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A cause for video compression celebration

Jan De Cock, director of codec development, Synamedia, details why the introduction of AMD’s 4th generation EPYC CPUs signals ever-improving video experiences on the horizon

As processing power marches onwards, we can raise the bar for video compression to take the viewing experience to the next level. And that’s why the introduction of AMD’s 4th generation EPYC CPUs is cause for celebration.

In this immersive, multiscreen age, these new processors enable us to scale performance at accelerated rates while also reducing the energy required to process and encode a single channel – helping to cut carbon emissions and putting us all on the right track to creating a more sustainable video streaming industry. Our CPU benchmark tests have measured a 70+ per cent increase in channel density by optimising our encoding algorithms and moving to this latest generation of processors. And by enabling higher frame rates, pixel-packed screens, and premium video experiences at scale, the industry should prepare for an array of new applications.

The need for more pixels

To deliver the video quality viewers expect now in 4K and will want in 8K in the future, providers need the ability to process and encode more pixels in real-time than ever before. We demonstrated this with BT Sport during a 2022 Premiership Rugby match with Synamedia’s zero compromise 8K encoding and streaming technology, based on the previous generation of AMD EPYC processors.

But applications involving omnidirectional video, such as the live streaming of concerts with 180-degree and 360-degree cameras or using virtual reality headsets, are particularly pixel hungry. Compared to two-dimensional video, 360-degree video eats up pixels because every view in any direction needs to be high resolution. 

With ongoing leaps in processing power, we can envisage video in more than 8K resolution.  For VR headset or augmented reality applications, there would be huge value in offering for example 10K or even 12K resolution to ensure a pixilated-free viewing experience from any angle. Meanwhile, for giant cinema screens, 16K would bring amazing seamless resolution.

Having your cake and eating it

Any fast-paced content, from action-packed movie scenes to sports games, will benefit from higher frame rates. And with these latest CPUs, higher frame rates and ultra-high resolutions are no longer mutually exclusive. 

Normally, for any application there’s a trade-off between frame-rate and pixels – forcing a decision about whether to increase pixels to 8K or opt for 4K resolution with a higher frame rate. But the processing power from AMD’s new CPUs means there is no longer a need to choose:  we can still offer 8K resolution at even 100 or 120 frames a second (fps) – orders of magnitude above the current industry standard of 30 fps.

Applications such as the live streaming of video games and remote gaming will benefit hugely from being able to push up both frame rates and screen resolution at the same time. 

Increasing energy efficiency and cloud performance

This trend towards higher-core count CPUs means more channels can be processed, resulting in greater efficiency and lower power consumption per channel. In the space of just two years, between the previous and latest generation of AMD processors, we’re seeing reductions of more than 50 per cent of the power requirements for a typical customer. 

And as workloads shift from on-prem to the cloud, we’ll see efficiency savings and greater cost effectiveness with ease-of-deployment too. 

Onwards and upwards

How long we’ll keep pace with Moore’s Law has been fuelling discussion for many years but new generations of CPUs keep breaking records regardless and we didn’t anticipate the huge advances we’ve seen over the past few years.

And it’s not only AMD making progress as we await the launch of further CPU generations, including Intel’s Sapphire Rapids, with great interest. 

Any leap forward in processing innovation and development gives us cause for video compression celebration, and for consumers it signals ever-improving video experiences on the horizon.