​For IP, H.264/AVC is Key

The broadcast industry is once again going through both business and technology changes. At the heart of these changes is the need to move to IP-based infrastructure. There are many different codecs and standards being proposed but one that is key to this transition is H.264/AVC. It’s a good fit for end-to-end IP workflows because it provides a full spectrum of video quality and resolutions including support for low to high bitrates, proxy to 4K or even 8K, Intra or GOP formats, 8- and 10–bit depth and 4:2:0 to 4:4:4 colour sampling. It is widely used in broadcast and A/V so interoperability and compatibility are no longer concerns.

In its 4:2:0 profiles H.264/AVC is still the codec of choice for distribution but also for providing proxies and IP-based monitoring with multiviewers. It is one of the codecs specified by SMPTE 2022-2 for transport to and from IP networks so as broadcasters design IP infrastructures; it is clearly the codec that provides the most versatility and compatibility in the broadcast chain.

Many studies have shown that H.264 in 4:2:2 10-bit encoding mode provides the video quality needed in production and contribution workflows and it’s the basis of the latest HD and Ultra HD/4K cameras and recorders. It can also be used in advanced archiving applications and, when data rate is cranked up in I-frame mode, it can even be used as a mezzanine format. It has been proven to preserve quality even during multi-generation encodes and decodes. Broadcasters are adopting H.264 in 4:2:2 10-bit for distribution of high quality content within their facilities and in live remote production situations.

The main problem with H.264/AVC 4:2:2 10-bit is the tremendous processing resources required for encoding and transcoding, especially when dealing with multiple streams and 4K content. IT-based and cloud software encoding using CPUs and GPUs requires significant rack space and power. It’s also difficult to encode many 4:2:2 10-bit streams in an FPGA-based hardware design. The ideal solution is a cost-effective dedicated hardware accelerator in the workflow to save space and minimize power consumption.

We can demonstrate to our OEM customers how the new Matrox M264 multi-channel 4:2:2 10-bit H.264 encoder card can help them add advanced IP streaming capabilities to their channel-in-a-box systems, video servers, broadcast graphics systems, multiviewers and switchers or create cost-effective high-density encoders, transcoders and other broadcast media equipment. M264 is a half-length PCIe card targeted to encode a single stream of 4Kp60 H.264/AVC intra-frame at 4:2:2 10-bit, up to 10 streams of HD long GOP at 4:2:2 10-bit or up to 16 streams of HD at 4:2:0 8-bit. It’s designed for low latency and offers dynamic bitrate and GOP control to allow adjustments on the fly. When coupled with our feature-rich SDKs and our industry-leading I/O cards like those in the new X.mio3 Series, M264 lets customers create powerful hybrid solutions with baseband and IP streaming support all in one. 

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