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Ready for 8K Part 5 – A Small Squeeze Makes a Big Impact in 8K

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Editor’s Note: This content is contributed by Rob Green, Senior Manager - Pro AV, Broadcast, and Consumer.


A Small Squeeze Makes a Big Impact in 8K

The emergence of 8K cameras and the capture of higher resolution images is slowly driving the rest of the media workflow to handle 8K content. But the exponential costs of moving, processing, and storing the vast amounts of data associated with 8K content is causing many to question whether the return on investment in new equipment and infrastructure is worth it.

Enter lightweight mezzanine codecs, designed to provide high-quality, low-latency compression without sacrificing video quality. Mezzanine, or intermediate, codecs were originally used in the production and post-production process to enable efficient transfer and storage of large amounts of content data between various video processing equipment, but they are becoming much more widespread across the entire multimedia content chain, used as AV-over-IP codecs, wireless transmission codecs, and in broadcast contribution.

One of the main advantages of using mezzanine codecs is their ability to retain the original video quality. Often available as visually or mathematically lossless codecs, they are ideal for editing and re-purposing video content or simply for reducing bandwidth to keep point-to-point transmission costs down. They are often very small in terms of implementation size, particularly when compared to lossy codecs such as H.264/H.265. Furthermore, mezzanine codecs are optimized for fast encoding and decoding, often having latency of just a few lines of video. This makes them an ideal choice for live broadcast applications and live events.

Figure 1: Typical codec bitrate ranges, highlighting mezzanine codecs in yellow (not exhaustive)Figure 1: Typical codec bitrate ranges, highlighting mezzanine codecs in yellow (not exhaustive)

This combination of small size, low latency, and lossless quality means that mezzanine codecs are becoming extremely popular for video streaming at bitrates above a few hundred Mbps. This is even more apparent for handling 8K video. Uncompressed 8K60 video can typically require 40-100 Gbps bitrate depending on the format. Clearly this is impractical to transmit and store such huge amounts of data without any compression, so the use of JPEG XS or HTJ2K can be used to reduce this down by as much as 20:1, meaning it can now be transported over relatively inexpensive 10G Ethernet cables with lossless quality.

All the major mezzanine codecs are available on AMD products, with partners such as Astro Design, intoPIX, Jointwave, Parretto and Techno Mathematical offering IP cores that run in the programmable logic (PL) section of almost all families from Artix™ 7 FPGAs to Zynq™ UltraScale+™ MPSoCs and the latest Versal™ adaptive SoCs. This tremendous flexibility means that you can evaluate the codec which best suits your needs, and which you can quickly integrate as either a connectivity codec to get specific compressed video formats in and out of your system, or as a key selling point of your design in terms of interoperability and capability. And for 8K systems, you’ll really need to become familiar with mezzanine codecs to keep your hardware and usability costs down.