With the momentum behind ultra HD (UHD) 4K video building faster than some anticipated, a mobile video equipment startup is plugging itself as the video transcoding savior for cable operators and other pay TV providers.
Quickfire Networks, a one-year-old firm with 20 employees based in the San Diego area, is pitching its T-Video transcoding platform as the only one capable of handling "the sooner-than-expected tsunami of incoming 4K video streams in real-time." The company is now promoting two video servers to cable operators, including a new, far more powerful server, known as the V3200, that it plans to unveil at the IBC conference in Amsterdam later this week.
Amidst all the industry hype surrounding the potential and promise of 4K video, QuickFire executives argue that few cable technologists have yet focused on the vastly higher processing power that will be needed to bring high-quality UHD video to the home. Nor, they say, have many engineers focused on the other greater server requirements of UHD video.
Specifically, QuickFire officials contend that it will take up to 20 conventional video servers to deliver just a single UHD stream to viewers today. Likewise, they contend that it will take 80 times more processing power to deliver UHD-quality video.
"4K is not just four times more pixels," says Craig Lee, VP of marketing for QuickFire, noting that each UHD frame rate is also about 10 times more complex than the frame rate for standard HD video. "From 1080 to 4K is a big jump," he says. "The compute density is an order of magnitude above. It's a huge quantum leap forward."
In fact, QuickFire officials claim that the processing demands for 4K video will be so much greater than today that even the usual Moore's Law advances in computational firepower won't be big enough to keep up with the increase in juice needed. "We don't think people realize how much more computationally complex it will be," Lee says. "Moore's Law is no longer sufficient."
Further, QuickFire executives believe that 4K video will become a marketplace reality sooner than once expected. While many industry officials have predicted that UHD won't be rolled out substantially in the market until at least 2015, QuickFire officials say they expect to see early implementations of 4K next year as consumer electronics manufacturers, broadcasters, content providers, and pay TV operators all scramble to upgrade their equipment and programming for UHD viewing.
QuickFire, which promoted its earlier generation V1100 server at the Cable Show and National Associations of Broadcasters (NAB) show last spring, plans to focus on the new V3200 server at IBC. Officials say the new two-rack-unit server with "a super-dense GPU" can now support one 4K stream with H.265 encoding, or High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), and will scale higher later on.
The competition in the server market includes such computing heavyweights as IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL), and HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ). But QuickFire executives insist that their new transcoder is 10 times to 20 times denser than any other server on the market. "It's really a 4K product," Lee says.
QuickFire officials estimate that the global market for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) video hardware market is worth $200 million to $500 million today and growing at a 50 percent clip. They're aiming to lead the market and capture a 20 percent to 40 percent share.
"We're just crazy enough to decide we want to be in the hardware business," Lee says.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading