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Cape Town - TV addicts and serial binge-watchers can now consume even more series and movies thanks to amazing new technology.
ShowMax, the internet TV service launched in South Africa in August 2015, is trialing a new service called "power bingeing". Based on technology originally developed to reduce data consumption while watching video via a mobile connection, this new service allows users to speed up TV shows and movies by as much as 42%. This is done without impacting voice or video quality.
Mike Raath, ShowMax Chief Technology Officer said:
"The Wall Street Journal did a story February last year on major networks speeding up TV shows by almost 8% to fit in additional commercials. Coincidentally, we’d been grappling with the affordability of mobile data and how this impacts internet TV usage in Africa. That’s when it hit us – if we speed up shows, our customers will use less data."
A significant proportion of verbal communication is made up of pauses and other non-lexical vocables. Fillers such as ‘uh’, ‘erm’, and ‘ah’ can actually be removed without impacting the substance of a conversation. ShowMax has developed proprietary technology to achieve this, speeding up conversation without causing a ‘helium voice’ effect.
"Our first attempts sounded like chipmunks on speed, but the engineers cracked the voice issue surprisingly quickly. Speeding up the video was much tougher. To be honest, everything we tried looked pretty-much like an episode of Benny Hill," said Raath.
The answer came from a study on Critical Flicker Frequency (CFF). CFF is the threshold at which light flickers so quickly that it’s impossible to discern discrete flashes and instead one sees a steady glow.
"By manipulating frame rates and removing those beyond the perception limit of humans, we’ve managed to increase the speed of video without the characteristic jerky motion that you’d expect," said Raath.
Catering to the needs of binge viewers, ShowMax has now added a ‘power binge’ play button to all of its apps. In a typical five-hour viewing marathon, this button will allow the viewer to see three additional TV show episodes. The link below gives a demonstration of sped-up content vs the original:
"We’re on a roll. It’s amazing how innovation borne of necessity can lead to such unexpected outcomes. If you’d have told me a year ago I’d be putting out a press release on this, I’d have said you were having a joke," concludes Raath.
*Channel24 is part of Media24, a subsidiary of Naspers.
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