Digital Video Editing: The Transition to MPEG-2

The emergence of desktop video editing has long been anticipated and has been long in coming. Many key components of this market are in place. Low-cost, video capture/editing add-in boards (AIBs) are now available, as well as easy to use software for consumer platforms, which are being powered by a new generation of low-cost compression-decompression controllers (CODECs).

Non-linear video editors (NLVEs) offer significant cost and convenience advantages over tape-based linear editors. To reduce system cost, non-linear editors usually store video in compressed digital form.

It has been the advent of MPEG-2 and its inherent advantages, combined with the implementation of very large semiconductor integration (VLSI) technology that has ushered in this new era of affordable video editing.

Before the advent of affordable MPEG-2 CODECs, non-linear video editors typically employed JPEG or digital video (DV) compression and were limited to intra-frame compression. Although these intra-frame-only compression formats are relatively simple to encode and decode with dedicated hardware, they do not allow high compression ratios without significant quality loss. What is worse, is that they are not compatible with MPEG compressed digital video distribution formats (i.e., Video CD, Digital Versatile Disk (DVD) and Digital Video Broadcast).

Although superior, MPEG-2 had not been used for editing in the past because the encoders were large and expensive, did not support important editing features, and lacked an inter-operable format needed for studio quality. Recently, however, the MPEG-2 4:2:2@ML profile has been added which provides an inter-operable MPEG format for studio quality.

Furthermore, MPEG-2 technology has improved to the point where full editing functionality can be accomplished with low-cost hardware. "Full editing functionality" includes frame accurate edits (even with the use of inter-frame compression) and real time decoding and compositing of multiple streams.

With those hurdles overcome, affordable MPEG-2 compression, editing, and distribution is rapidly taking over. Systems are being employed that not only reduce the cost of professional editing systems but also make high-quality well-featured systems available to consumers.

We expect to see major growth in the Desktop Video Editing (DVE) market in the next five years. Specifically, we see the market for low-cost DVE systems rapidly growing and fueling even grater demand for MPEG-2.

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