MPEG-4 Standard Completed
The 45th MPEG meeting took place from 12 - 16 October, in Atlantic City, NJ, at the invitation of American National Standards Institute and Sarnoff Corporation.
At this meeting ISO/IEC JTC1/SC29/WG11 (MPEG) completed the technical work on the specification of version 1 of the MPEG-4 standard. MPEG-4 is an ISO/IEC standard being developed by MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group), the committee which also developed the Emmy Award winning standards known as MPEG-1 and MPEG-2. These standards made interactive video on CD-ROM and Digital Television possible. MPEG-4 is the result of another international effort involving hundreds of researchers and engineers from all over the world. MPEG-4 is building on the proven success of three fields: digital television, interactive graphics applications (synthetic content) and the World Wide Web (distribution of and access to content) and provides the standardized technological elements enabling the integration of the production, distribution and content access paradigms of the three fields. One significant highlight of this WG11 meeting was the demonstration of an interactive MPEG-4 technology playing content seamlessly integrated from an IP network, a local area network, and a satellite network.
Completion of MPEG-4 Version 1 does not complete the work of WG11. WG11 has already began the work to define an enhanced backward compatible version of MPEG-4 which will be completed within one year.
WG11 has also embarked upon a new work item, entitled "Multimedia content description interface" more commonly referred to as MPEG-7. Significant progress has been made in developing an understanding of the requirements for such an interface. The increasing maturity of the technologies addressing these requirements indicates the technologies necessary to enable MPEG-7 are now available. In recognition of this, MPEG has issued a call for technologies addressing the key technology areas for MPEG-7.
WG11 is pleased to see the continuing application of the technology that its members have worked so hard to perfect. The latest example is the announcement of the European Broadcasting Union’s (EBU) new digital network in the September 1998 issue of the Eurovision Network Services newsletter. In this newsletter, the EBU announce that their analogue network has finally been assigned to the history books. On 25th August 1998 the EBU switch completely to their new digital format Eurovision network. This is based on MPEG-2 4:2:2 Professional Profile @ Main Level technology, with links at 8, 12 and 24 Mbit/s. The links have been used for many events, including the Football World Cup (France’98). WG11 wish the EBU Eurovision Network every success in their pioneering venture into all digital operation.
Audio Coding Tools
The WG11 audio group have approved for progression to Final Draft International Standard the audio part of the MPEG-4 standard. The final draft covers a variety of audio applications, from a low bitrate of 2 kb/s/ch - for communications applications, through medium bitrates of 16 to 24 kb/s/ch - for Internet radio and related applications, up to full broadcast quality applications at 64 kb/s/ch. The Audio standard supports natural speech and audio, synthetic or structured audio (e.g. music synthesis) and provides a communications interface for Text to Speech (TTS) applications with facial body animation control.
Test results showing the remarkable performance and flexible functionalities of some of the audio coding tools for speech coding and coding for Audio on the Internet were reported to the 45th meeting of MPEG in Atlantic City. For example, the HVXC parametric speech coder working at 2 kb/s was able to offer superior performance to an established standardised telecom codec working at more than twice the bitrate. The test results included formalised results for the MPEG-4 audio scalable codecs, including mono/stereo scalability. These show good results for the scalable profiles comparable to results from well known fixed bitrate codecs.
As a result of successful demonstrations being presented to the appropriate expert groups, the TTSI (text-to-speech interface) has had the essential functionality of FBA (face and body animation) bookmarks added to it. This enables, for the first time, the synchronisation of synthetic speech and the supporting facial expressions, so necessary in the context of visual/aural modelling of a synthetic person.
Work has also continued on additional functionalities that will be added to MPEG-4 as soon as the technology is mature and proven. The principle requirement for such an addition is that it should work in a manner that is entirely compatibly with the current MPEG-4 specification. Within this umbrella are tools for very low delay audio coding, error resilience and environmental spatialisation. The means by which these functions will be added have been decided as have the basis on which their performance will be judged.
The new enquiry and study, known as MPEG-7 Multimedia Content Description Interface, has successfully progressed to the stage where a formal Call for Proposals, supported by the necessary definition of requirements, has been released from this meeting. The Call requests proposals to be advised by a cut off date of 1st December 1998 and formal submissions to be presented by 1st February 1999.
Synthetic Coding Tools
MPEG-4 Face Animation Coding provides very low bitrate communication of model independent face animation parameters and face models. The Simple Face Object Profile has been defined for low complexity applications using face models which may be resident in the terminal (not downloaded). For example, a face animation stream could be included with a digital radio news broadcast to enhance the speech comprehension and entertainment value while only increasing the bitrate by a few kilobits per second. Face Animation is also included in two other visual profiles with other video tools.
MPEG-4 Body Animation Coding builds on Face Animation with a complete set of tools for joint angle animation and body surface deformation during animation. An example application is the addition of sign language to digital radio news applications. This specification is interoperable with the VRML Humanoid Animation Working Group specification.
In MPEG-4 version 2 tools will be provided that would allow efficient compression and streaming of complex 3D models for a variety of applications. For example, a car model can be downloaded during a commercial for subsequent viewing by potential customers allowing manipulation and 3D viewing of the model. A complete set of tools to enable such applications has reached the level of working draft at this meeting.
The MPEG-4 version 1 tool for 2D mesh-based animation was finalized at this meeting. This tool provides animation of 2D models useful for commercials, animated logo’s, text overlays, etc. Two MPEG-4 profiles have been defined that include 2D mesh animation.
