The COVID-19 outbreak has changed our lives and relationships over the past year. We now have no other choice but to communicate more often through the Internet. One of the key technologies for talking via the Internet is, definitely, video compression (coding) technology. However, a very old codec, H.264/AVC, is still the primary technology used in video conference applications, whose standardization was finalized about 20 years ago. Experts had undoubtedly developed a more efficient video codec called HEVC, but it is not dominantly available yet because of its complex license policy or computational complexity issues for video conferences.
In June 2021, Samsung Research released an open-source video encoder (XEVE: eXtra-fast Essential Video Encoder, https://github.com/mpeg5/xeve) and decoder (XEVD: eXtra-fast Essential Video Decoder, https://github.com/mpeg5/xevd), which are software implementations of the state-of-the-art video coding standard, MPEG-5 Essential Video Coding (EVC), providing better visual quality for video calls and alleviating the expensive royalty for video codecs.
The EVC standard completed by the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) in April 2020 defines two profiles: (1) the Baseline profile, which is royalty-free as it only consists of technologies that are more than 20 years old, and (2) the Main profile, which contains enhanced tools to improve the compression efficiency. At an equivalent level of visual quality, the Baseline and Main profiles save bit rate by approximately 40% compared to the H.264/AVC and HEVC standards, respectively. For your reference, HEVC saves approximately 40% of the bit rate compared to H.264/AVC.
The main purpose of our source code release is to make the MPEG-5 EVC standard more widely and easily used in the industry. For example, the high-performance, commercial-ready, open-source encoder XEVE can be directly deployed to over-the-top (OTT) services without additional development and enable high-quality encoding of video contents. XEVD, a lightweight, open-source decoder, can be directly deployed on embedded devices such as smartphones to play video streams from OTT services. Moreover, XEVE and XEVD can provide improved visual quality and cost-efficient delivery for real-time video conference services, and we believe these services will continue to be popular even after the pandemic.
In addition to this effort, Samsung has been striving to adopt the Baseline profile of EVC into the WebRTC standard for real-time video communication on web browsers and mobile applications. Its integration to the WebRTC standard shall prompt better experiences on virtual video communication at a lower cost.