1/2009

Video compression technology
wins Emmy Awards

Miska M. Hannuksela

Miska M. Hannuksela was a member of an international video
coding standardisation team whose efforts laid the foundation
for the popularisation of high-definition technology.

Few engineers or Doctors of Technology can boast of winning an Emmy Award. Miska M. Hannuksela, age 37, has already won it twice.

He reached the achievement as a member of the international Joint Video Team established to develop an advanced video coding specification. The team whose work spanned from 2001 to 2009 was a consortium of video coding experts from universities and industry. In August 2008, the team received a Primetime Emmy Engineering Award and, in January 2009, a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award.

The awards are given in recognition of outstanding achievements in developing and standardizing video and broadcasting technology.

H.264/AVC halves the required storage space

The onslaught of awards was due to the H.264/AVC video compression standard developed by the Joint Video Team. Hannuksela, who works as a research leader at Nokia Research Center, Tampere, participated actively in team's work.

The team headed by Hannuksela authored a fifth of all the technical contributions adopted into the H.264/AVC standard. Furthermore, he had a major role in the standardization of the encapsulation protocol for transmitting H.264/AVC content over the Internet.

"Compared to the MPEG-2 standard currently used in digital television and DVDs, the H.264/AVC standard requires only half the data rate and storage space. It's already used for most new video systems and is constantly spreading, so the technology developed by our team has already been implemented to millions of devices," says Hannuksela.

The H.264/AVC standard is also known as MPEG-4 Part 10, MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding, and ITU-T Recommendation H.264. When compared to MPEG-4 Part 2, also known as MPEG-4 Visual, H.264/AVC improves the compression efficiency remarkably.   

Device-to-device communication

In practice, the work of Hannuksela and the Joint Video Team promotes device-to-device communication, and thereby accelerates the breakthrough of high-definition and mobile television broadcasting, Blu-ray discs and many Internet video formats, such as the YouTube high-definition videos and the Adobe Flash format. Their expansion to the wider market would come to a halt without efficient compression technology.

"For example, one full HD film frame consists of a little over two million pixels. One pixel takes up three bytes of storage space, so each individual frame contains around six megabytes. Without compressing the pictorial information, a 50-gigabyte Blu-ray disc could only hold less than six minutes of full HD film."

Reduced transmission errors

The H.264/AVC standard was the subject of Hannuksela's dissertation that was examined at Tampere University of Technology this spring. The PhD thesis reviewed methods for protecting H.264/AVC video streams from transmission errors and presented novel methods for improving the error robustness of H.264/AVC, resulting in a more pleasant video experience for the user. In addition, in his dissertation Hannuksela proposed a novel method, adopted into H.264/AVC, which improves the compression efficiency of the standard up to 20 percent.

"Many visible errors encountered during video playback are caused by transmission errors that are inherent in the Internet, wireless networks, and broadcast networks. The presented error resilience methods make the transmission errors less visible. Moreover, the introduced new compression method reduces both the data rate and the need for storage space", says Hannuksela.

Dissertation passed with honors

Hannuksela's dissertation in the field of signal processing called Error-Resilient Communication Using the H.264/AVC Video Coding Standard was publicly examined at the Faculty of Computing and Electrical Engineering of TUT in March 2009.

Hannuksela's dissertation was passed with honors. This merit is granted to highly accomplished dissertations only. 

 

Text: Jukka Holopainen
Photo: Sami Helenius
Sources: TUT, Aamulehti on 13.4.2009

 

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