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Author Topic: An End to the MP3 Problem?  (Read 870 times)

Gary Flanigan

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An End to the MP3 Problem?
« on: January 07, 2005, 12:13:23 pm »

I am known to my friends as a denigrator of the MP3 music format.  There is a weird divergence in the recording world where we all discuss the relative merits of 96K vs 192K, etc., while the rest of the world is happy that they can have 25000 songs of questionable fidelity in a portable form.

One of my friends is involved in the chip design business for computer video, and I sarcastically suggested that it would be great if we could get the screen resolution back to 300x200.  Then we could have portable video players with hundreds of movies to lug around.

He is in Las Vegas (where, for some reason, many men take their daughters and nieces) this week at the CES, and he sent me the  press release which follows in a bit.  Given that the data stream for video is so much bigger than the one for audio, I should think that this technology might easily be adapted to allow for full fidelity iPods and such.  Or maybe the MP3 thing is so firmly entrenched that it won't change and people don't give a damn about quality anyway.  End of rant.  BTW, I have no connection to the enterprise mentioned.

by Gerry Kaufhold, Principal Analyst

In the past decade, the MPEG-2 video and audio encoder and decoder (CODEC) compression solution has become the worldwide standard, and it is used in all forms of digital television ranging from high-end HDTV sports broadcasts, to movie compression for DVD discs, down to handheld video camcorders.

However, new "advanced audio-video CODECs (AVCs)" are coming out that will eventually replace MPEG-2. The most popular new CODECs are MPEG-4, and Windows Media, also known as VC-1. Both of these CODECs remove data bits to achieve their high compression ratios, which makes them "lossy" solutions, because some of the original, raw data gets "lost" during the compression cycle.

Qbit, LLC, a start-up company based in Bethesda, Maryland, is coming out of "stealth" mode to introduce a radical new approach to lossless data reduction that provides extremely high image compression, but loses not even one bit of the original data. In fact, Z-Image is already achieving a 3 to 5x lossless encoding improvement using interframes, and 10x lossless using intraframes.

The market-place advantages of a lossless system with extremely high compression ratios are three fold. First, the final image quality is exactly as good as the original, uncompressed image, so it will look better than video that goes through a "lossy" system. Second, less storage is required, so many more minutes of video, or many more digital still images, can be held on a memory card or micro-disc. Third, more "payload" can be transmitted through any existing bandwidth, which means that many of today's wired and wireless networks that provide marginal performance for video will be able to deliver high-quality video without the need for upgrading or adding additional bandwidth. It's almost like magic!

The first solution being announced by Qbit is their new Z-Image, which losslessly encodes and decodes original, raw, raster data using a straightforward mathematical approach that can readily be operated on an Intel Pentium(tm) class personal computer. The Qbit Z-Image also lends itself to direct hardware implementation in embedded systems, and it will even work in low-cost, high volume applications such as digital cameras, digital video camcorders, video telephones and video-enabled cell phones. Z-Image is capable today of losslessly managing digital intermediate files for movie production, and compressing medical images where lossless compression is a requirement.

One of the founders of Qbit is Dennis Sullivan, formerly of Stellar One, where he helped develop one of the first-ever Internet Protocol set top boxes. I've been in touch with him since 1997, and, more recently, with Qbit's founder and CEO, Dan Kilbank. I have been "in" on the developments of Qbit under non-disclosure since 2003. They have been providing me with regular updates on the progress of their encoding approach, and in late December of 2004, they have provided the "go ahead" to begin telling the world about what they have accomplished.

The lossless approach that Qbit uses invokes elements of Quantum Mechanics, and they have told me that they have a long-term roadmap that will provide several successive versions of their algorithm. The currently announced Z-Image will soon be available for licensing, along with a Software Developers Kit (SDK) and documentation to permit interested companies to begin preliminary design work.

Upcoming lossless technology from Qbit will be able to work on any analog or digital files. Possible uses for these later version Qbit algorithms may be the ability to send High Definition TV programming over standard ADSL telephone services, and any other network of choice.

We believe that the Qbit technology will have a major and positive impact on the market for all forms of electronic consumer entertainment products and services.


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Re: An End to the MP3 Problem?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2005, 12:32:54 pm »

That would be a nice solution. There are several 'lossless' codecs available now, such as FLAC


I have been holding off from purchasing a portable simply because I  don't want to listen to compressed files.. Apparently the current generation iSod will play WAV and AIF files without choking...

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