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Navigating The JPEG-XS Transition

JPEG-XS has certainly received a lot of attention since its introduction in 2019, and it’s easy to see why. With outstanding “visually lossless” image quality and exceedingly low latency measured in mere lines of video – rather than full frames or seconds.

David Workman, Global OEM Sales Manager, Embrionix.

David Workman, Global OEM Sales Manager, Embrionix.

As production environments transition from traditional SDI (Serial Digital Video) to IP based SMPTE ST 2110, broadcasters are looking at JPEG-XS as a way to reduce their overall bandwidth requirements throughout the production workflow.

Traditional video codecs perform their compression by breaking up the video stream into “Group of Pictures” (GOPs), that start with a single compressed image known as an I-Frame (think of it as a single JPEG image). Subsequent video frames within the GOP use motion vectors to build ‘forward looking’ (P frames) as well as ‘backwards looking’ (B frames). This compression methodology significantly reduces the bitrate but sacrifices image quality and introduces latency due to the buffer required (in the early days of MPEG and MPEG2, this buffer was typically 8 to 10 seconds).

As compression technology has advanced, there have been significant improvements in image quality and sub-second latency is now commonplace. The newest generation AVC/HEVC codecs (h.264 and h.265) are very robust and do an amazing job at streaming video programs over public networks. These codecs are commonly used for remote feeds in live news and sports production, but with GOP and macroblock encoding the quality still isn’t quite good enough and the latency is completely unacceptable for routing source video within a live production environment.

Depending on the specific application, JPEG2000 has been used as a solution in many broadcast facilities, as this codec compresses each frame of video independently – there are no motion vectors, no GOPs, and video can be encoded with only a frame to a frame and a half of latency. The downside is that JPEG2000 only provides a modest increase in compression performance compared to standard JPEG, and the Discrete Wavelet Transform (DWT) algorithm it utilizes is computationally demanding which can be prohibitively expensive (and power hungry) to implement. The processing overhead of JPEG2000 gets even more problematic when encoding higher resolutions, faster frame rates, and the bit depths needed for HDR (High Dynamic Range).

These shortcomings led to the development of JPEG-XS which is a “lightweight” codec compared to JPEG2000, requiring far less processing overhead. Besides the lower latency, JPEG-XS has better image quality for the respective compression ratio. The JPEG-XS Technical Recommendation 8 (TR08) was designed from the ground up to work within an ST 2110-22 IP stream which makes it much more suited to broadcast production environments (JPEG2000 has been adapted to work in an IP stream, but at its core it was developed as a ‘still image’ compression scheme).

JPEG-XS can lead to significant cost savings when used for routing video within a studio, as it can reduce the aggregate bandwidth needed within the entire IP network. For example, it can be used to send multiple UHD videos (12G bitrate) over a 10GbE network while maintaining video quality, rather than forcing the facility to upgrade their entire network infrastructure to 25GbE – which would be a significant expense.

It is not surprising then, that broadcasters are asking the video equipment manufacturers if their products can be upgraded to work natively with JPEG-XS.

The good news is that if the products in question are using the Embrionix EB82SOC1 for their ST 2110 interface, the answer is now “YES”!

Introduced in 2021, the Embrionix EB82SOC1 “System on Chip” is a programmable module that is available exclusively to video equipment manufacturers on an OEM basis. This innovative device allows the manufacturer to offer a robust and feature-rich set of ST 2110 interfaces that have extensive interoperability with other products in the industry.

Adding ST 2110 normally presents many challenges if the manufacturer does not have the expertise or resources to do this work in-house. Not only is the initial development expensive and time consuming, the requirements for qualifying the interfaces to ensure compatibility with other vendor’s equipment is resource intensive. With an in-house ST 2110 implementation, additional investments will also be required whenever there are updates to industry control protocols or new technologies that the manufacturer would like to add.

One such new technology, of course, is JPEG-XS.

Embrionix recently announced the new dual channel JPEG-XS application for the EB82SOC1 at NAB 2023. This application can be installed in the field without any hardware changes on the host product and no additional investment or development work is required from the equipment manufacturer.

The Embrionix JPEG-XS application is TR08 based for signal distribution within a facility, or between buildings over managed networks, and features:

  • Dual channel operation (2x Encode or 2x Decode)
  • 1.5/3G/12G video rates
  • Ultra-low latency (23 lines or less)
  • 'Visually lossless' image quality
  • Compression ratios from 5:1 to 13:1
  • Fully interoperable with other industry standard implementations
  • ST 2022-7 hitless redundancy
  • PTP support (ST 2110-10 / AES-R16-2016)
  • Encode side frame synchronizer to handle non-genlocked video sources
  • Optional decode side clean switch for ‘glitch free’ transitions between IP streams
  • NMOS, Ember+, or REST API control

Along with the JPEG-XS video compression, the application also processes Audio (PCM ST 2110-30 or AES compressed ST 2110-31) and Ancillary Data (ST 2110-40).

Putting it all together, the JPEG-XS Encode side processing flow is shown in Figure 1 and the Decode side processing is shown in Figure 2:

Figure 1 - JPEG-XS encode channel processing flow.

Figure 1 - JPEG-XS encode channel processing flow.

Figure 2 - JPEG-XS decode channel processing flow.

Figure 2 - JPEG-XS decode channel processing flow.

The overall architecture remains consistent with the standard EB82SOC1 gateway applications that Embrionix has been shipping for the past year and a half. The only change is within the two green boxes, which were simply Video Encapsulation and De-Encapsulation of uncompressed ST 2110-20. These are now available as JPEG-XS compressed ST2110-22.

The additional processing required for the JPEG-XS Encode / Decode does mean that the JPEG-XS application can only run two channels, rather than up to eight Encap/De-encap instances with uncompressed video – but otherwise the architecture is identical.

The Embrionix EB82SOC1 can store up to three applications in memory, and the user can switch between them as needed. This means that video production facilities with EB82SOC1 based products can run their equipment with the normal (uncompressed) ST 2110-20 gateway application, and switch to the (compressed) ST 2110-22 JPEG-XS application on the fly when needed.

JPEG-XS has been adopted by the “International Organization for Standardization” as ISO/IEC 21122, which ensures stringent definitions of the bitstream and allows for consistent and inter-compatible implementation. However, even with the international standardization, the core technology is under multiple patents. This means that license agreements need to be signed, and royalty payments are required, for both the patent and IP core on every encoder and decoder sold. This can be difficult to navigate for any broadcast equipment manufacturer who wants to attempt their own internal JPEG-XS development.

The good news is that by using the EB82SOC1, the licensing and royalty tracking is handled by Embrionix, freeing the equipment manufacturer from that onerous task.

We believe that JPEG-XS is likely to become an increasingly important technology for broadcasters in the years to come. Other codecs such as h.264 and h.265 certainly have their place and will continue to be dominant for lower bitrate (higher compression) streaming, where latency isn’t quite as critical of an issue. But for this ultra-high performance “studio production” requirement, JPEG-XS fills the niche. Embrionix is proud to offer this new JPEG-XS application for our OEM partners using the EB82SOC1.