Here’s a fun fact: The social media output of a startup is inversely proportional to the number of projects it has in flight.
Another fun fact: The above is an excuse, not a fact.
It’s been a busy first half of 2017 at EuclidIQ. We’ve got a lot cool stuff going on. Some of the technology we’re using we’ve talked about before, and some of it will be new.
First up: PQO developments
We’ve been talking about Perceptual Quality Optimization (PQO) for some time. PQO is an encoding approach based on the human visual system. The portions of the image that are important to the viewer are given priority (more bits) than less important portions. It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how long it has taken the industry to adopt the concept.
For PQO to deliver maximum benefit it has to be used during the encoding process. Some have simply tacked on a PQO-like re-encoding pass as a post process. Such post processing is effective at making a file smaller, but it can’t make the encoding any better. It is simply identifying the less important visual data and throwing it out. It’s unable to reassign more bits to the important parts of the image because when you throw a bit out during encoding it’s gone and never to be seen again. .
We developed a PQO plug-in to x264, a very good open source, widely adopted H.264 encoder. IQ264 delivers excellent results. We’ve highlighted IQ264 here before, and customers expressed a lot of interest. The possibility of an encoder with such low computational overhead yielding 25% bandwidth reduction excited them. “This is great. How does it scale? Can we use it in the cloud?” they asked.
UptiiQ: PQO at scale
Those are great questions, so we committed ourselves to answering them by launching UptiiQ. UptiiQ is a fun, free social media utility for iOS and Android. UptiiQ allows mobile video creators to share their videos to multiple social media platforms simultaneously. Users send their videos to our PQO encoder in the cloud, the video is encoded to each social media’s specification, and published. Even though the videos are re-encoded by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, they usually look better than they would using the sites’ native apps.
We quietly launched UptiiQ in May as a bare bones social media video encoding service. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
We’ve since received a number of great suggestions for features to make UptiiQ indispensable to mobile shooters, but most importantly we’ve answered our initial question. Yes, our PQO encoder scales and we can deploy it in the cloud.
Cutting bandwidth further with SABRE
Our PQO encoder is a wonderful technology. Set the target bit rate and it will encode each frame to hit that rate, but not all frames are alike. Some frames don’t require as much bandwidth as others to look good to the viewer. Wouldn’t it be great if over the span of a video the bandwidth were throttled to maintain a consistent quality level? The user would choose a quality level with the assurance that minimum bandwidth will be required to transport the bit stream. That’s the idea behind SABRE.
SABRE is an acronym for Signal-Adaptive Bit Rate Estimation. As acronyms go, this is a marketer’s dream. “SABRE slashes bandwidth requirements.” More interestingly, as technologies go, this is the encoding customer’s holy grail. SABRE analyzes a group of frames and uses a model to estimate the bandwidth required to encode the frames at the desired quality level.
SABRE works independently of our PQO encoder, but it has been tuned to send instructions to our PQO encoder. In other words, SABRE understands the bit rate the EuclidIQ PQO encoder needs to create an image that meets a specific quality metric. Combined PQO and SABRE bandwidth reductions are typically 30% to 50% over standard video encoding solutions.
Making the complex simple
While we are fascinated by amazing technologies powered by brilliant algorithms, users don’t care. They want to deploy a simple “black box” into their workflow seamlessly, renders beautiful video securely, and scales to meet their needs without forced forklift upgrades to stay current.
Unable to find a catchy acronym for this black box project, we decided to name it Blackbox. It’s about as clever as naming the dog Dog, but at least everyone knows what it is. Early testing has been very promising. If you’re interested in a Blackbox demo, drop us a line.
We expect to have Blackbox available for general use shortly. In the meantime, have some fun with UptiiQ and let us know what you think.