Electronic Design

Group Extends MPEG-4 Video Coding To Internet Streaming

At its January meeting in Pisa, Italy, the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) finished and approved an extension to MPEG-4 video coding. This enhancement uses fine granular scalability as well as the advanced simple profile, optimized for Internet streaming. Together, the group says, they form an excellent solution for standards-based Internet streaming under many different circumstances.

MPEG-4 is the first technology platform for network-based, multimedia delivery. Each streaming media architecture comprises three domains. The authoring/encoding/publishing area is the content-creation sector. The server component takes the compressed, encoded data and puts it on a server, packetizes it, and sends it out onto the network. The third domain, the player component, resides in the PC on the user side.

Until now, users' hands were tied. They could do little more than play, fast forward, and rewind. But with MPEG-4, authors can provide interactive content. Users can define any object within the media and synthetically add in other digital objects. Or, users can search for objects in the media or add in data.

Standardizing Content Protection
At its previous meeting, MPEG developed a more interoperable specification for intellectual-property management and protection. Its first step entails a method for mutually authenticating tools for decryption and watermarking. MPEG members also are defining a way for a terminal to obtain missing protection tools so they can be authenticated by the player after they have been obtained. This feature will help prevent fragmentation in the market caused by multiple, noninteroperable ways of protecting content.

Additionally, MPEG called for proposals for new video compression tools that will be formally tested against MPEG-4 video. Subjective testing will be conducted in July to make sure MPEG continues to stay abreast of technological advances in compression technology. Depending on the test results, MPEG can then decide to take no further action, to enhance the MPEG-4 visual standard, or to develop a new video coding standard.

MPEG reached a consensus on how to transport MPEG-4 content on IP networks, too. A new section of the MPEG-4 standard, part 8, will describe this method. And, the group is looking to the future with work on two other standards. Completion of MPEG-7, a multimedia content description interface, is scheduled for July. As for multimedia framework MPEG-21, the group has already produced a draft technical report and two calls for proposals.

For more information and the calls for proposals, go to www.cselt.it/mpeg.

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