better than mpeg?
Silicon Valley-based Pulsent Corp. believes it has a better way to process and transmit digital video over the Internet. The company's video compression format and accompanying multimedia chip, which will compete with formats such as MPEG and Windows Media, broadcast high-quality, full-screen video at 1.1 Mbps (megabits per second) — a 400-percent improvement over MPEG-2, the company claims.
Operating as a "stealth" organization, Pulsent has quietly generated more than 200 patents during the past four year that have been either filed or are in process. The company's goal is to help content providers deliver broadcast-quality video over existing low-bandwidth networks.
To do this, Pulsent has developed software and hardware tools that diverge from traditional block-style compression methods. Pulsent's object-based image processing identifies the structural elements in a video scene and models their motion, occlusions, lighting changes and fades. A shadow, for example, will be recognized and treated as an individual element in a scene and will not be divided up in a pre-determined grid-pattern. Once identified, the frame-to-frame motion of these objects can be more accurately and efficiently modeled than with block-based approaches, according to the company.
To more easily step into an MPEG-dominated world, Pulsent designed its technology to be compatible with existing network and satellite infrastructures that currently support MPEG video streams. The company also sees its compression technology being used as a "transcoder" for MPEG video, converting an MPEG data stream on the fly into Pulsent's format to increase broadcast efficiency.
Despite its promising technology, Pulsent will have to struggle for industry backing. Broadcast behemoths such as RealNetworks, Microsoft and Apple all support the MPEG format and have incorporated it into their broadcast tools. But this is a young industry, and if Pulsent garners the support of even one Hollywood studio, the company could be a player to watch.
Sony has introduced a new MicroMV videocassette format that holds 60 minutes of recorded video in a case that measures 1.8 x 1.2 x 0.3 inches — one-third the size of a MiniDV videocassette.
Currently Sony sells two tiny camcorders that use the MicroMV cassette — the 12-ounce DCR-IP5 and DCR-IP7BT. Each one is the size of a small digital camera, yet both have a 2.5-inch flip-out screen, a 10X zoom lens, image stabilization and other standard digital-camcorder features.
The MicroMV format is another step toward even more compact camcorders, but garnering acceptance will be tough. For now, MicroMV video can be edited only with Sony's MovieShaker software program (popular software such as Apple's iMovie and Pinnacle System's Studio DV do not yet support MicroMV), and other camcorder manufacturers have no compelling reason to scrap the MiniDV videocassette format anytime soon.