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Multimedia Standards

MPEG-2 compression technology co-developed at Columbia allows sharp digital images to take up relatively little bandwidth. The technology is being used in personal computer video, digital television, digital versatile disk (DVD) and a host of other media.

Audio and Video Compression Technology Are Critical Components of Digital Multimedia

The development of new ways to compress audio and video signals is critical to the new digital multimedia age. One of the field's pioneers is Dimitris Anastassiou, professor of electrical engineering and director of the Columbia New Media Technology Center.

MPEG-2

  Anastassiou's research in signal processing and coding for digital video has been key to the success of the MPEG-2 digital video compression standard, which allows the transmission of high-quality video and audio signals over limited bandwidth. MPEG-2 is widely used in all forms of digital video transmission, including digital television, direct broadcast by satellite, digital cable systems, personal computer video, digital versatile disk (DVD) and various interactive media.

  The technology conserves bandwidth by eliminating redundant information, such as backgrounds that do not change, thus reducing the amount of data storage or transmission required to reproduce video sequences.

  Video compression will always be necessary for storage and transmission, even when enormous quantities of bandwidth are available, Anastassiou believes. "Even if the world is rewired with optical fiber, people will still want to transmit more multimedia signals of increasingly higher quality," he says.

  "The aim of our research was to develop sophisticated algorithms that would achieve as much compression as possible, with as little loss of quality as possible and with as little computational burden as possible."

  Columbia and several companies jointly own a Denver company, MPEG Licensing Administrator, or MPEG LA, which can license in a single transaction all the related patents that comprise MPEG-2 to firms that wish to manufacture electronic equipment that stores or transmits compressed video data. The U.S. Department of Justice has approved the patent pool.

  Columbia's partners are Fujitsu Ltd., General Instrument Corp., Lucent Technologies, Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Philips Electronics N.V., Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and Sony Corp.

New Video Standards

  Following the success of MPEG-2, Anastassiou and other researchers at the Columbia New Media Technology Center are developing new generations of multimedia technology, including MPEG-4, a standard for multimedia editing of compressed data, and MPEG-7, a standard for searching video content.

  He sees a future in which emphasis on content will create the next revolution in multimedia technology, enhancing human communications in every context by empowering people to convey complex ideas simply and easily through digital storytelling.

  MPEG, the Moving Picture Experts Group, is a working group of experts in charge of international standards for audiovisual coding. Established in 1988, it groups experts from about 20 countries under the aegis of the International Organization for Standardization based in Geneva. MPEG has also produced MPEG-1, a standard for storage and retrieval of moving pictures and audio on storage media.