GB2367219A - Streaming of media file data over a dynamically variable bandwidth channel - Google Patents

Streaming of media file data over a dynamically variable bandwidth channel Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2367219A
GB2367219A GB0023062A GB0023062A GB2367219A GB 2367219 A GB2367219 A GB 2367219A GB 0023062 A GB0023062 A GB 0023062A GB 0023062 A GB0023062 A GB 0023062A GB 2367219 A GB2367219 A GB 2367219A
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Prior art keywords
data
channel
stream
streams
bandwidth
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GB0023062A
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GB0023062D0 (en
Inventor
Benjamin Neeman
Yossi Rubner
Nehemia Davidson
Uri Salomon
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VINTAGE GLOBAL
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VINTAGE GLOBAL
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Priority to GB0023062A priority Critical patent/GB2367219A/en
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Publication of GB2367219A publication Critical patent/GB2367219A/en
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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L65/00Network arrangements or protocols for real-time communications
    • H04L65/80QoS aspects
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H03BASIC ELECTRONIC CIRCUITRY
    • H03MCODING; DECODING; CODE CONVERSION IN GENERAL
    • H03M7/00Conversion of a code where information is represented by a given sequence or number of digits to a code where the same, similar or subset of information is represented by a different sequence or number of digits
    • H03M7/30Compression; Expansion; Suppression of unnecessary data, e.g. redundancy reduction
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L47/00Traffic regulation in packet switching networks
    • H04L47/10Flow control or congestion control
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L47/00Traffic regulation in packet switching networks
    • H04L47/10Flow control or congestion control
    • H04L47/24Flow control or congestion control depending on the type of traffic, e.g. priority or quality of service [QoS]
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L47/00Traffic regulation in packet switching networks
    • H04L47/10Flow control or congestion control
    • H04L47/26Explicit feedback to the source, e.g. choke packet
    • H04L47/263Source rate modification after feedback
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L65/00Network arrangements or protocols for real-time communications
    • H04L65/40Services or applications
    • H04L65/4069Services related to one way streaming
    • H04L65/4092Control of source by destination, e.g. user controlling streaming rate of server
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L65/00Network arrangements or protocols for real-time communications
    • H04L65/60Media handling, encoding, streaming or conversion
    • H04L65/601Media manipulation, adaptation or conversion
    • H04L65/602Media manipulation, adaptation or conversion at the source
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L69/00Application independent communication protocol aspects or techniques in packet data networks
    • H04L69/04Protocols for data compression
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N19/00Methods or arrangements for coding, decoding, compressing or decompressing digital video signals
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/60Network structure or processes for video distribution between server and client or between remote clients; Control signalling between clients, server and network components; Transmission of management data between server and client, e.g. sending from server to client commands for recording incoming content stream; Communication details between server and client 
    • H04N21/63Control signaling related to video distribution between client, server and network components; Network processes for video distribution between server and clients or between remote clients, e.g. transmitting basic layer and enhancement layers over different transmission paths, setting up a peer-to-peer communication via Internet between remote STB's; Communication protocols; Addressing
    • H04N21/637Control signals issued by the client directed to the server or network components
    • H04N21/6373Control signals issued by the client directed to the server or network components for rate control, e.g. request to the server to modify its transmission rate
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/60Network structure or processes for video distribution between server and client or between remote clients; Control signalling between clients, server and network components; Transmission of management data between server and client, e.g. sending from server to client commands for recording incoming content stream; Communication details between server and client 
    • H04N21/63Control signaling related to video distribution between client, server and network components; Network processes for video distribution between server and clients or between remote clients, e.g. transmitting basic layer and enhancement layers over different transmission paths, setting up a peer-to-peer communication via Internet between remote STB's; Communication protocols; Addressing
    • H04N21/637Control signals issued by the client directed to the server or network components
    • H04N21/6377Control signals issued by the client directed to the server or network components directed to server
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N21/00Selective content distribution, e.g. interactive television or video on demand [VOD]
    • H04N21/60Network structure or processes for video distribution between server and client or between remote clients; Control signalling between clients, server and network components; Transmission of management data between server and client, e.g. sending from server to client commands for recording incoming content stream; Communication details between server and client 
    • H04N21/65Transmission of management data between client and server
    • H04N21/658Transmission by the client directed to the server
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L29/00Arrangements, apparatus, circuits or systems, not covered by a single one of groups H04L1/00 - H04L27/00
    • H04L29/02Communication control; Communication processing
    • H04L29/06Communication control; Communication processing characterised by a protocol
    • H04L29/0602Protocols characterised by their application
    • H04L29/06027Protocols for multimedia communication

