Gary Sullivan: Compression coding is key to adoption of ultra-high-definition video

Technology that helps deliver ultra-high definition video to everything from smartphones to stadium displays has earned an Emmy® Award.

29 September 2017

Enabling the growth of viral videos, binge watching, and 4K home movies are many technologies including faster and smaller computer chips, more robust fiber optics and networks, and compression coding.

Honoring the work done in compression coding, The Television Academy announced High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), would be a recipient of an Engineering Emmy at the 68th Engineering Emmy Awards to be held October 25, 2017 in Hollywood California.

It was not long ago that watching an HD, let alone a 4K-video online or on a cell phone seemed unattainable as the buffer wheel turned for a tiny low-resolution version of the first viral videos. Today, videos are expected to load quickly, fill the screen, and look beautiful. This is possible in large part thanks to the work of Gary Sullivan and the group at the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC).

THE JCT-VC is a group of engineers that focuses on creating standards for compression coding -- the processing needed to take large amounts of raw data and making them small enough for viewing and transmission without losing too much of the necessary information for a quality picture and sound. Creating standard codecs for the community at large ensures that the video shot on an iPhone will be playable on someone else's PC when it's sent via email.

The initial codec that ushered in the current explosion of digital and online video is known as H.264. A new standard, H.265 or HEVC, has built upon the successes of its predecessor and is twice as good, making a file of the same video content about half the size. In a nod to the gains over H.264, Apple recently announced the adoption of HEVC in its newest operating systems for both desktop and mobile devices as well as GoPro offering it in the newest version of their Hero action camera.

HEVC has been a standard topic of discussion and presentations at the annual SPIE conference, Digital Image Processing (part of Optics + Photonics Symposium), since it's first appearance in 2010 in a paper authored by Gary Sullivan and Jens-Rainer Ohm, "Recent developments in standardization of high efficiency video coding (HEVC)."

SPIE has long supported the work of the compression and distribution community, recently celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Digital Image Processing conference at Optics + Photonics 2017. The conference included close to 120 papers from global leaders in academia and industry including Netflix, Intel, Samsung, GoPro, BBC, Dolby among others.

Gary J. Sullivan has been a longstanding chairman or co-chairman of various video and image coding standardization activities in ITU-T VCEG, ISO/IEC MPEG, ISO/IEC JPEG, and in their joint collaborative teams since 1996. He is best known for leading the development of the Advanced Video Coding (AVC) standard (ITU-T H.264 | ISO/IEC 14496-10), the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard (ITU-T H.265 | ISO/IEC 23008-2), and the extensions of those standards for format range enhancement, scalable video coding, 3D / stereoscopic / multiview video coding, and screen content coding. Most recently since October 2015 he has co-chaired the Joint Video Exploration Team (JVET) for investigating video coding technology with compression capability beyond that of the HEVC standard.

Sullivan is a Video and Image Technology Architect in the AI & Research group at Microsoft Corporation, where he has also been the originator and lead designer of the DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) video decoding feature of the Microsoft Windows operating system.

He has received the IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award, the IEEE Consumer Electronics Engineering Excellence Award, two IEEE Trans. CSVT Best Paper awards, the INCITS Technical Excellence Award, the IMTC Leadership Award, and the University of Louisville J. B. Speed Professional Award in Engineering. The team efforts that he has led have been recognized by three Emmy Awards (one for AVC, a second for the High profile of AVC, and a third for HEVC). He is a Fellow of the IEEE and SPIE.

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