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VC-1 standard finally arrives

Posted: 14 Apr 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Junko Yoshida? Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers? SMPTE? VC-1? Windows Media Video 9?

After two years, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) has released complete specifications for the VC-1 video compression standard.

The completion of the VC-1 standard arrived two years after originally promised by Microsoft Corp., which has been eager to turn its proprietary Windows Media Video 9 (WMV9) into an industry standard. Asked about their own VC-1 implementations, several speakers at the Embedded Systems Conference said they are for now depending on WMV9, Microsoft's implementation of VC-1, to bring it to the market.

Ajit Rao, group manager for multimedia codecs at Texas Instruments, said that WMV9 is "identical" with VC-1. But he added that the two "may drift in the future." While Microsoft is making sure that WMV9 decodes VC-1 syntax correctly, the software giant may add new tools and improve future versions of WMV, Rao explained. Interoperability of VC-1, however, is a concern for both encoder and decoder vendors.

According to SMPTE, its Compression Technology Committee has formed a new Working Group dedicated to providing maintenance of the test materials and documents, as well as the administration of a bitstream exchange program.

In theory, if everyone in the industry used Microsoft's implementation of VC-1, interoperability between different encoders and decoders could be insured. But, in reality, every encoder vendor, reading SMPTE documents, can approach VC-1 encoding problems with a different strategy.

Nonetheless, VC-1, with or without industry-wide interoperability testing, is positioning itself for deeper inroads in the consumer electronics market.

HD DVD and Blu-ray, the next-generation optical media specifications, have chosen VC-1 as one of three formats studios can use to deliver their movies in high definition. Warner Bros. Studios announced they will use VC-1 when they release titles in HD DVD. Modeo, a mobile TV company based in Houston, will also broadcast mobile TV to cell phones, portable media players and laptop computers by using WMV9.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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