High Definition (HD) video led to a rapid and total transformation of the visual communication market. It made visual communication much more attractive, and demand for mass deployment in organizations of any kind and size increased. The dilemma of CIOs today is how to meet user demand for HD communication while not breaking the bank for network upgrades.
Now that video systems support HD up to 1080p quality and the infrastructure is scalable and robust enough to support large HD deployments, network bandwidth remains the last limiting factor to mass deployment of HD video across organizations. Most CIOs are still not comfortable letting 1+ megabit per second HD video calls flood their IP networks. Timing is therefore perfect for a new compression technology breakthrough that dramatically decreases the bandwidth required to run HD and high-quality video.
While H.264 is a well-established and widely implemented standard for video compression, the much simpler and less efficient Baseline Profile is used for visual communication applications today. H.264 however offers more sophisticated profiles, and the High Profile delivers the most efficient compression, in many cases reducing the network bandwidth for a video call by up to 50%. Polycom’s announcement about the support of H.264 High Profile across its video solution is therefore exactly what the market needs right now. This technology breakthrough not only enables drastic reduction of the network resources necessary to video-enable organizations but also allows CIOs to meet budget challenges and power more visual communication with fewer resources, thus limiting or avoiding costly network upgrades.
In my view, the shift from Baseline Profile to High Profile is bigger and more important than the previous video technology breakthrough—the much-heralded shift from H.263 to H.264 in 2003. The gains in performance for High Profile are consistent across the full bandwidth spectrum, while the incremental gain for H.264 over H.263 was limited to the lower bandwidths, below 512 kilobits per second. As a result, new High Definition systems benefit the most from High Profile, and this new technology will accelerate the adoption of HD communication across organizations.
I have received a lot of questions about the H.264 High Profile: How is the High Profile different from other H.264 profiles? What is the impact of this new capability on the visual communication market? How will customers benefit from it? How will this technology help CIOs roll out video across organizations? How does High Profile interact with other video functions? What is its role in the Polycom Open Collaboration Network?
Answering these questions online would have resulted in a very long blog post, so I put together a white paper that looks at High Profile from both business and technology perspectives. I called it “H.264 High Profile: The Next Big Thing in Visual Communications”. Let me know what you think about it.