Saturday, August 3, 2013

MPEG news: a report from the 105th meeting, Vienna, Austria

At the 105th MPEG meeting in Vienna, Austria, a lot of interesting things happened. First, this was not only the 105th MPEG meeting but also the 48th VCEG meeting, 14th JCT-VC meeting, 5th JCT-3V meeting, and 26th SC29 meeting bringing together more than 400 experts from more than 20 countries to discuss technical issues in the domain of coding of audio, [picture (SC29 only),] multimedia and hypermedia information. Second, it was the 3rd meeting hosted in Austria after the 62nd in July 2002 and 77th in July 2006. In 2002, “the new video coding standard being developed jointly with the ITU-T VCEG organization was promoted to Final Committee Draft (FCD)” and in 2006 "MPEG Surround completed its technical work and has been submitted for final FDIS balloting” as well as "MPEG has issued a Final Call for Proposals on MPEG-7 Query Format (MP7QF)”.

The official press release of the 105th meeting can be found here but I’d like to highlight a couple of interesting topics including research aspects covered or enabled by them. Although research efforts may lead to the standardization activities but also enables research as you may see below.

MPEG selects technology for the upcoming MPEG-H 3D audio standard
Based on the responses submitted to the Call for Proposals (CfP) on MPEG-H 3D audio, MPEG selected technology supporting content based on multiple formats, i.e., channels and objects (CO) and higher order ambisonics (HOA). All submissions have been evaluated by comprehensive and standardized subjective listening tests followed by statistical analysis of the results. Interestingly, when taking the highest bitrate of 1.2 Mb/s with a 22.2 channel configuration, both of the selected technologies have achieved excellent quality and are very close to true transparency. That is, listeners cannot differentiate between the encoded and uncompressed bitstream. A first version of the MPEG-H 3D audio standard with higher bitrates of around 1.2 Mb/s to 256 kb/s should be available by March 2014 (Committee Draft - CD), July 2014 (Draft International Standard - DIS), and January 2015 (Final Draft International Standards - FDIS), respectively.

Research topics: Although the technologies have been selected, it's still a long way until the standard gets ratified by MPEG and published by ISO/IEC. Thus, there's a lot of space for researching efficient encoding tools including the subjective quality evaluations thereof. Additionally, it may impact the way 3D Audio bitstreams are transferred from one entity to the another including file-based, streaming, on demand, and live services. Finally, within the application domain it may enable new use cases which are interesting to explore from a research point of view.

Augmented Reality Application Format reaches FDIS status

The MPEG Augmented Reality Application Format (ARAF, ISO/IEC 23000-13) enables the augmentation of the real world with synthetic media objects by combining multiple, existing standards within a single specific application format addressing certain industry needs. In particular, it combines standards providing representation formats for scene description (i.e., subset of BIFS), sensor/actuator descriptors (MPEG-V), and media formats such as audio/video coding formats. There are multiple target applications which may benefit from the MPEG ARAF standard, e.g., geolocation-based services, image-based object detection and tracking, mixed and augmented reality games and real-virtual interactive scenarios.

Research topics: Please note that MPEG ARAF only specifies the format to enable interoperability in order to support use cases enabled by this format. Hence, there are many research topics which could be associated to the application domains identified above.

What's new in Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP?

The DASH outcome of the 105th MPEG meeting comes with a couple of highlights. First, a public workshop was held on session management and control (#DASHsmc) which will be used to derive additional requirements for DASH. All position papers and presentations are publicly available here. Second, the first amendment (Amd.1) to part 1 of MPEG-DASH (ISO/IEC 23009-1:2012) has reached the final stage of standardization and together with the first corrigendum (Cor.1) and the existing part 1, the FDIS of the second edition of ISO/IEC 23009-1:201x has been approved. This includes support for event messages (e.g., to be used for live streaming and dynamic ad insertion) and a media presentation anchor which enables session mobility among others. Third and finally, the FDIS of conformance and reference software (ISO/IEC 23009-2) has been approved providing means for media presentation conformance, test vectors, a DASH access engine reference software, and various sample software tools.

Research topics: The MPEG-DASH conformance and reference software provides the ideal playground for researchers as it can be used both to generate and to consume bitstreams compliant to the standard. This playground could be used together with other open source tools from the DASH-IFGPAC, and DASH@ITEC. An overview about DASH@ITEC's open source suite can be found here.

HEVC support in MPEG-2 Transport Stream and ISO Base Media File Format

After the completion of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) - ITU-T H.265 | MPEG HEVC at the 103rd MPEG meeting in Geneva, HEVC bitstreams can be now delivered using the MPEG-2 Transport Stream (M2TS) and files based on the ISO Base Media File Format (ISOBMFF). For the latter, the scope of the Advanced Video Coding (AVC) file format has been extended to support also HEVC and this part of MPEG-4 has been renamed to Network Abstract Layer (NAL) file format. This file format now covers AVC and its family (Scalable Video Coding - SVC and Multiview Video Coding - MVC) but also HEVC.

Research topics: Research in the area of delivering audio-visual material is manifold and very well reflected in conference/workshops like ACM MMSys and Packet Video and associated journals and magazines. For these two particular standards, it would be interesting to see the efficiency of the carriage of HEVC with respect to the overhead.

Publicly available MPEG output documents

The following documents shall be come available at http://mpeg.chiariglione.org/ (availability in brackets - YY/MM/DD). If you have difficulties to access one of these documents, please feel free to contact me.
  • Requirements for HEVC image sequences (13/08/02)
  • Requirements for still image coding using HEVC (13/08/02)
  • Text of ISO/IEC 14496-16/PDAM4 Pattern based 3D mesh compression (13/08/02)
  • WD of ISO/IEC 14496-22 3rd edition (13/08/02)
  • Study text of DTR of ISO/IEC 23000-14, Augmented reality reference model (13/08/02)
  • Draft Test conditions for HEVC still picture coding performance evaluation (13/08/02)
  • List of stereo and 3D sequences considered (13/08/02)
  • Timeline and Requirements for MPEG-H Audio (13/08/02)
  • Working Draft 1 of Video Coding for browsers (13/08/31)
  • Test Model 1 of Video Coding for browsers (13/08/31)
  • Draft Requirements for Full Gamut Content Distribution (13/08/02)
  • Internet Video Coding Test Model (ITM) v 6.0 (13/08/23)
  • WD 2.0 MAR Reference Model (13/08/13)
  • Call for Proposals on MPEG User Description (MPEG-UD) (13/08/02)
  • Use Cases for MPEG User Description (13/08/02)
  • Requirements on MPEG User Description (13/08/02)
  • Text of white paper on MPEG Query Format (13/07/02)
  • Text of white paper on MPEG-7 AudioVisual Description Profile (AVDP) (13/07/02)
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