Synamedia touts simplified, less expensive path to 8K video

The mainstream production and consumption of 8K video is still way off in the distance – so far away that one's eyelids would likely get bruised just squinting to see it. But Synamedia believes a big step toward that destination has been taken thanks to new processing technology that vastly simplifies and cuts the costs of 8K encoding – a key element in the video production and distribution chain.

The big change is the implementation of AMD's EPYC 7763 processors alongside Synamedia's software and AI-based video compression. The result eliminates the need to split an 8K signal into 4K quadrants or for dedicated GPU (graphics processing unit) memory or other hardware acceleration, the company said.

AMD's processors have enabled Synamedia to build a cost-effective encoder that can be "mainstreamed" in a way that will lead to the creation and distribution of much more content in 8K, said Sabine Bravo, VP of business development for video networking at Synamedia.

"It's the first time we've seen one particular CPU that can handle the processing in one CPU to do 8K encoding, to create the content. This is huge," Bravo said. 8K, she added, "is evolving in every aspect, but … the content is not there. You need encoders."

Bravo says the sole CPU approach is a big deal because previous versions of 8K technologies were saddled with compromises, such as using four or five chips, or having to stitch together multiple video encodes to create an 8K image that might not be presented at the optimal level of quality.

It's also illustrative of how far 8K video processing has come. Back in 2012, Comcast and NBCUniversal demonstrated an 8K prototype system that required a roomful of equipment, including the use of eight encoders to build separate images that were stitched together to create the full 8K image, to pull it all off.

But even more recent 8K efforts are "all a bit kluge in my mind, and not always the best quality in video. Now, we have that," Bravo said.

Synamedia, a company formed in 2018 via Permira's acquisition of Cisco's video software unit, expects to issue a new release of software soon to support the technology in its Digital Content Manager (DCM) encoder. That will fit into a larger ecosystem, including elements such as video packaging and multiplexing, that can get the 8K video signal out. Synamedia said it has also extended its cloud-based video quality analysis system, Video-Quality-as-a-Service (VQaaS), with 8K resolution.

The full 8K ecosystem should all be ready for commercial use by the end of the year, Bravo said.

Meanwhile, Synamedia has already pushed ahead with "some major PoCs [proof of concept]" with large customers, including some that involve live sports in 8K, a format that supports four times as many pixels as the more broadly used 4K format.

Bravo acknowledges that it's still exceptionally early days for the 8K market, as there's still a dearth of content (of recent note, Japanese public broadcaster NHK broadcast about 200 hours of the Tokyo Olympic games in 8K). However, streaming players such as Vimeo and YouTube are ready for 8K processing and already have some home-grown 8K content out there, she said.

Meanwhile, prices on 8K TVs aren't catastrophically high but are still pricey. A quick check at Best Buy shows one can buy a 55-inch Samsung 8K set for almost $1,800, or pony up $3,000 for a 75-inch 8K set from LG Electronics, or up to $4,000 for a similarly-sized 8K model from Sony.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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