In October 1996 ISO/IEC JTC1/SC29/WG11 (MPEG) introduced a new work item, "Multimedia Content Description Interface" commonly referred to as MPEG-7. Significant progress has been made in developing an understanding of the requirements applications in this area. In recognition of the progress of technologies enabling MPEG-7, a call for technologies addressing the key technology areas for MPEG-7 has been issued.
The technologies called for are the Description Definition Language (DDL), Description Schemes (DS), and Descriptors (D). In addition submissions of MPEG-7 systems, test, and non-normative technologies are welcomed.
The sequence of events and actions that groups wishing to submit technologies to this call should adhere to are described in detail in the Proposal Package Description. Proposers should be aware that the submissions will be evaluated against the Test and Evaluation Document available within the Call for Proposals. A key event in the test and evaluation process is the "Test and Evaluation Ad-Hoc Group Meeting" to be held at Lancaster University, Lancaster, England on February 15-19 1999 to which proposers of technologies are welcomed preliminary details of which are given in the meeting notice. Audio, Video, and other test material is being made available to groups considering proposing technologies for this evaluation.
At this meeting evaluation of proposals will be carried out. The results of this evaluation form an input to the 47th MPEG meeting to be held in Seoul in March 15-19,1999.
Delivery Multimedia Integration Framework
MPEG Delivery Multimedia Integration Framework (DMIF) Version 1 ISO/IEC 14496-6 has achieved the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) status. All National Body comments were incorporated in the FDIS. A DMIF V1 software was demonstrated to operate successfully with an MPEG-4 player integrating content from IP network, local area network and satellite. Work on DMIF V2 Working Draft has progressed with the MPEG-4 operation over mobile network connections, in addition to this DMIF multicast signaling has been added in support of applications wishing to conference using MPEG-4.
MPEG-2 Digital Storage Media Command and Control (DSM-CC) Conformance Testing ISO/IEC 13818-10 Final Committee Draft has also passed successfully the National Body ballots. It has thus reached the status of Final Draft International Standard.
At the Atlantic City meeting, the MPEG Systems Sub-group delivered the Final Draft International of Version 1 Systems. This specification provides to the industry the following tools:
In parallel, major improvements were reached in Version 2 specifications for each of its sub-activities: advanced scene description (BIFS), MPEG-4 Java based application engine (MPEG-J) and file format (MP4). This improvements are described below. Moreover, responding to the needs from the industry to grow from existing MPEG-2 Systems to further include MPEG-4 functionality, a first draft of specification describing the mapping of MPEG-4 content on MPEG-2 Systems have been produced. Finally, during the Atlantic City meeting, several real time software applications based on the Im1 framework have been demonstrated, bringing the MPEG-4 specifications to reality.
The specification and implementation of advanced BIFS made significant. Advanced BIFS nodes that enable the description of spatialization properties are now stable. Requirements to included HTML kind of content in BIFS scene have been accepted and will lead to development of the specification.
The MPEG-J activity addresses programmatic control of an MPEG-4 terminal to adapt to the varying operating conditions or enable enhanced multimedia functionalities. At the Atlantic City meeting, the specification of Application Programming Interfaces (API) and architecture was refined via integration of a number of input contributions. A demo of partial MPEG-J functionality was also held and a work-plan for implementation of the MPEG-J technology was decided.
Work continued on the development of the mp4 Intermedia format, the stored content format for MPEG4. With increasing contribution from new companies, the specification for mp4 was refined and clarified, and development of reference software is well under way. Great gains were made with the help of new contributors, and interested companies are still encouraged to get involved as the specification develops.
The ‘IPMP’ interface enables property rights owners to use advanced systems to manage and protect their intellectual property in MPEG-4 Multimedia Content.
Responding to the concerns of the creative industries, MPEG has again confirmed its cutting-edge position on standardized methods for handling intellectual property management and protection (IPMP) for multimedia content by voting IPMP into the first version of the new MPEG-4 standard. The vote followed an impressive demonstration of the effectiveness of the IPMP interface at the start of the 45th meeting of MPEG in Atlantic City this week.
Following its inclusion in the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) of version 1 of MPEG-4, the IPMP interface is now being integrated into the MPEG-4 implementation process. The innovative approach taken by MPEG is expected to be widely adopted by other standards bodies globally.
The video subgroup advanced both MPEG-2 and MPEG4 at the Atlantic City meeting. For MPEG-2 Video, which provides the video compression part of the major digital television systems, refinements were made to the profiles used for High Definition Television. For MPEG-4, the video group processed comments from national bodies and approved the Final Draft International Standard for the visual part of the MPEG-4 Standard.
The major current work of the video subgroup is the verification of all components of MPEG-4 video. This work has been proceeding for one year. Functional verification will be completed at the December meeting of WG11. Performance evaluation will continue beyond this date, demonstrating the capabilities of MPEG-4 video in a large range of applications.
The visual part of MPEG-4 provides many functionalities not previously available and significant improvements in traditional functionalities:
Future MPEG meetings will be held in Israel (December '98), Korea (March '99), Canada (July '99), Australia (October '99) and Hawaii (December '99)
For further information about MPEG, please contact:
Dr. Leonardo Chiariglione, (Convenor of MPEG)
Via G. Reiss Romoli, 274
10148 Torino, ITALY
Tel.: +39 11 228 6120
Fax: +39 11 228 6299
This press release and a wealth of other MPEG-related information can be found on the MPEG homepage:
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