MPEG Systems File Format Subgroup Wins Technology & Engineering Emmy

The File Format subgroup of MPEG Systems has been recognised by the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) with a Technology & Engineering Emmy for its 20 years of work on the ISO Base Media File Format (ISOBMFF). This format was first standardised in 1999 as part of the MPEG-4 Systems specification, and is now in its 6th edition as ISO/IEC 14496-12. It is the structural specification under the widely used and supported MP4 and 3GP file formats.

“This recognition further reinforces the major contributions that JTC 1/SC 29 has made to the entertainment industry and society at large,” said Philip C. Wennblom, Chair of ISO/IEC JTC 1.

“The ISO Base Media File Format has become the bedrock underlying modern media storage and delivery, spanning both local storage and streaming services for music, video, and other media,” added Gary Sullivan, Chair of ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29.

Evolution of the format has enabled modern, expressive uses of the file format, notably including segmented streaming over HTTP as exemplified by Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH), and as the underlying structure of the High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) specification, which is seeing rapid multi-platform adoption for the carriage of modern images (including support for bracketing, bursts, grid layup to support very large visual surfaces, and client-performed adjustments before display). The file format subgroup is also responsible for other key specifications, including areas such as content protection (i.e., the Common Encryption and Sample Variants specifications) and carriage of many different types of media (including not only traditional audio and video, but also timed text, media-data metrics, and client-side applied visual effects and transitions). Work under way includes the support for volumetric (3D) visual media, including point clouds, and support for timed haptic media (such as vibration signals).

“File formats are typically taken for granted without considering the enormous engineering effort and vision required to design a file format serving an entire ecosystem with all its diverse requirements from multimedia content production to consumption,” commented Jörn Ostermann, Convenor of MPEG Technical Coordination.

“The ISO Base Media File Format has been adopted by a wide variety of industries and MPEG Systems has continuously enhanced the standard to reflect their needs for the last 20 years. The group will keep up the efforts to serve the industries better,” added Youngkwon Lim, Convenor of MPEG Systems.

The File Format subgroup of MPEG Systems reached some important milestones at this meeting, reaching an agreement on the final text for the support of Versatile Video Coding (VVC) and Essential Video Coding (EVC) in ISO/IEC 14496-15, which specifies the carriage of NAL unit based video in the family of file formats based on the ISO Base Media File Format (ISO/IEC 14496-12). This work has enabled the start of specifying the adoption of those formats into the Common Media Application Format (CMAF), ISO/IEC 23000-19. The File Format subgroup also reached an agreement on the carriage of DASH events in timed metadata tracks, which will enable such media-related events to be carried through the ecosystem from authoring to the client, in a robust way that supports flexible segmentation.

“Over 20 years a small, dedicated, set of experts has curated this format, respecting and developing the initial design principles, while being flexible and responsive to the needs of industry, and the result is a format that is still in active adoption and development,” said David Singer, File Format Subgroup Chair

This is MPEG’s fourth Technology & Engineering Emmy Award (after MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 together with JPEG in 1996, Advanced Video Coding (AVC) in 2008, and MPEG-2 Transport Stream in 2013) and sixth overall Emmy Award including the Primetime Engineering Emmy Awards for Advanced Video Coding (AVC) High Profile in 2008 and High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) in 2017, respectively.