEG highlights the results of the Workshop on New Challenges in Video Coding Standardization, at the end of which MPEG has determined the need of a next generation video coding technology named HVC (High-Performance Video Coding), which should be able to provide more compression than the High Profile of H.264/AVC for video beyond HDTV resolution.

As a consequence, a new ad-hog group has been created with the mandates to discuss vision, applications and requirements of HVC, to distribute Call of Test Sequences and to develop the first draft Call for Evidence.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bender's anti-piracy warning

Enjoy this short cartoon in which Bender, the robot of the popular series Futurama, acts as testimonial of the campaign against Internet piracy. "Downloading movies is like ripping a human heart", Bender says!

Besides the funny part, it is clear that Hollywood majors (Fox, in this case) are very concerned about illegal file sharing and they are fighting it as much as they can.

By coincidence, the famous P2P site The Pirate Bay just announced it reached the incredible number of 22 millions of connected peers.

Although many people still see P2P as an "evil" technology, it must be said that P2P could provide substantial benefits to legal multimedia delivery over the Internet. You may be interested to have a look at P2P-Next, an international research project founded by the European Community within the Seventh Framework Programme and aimed at the building of a "next generation Peer-to-Peer content delivery platform".

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On2 VP8 outperforms H.264/AVC

On September 13th, On2 unveiled its new VP8 video coding format, reportedly able to outperform industry-leading H.264/AVC video coding standard by providing about 50% bit-rate reduction at identical objective video quality (PSNR).

In addition, On2 says that VP8 streams are less complex to decode than H.264/AVC ones, and that VP8 is more suitable for multi-core processing because of less cross-macroblock data dependency.

Plenty of detailed information on the company website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

3D-HDTV - and no glasses

Times Online makes a good point on current 3DTV technology, especially about new 3D LCD screens by LG and Philips, reaching HDTV resolution.

Both manufacturers relies on lenticular technology, which allows to project different views of the same image at different spatial positions, without the need to wear special glasses to see the 3D effect.

The full article is available here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

EBU technical review 2008-Q3

The new edition of the quarterly EBU technical review is available at this page and includes the following articles:

  • "Unique Digital Radio" for Europe (Editorial)
  • Technical trial of the EBU P2P media portal
  • MIRO — open and decentralized internet TV
  • HDTV production codec tests
  • Dolby Pulse — combining the merits of Dolby Digital and HE-AAC
  • DTV transmitter power efficiency – new opportunities for reducing costs and environmental impact

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is currently working on a new video coding standard called VC-2, optimised for professional production and archiving applications, where the emphasis is on quality and low latency.

VC-2 is actually the DiracPro codec, a wavelet-based video compression technology developed by the R&D labs of the UK broadcaster BBC. VC-2 is royalty free.

Declared features are:
  • Intra-frame only (Inter prediction also available if required)
  • 10 bit 4:2:2
  • No subsampling
  • Lossless or visually lossless compression
  • Low latency on encode/decode
  • Robust over multiple passes
  • Ease of transport (can use a range of transport standards)
  • Low complexity for decoding
  • Open Specification
  • Multiple vendor
  • Support for multiple HD image formats and frame rates.
More info on and

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


A few days ago, Euclid Discoveries announced its 3rd granted patent from USPTO on the proprietary EuclidVision technology.

EuclidVision is an object-based video compression system that reportedly produces « a 460% or greater compression improvement over MPEG-4, the standard for digital video, or a 600% improvement over MPEG-2, across a range of video types ».

The official press release is available on this page.

Friday, October 24, 2008

High-Level Synthesis for Multimedia

In the paper "Design of a H.264 encoder in five months using application engine synthesis" (PDF available here), Synfora engineers explain how they have been able to quickly develop a hardware H.264/AVC encoder running in real-time at D1 resolution, using their PICO tool.

Synfora's PICO, like Mentor's Catapult C, is a High-Level Synthesis tool that accepts as input software models written in high-level, untimed languages (such as ANSI C) and produce as output optimized, synthesizable RTL.

Broadband trends

Sandvine has released its latest global broadband research, completed in October 2008. Data was collected from more than 16 million broadband subscribers in over 18 countries and the findings include several interesting facts around the popularity of online entertainment-based applications.

Reportedly, Peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic remains dominant in the upstream direction totaling 61 per cent of network traffic and is also responsible for more than 22 per cent of downstream bandwidth consumption worldwide, although subscribers are increasingly turning to alternatives such as File Hosting/Online Storage web services and SSL tunnels.

The full executive summary of the report is available on this page.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Microsoft announces H.264/AVC support for Silverlight

The new Microsoft Silverlight 2.0 includes support for the H.264/AVC video coding standard.

Following this link you can find a Q&A with Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, talking about the new Silverlight. Here is an interesting excerpt:

Question: Historically, people have associated Microsoft with VC-1. Does this signal a change in direction?

Guthrie: No. Although we have been working with VC-1 for some time, it’s not widely recognized that Microsoft has also been an active participant in the standardization of H.264/MPEG AVC for many years, and we’ve included H.264 support in several Microsoft products. Microsoft’s Gary Sullivan was the chairman of the Joint Video Team (JVT), which developed the H.264 standard, and he recently accepted an Emmy Award on behalf of the JVT.

Question: Does this mean that Silverlight is moving away from Windows Media?

Guthrie: Not at all. This is about offering our customers more choice. Media producers and distributors around the world have enjoyed the high quality, flexibility and affordability of Windows Media formats for over a decade. As a testament to its pervasiveness, Windows Media can be found in almost every conceivable media scenario from desktop home video to feature films and TV broadcasts.