Brilliant Videos Everywhere – efficient Encoding with International Standards

(f.l.t.r.) Dr.-Ing. Heiko Schwarz, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Wiegand, Dr.-Ing. Detlev Marpe

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Wiegand (Spokesperson)
Dr.-Ing. Detlev Marpe
Dr.-Ing. Heiko Schwarz

Fraunhofer Institut für Nachrichtentechnik -
Heinrich Hertz Institut HHI, Berlin
Technische Universität, Berlin

Video is becoming more and more important. What TV pictures were in days past are videos today on the Internet, video conferences, or three-dimensional and high-resolution digital TV signals. How can videos be trimmed down so that they are easy to handle and can be played everywhere?

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Wiegand, Dr.-Ing. Detlev Marpe and Dr.-Ing. Heiko Schwarz know the answer: the key is in a sophisticated compression of videos and international standardization of the data formats. The three scientists have made decisive contributions to both applications – and thus laid the foundation for the triumphant progress of the moving pictures worldwide. Thomas Wiegand is a professor at the Technical University (TU) Berlin and heads the image signal processing department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications – Heinrich-Hertz-Institute (HHI). Detlev Marpe is a researcher at HHI and a part-time lecturer at TU Berlin as well as at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences for Engineering and Economy. Heiko Schwarz together with Detlev Marpe heads the image and video coding group at HHI.

A sizeable amount of the data traffic on the Internet in the meantime is films and video clips. It is hard to imagine life without the evening movie that is downloaded “on demand” from an online video store, or the short home movie filmed with a camcorder that is put online to entertain friends. The volume of bits and bytes that is transported in the form of moving images continues to grow. The portion of video signals of the Internet traffic has grown to more than 50 percent. In the meantime, more than 10 to the power of 19 bytes are transmitted via the web every month – this is equivalent to the content of over 2 billion DVDs. The trend to high-resolution films in HD format and 3-D videos as well as streaming, for example, of sports broadcasts on laptops or smart phones is causing the flood of data to swell further. Moreover, the data-intensive applications of video-supported communication from the video chat to HD video systems in telemedicine are becoming ever more popular.

To keep transmission and storage requirements for films and videos on a small scale and to make transmission of data efficient, data must be intelligently coded. The foundation for this is laid by the so-called H.264/AVC video coding standard as well as its various extensions. Thomas Wiegand, Detlev Marpe and Heiko Schwarz were decisively involved in their development. The standard compresses the data in accordance with a certain algorithm in such a way that its amount is greatly reduced, but the quality of the moving images does not noticeably change.

The standard and its extensions created over the past ten years are used today worldwide in over one billion devices – including Blu-ray players, HD and 3-D TVs, Internet TV stations and video conferencing or security technology systems. A large amount of bits on the Internet is compliant to the format of the efficient technology – a success that was made possible also thanks to the innovations of the nominated scientists. That the developed methods from Berlin would be accepted worldwide and become a significant part of the standard is an excellent example of the enormous innovative power in Germany.