A 360-Degree Video Future? Codec is Key

Today, encoding standard 6:9 4K video footage is well served by the newest codecs. But getting to a future of fully immersive 360-degree video recording is where encoding will go next. That destination will be dependent on massive processing power and the most efficient codecs possible that deliver high-quality results.

Consumers’ astounded initial reactions to 360-degree video usually overwhelm any video quality quibbles. But 2K and even 4K 360-degree video viewed a couple of inches from one’s eyes reveals all manner of imperfections, including the visibility of the pixel structure.

Plus, 360-degree video files are obviously multiple times larger than that of 16:9 footage. If the processing power required to encode 16:9 4K recording were analogous to keeping a chameleon as a pet, the brawn needed to encode 8K 360-degree recordings would be akin to taming a T-Rex—once you figure out how to clone one. Stitching together images takes a lot of horse power as Greg Scoblete illustrates in a recent posting.

For spherical and VR video to be truly and realistically immersive, higher resolutions such as 8K/60p are already being explored, heightening the need for codecs like HEVC.

Some are already attempting to tackle this 8K 360-degree processing Godzilla. At CEATAC in October, Socionext won a “Technology and Software Innovation” Grand Prix award for its live demo of real-time 8K HEVC encoding using Advantech’s VEGA-3304 8K HEVC encoder card. Mind you, we’re talking standard 8K video here, not 360-degree, which necessitates exponentially more processing power.

For an acceptable 360-degree experience in 2K or 4K, content creators and device makers will need sophisticated encoding and processing tools to get there – perhaps soon. Getting the right tools to where they are really needed – for 8K VR – may take a smidge longer.