Abstract

A method of transmitting data streams over a variable bandwidth channel, comprising modifying the quantity of data to be injected into the channel to accord with a measured capacity or bandwidth of the channel. An input stream is passed through a plurality of parallel compressors 40.1-40.4 which each produce an output stream of a different rate to the other streams. Each stream preferably comprises key or reference frames and delta frames. The reference frames are synchronized between the streams so that a data unit in one stream contains the same information as the corresponding data unit in another stream, but is compressed to a different extent. A data stream for transmission along the channel is produced by selecting data units from more than one compressor output stream so as to produce a stream which makes optimum use of the available channel bandwidth. In one embodiment the duration of the data units are one of a group comprising fixed predetermined durations and duration determined by changes in the channel bandwidth. The method is useful in sending multimedia data streams such as audio and video over a channel such as a cellular telephone network or the internet.

Description

Title of the Invention Streaming of Media File Data Over a Dynamically Variable Bandwidth Channel Field of the Invention The present invention relates to streaming of media file data over a channel having a dynamically variable bandwidth, and more particularly but not exclusively to streaming of multimedia data such as video and/or audio data over a channel having a dynamically variable bandwidth.

Background of the Invention Dynamically varying channel bandwidths are particularly encountered over the Internet and like networks and over radio and cellular telephone links. On the Internet the total bandwidth is fixed and the bandwidth available per channel tends to depend on the amount of usage, the greater the usage the smaller the bandwidth available per user. In radio and cellular links the available bandwidth depends on usage, but the overall capacity may also be dependent on environmental factors.

The Internet relies on packet switched communication, whereas radio and cellular telephone links may be either circuit-switched or packet switched. Either way, the same considerations of channel bandwidth broadly apply.

As the bandwidth changes, a number of approaches are currently in use. One of these is simply to buffer received video frames, to start to show the frames as soon as the buffer is full, and to continue to show the video until the buffer is empty, then to halt the display until the buffer is full again. Another method is to show the video at a real time rate, displaying all frames that arrive in time and dropping all frames that arrive too late.

In both of these methods, data is sent at the same high rate. In the first method, unacceptable delays in showing the data are experienced. In the second method, valuable channel bandwidth is wasted transmitting data that does not get used.

Whether the network is a cellular telephone network or the Internet or like wide area data network, the bandwidth of the data network is variable. In all cases the larger the number of users the lower the bandwidth per user, and radio-based networks may also suffer from reduced bandwidth due to environmental conditions. Furthermore, in the case of cellular telephone networks, events such as handover between two base stations may also affect the available bandwidth.

In general, cellular networks are able to absorb changes in bandwidth without the user noticing a change in the quality of the voice signal. However, it is desirable to go beyond mere voice communication over cellular telephone networks. Already, low level data capability is being built into mobile telephones and it is envisaged that within the next few years, mobile telephones will be able to receive and display multimedia data. Multimedia data uses large amounts of bandwidth and generally requires to be displayed in real time. Thus bandwidth fluctuations will be immediately noticeable. Currently, however, transmission of video data over cellular phone channels is not being attempted on a commercial basis.

At present, mobile telephone systems are on their second generation and a third generation is on the drawing board but will not be available for some years. The problem is particularly associated with the design of advanced second generation equipment (generation 2.5) which, it is envisaged will be able to provide multimedia within the limitations of second generation capacity. It should be noted however that the same considerations apply to further generations of mobile telephones and also to other environments in which it is desired to transmit multimedia data, such as the Internet.

Generally, multimedia data is sent over a network as a datastream in compressed form. There are numerous algorithms for compressing data, and different forms of compression are appropriate for compressing different forms of data. Furthermore, a single form of compression may give rise to different levels of compression according to compression parameters that may be set. The greater the compression the lower will be the resulting data rate and a high level of compression may be used to overcome channel capacity constraints. A solution may involve selection of the compression parameters to meet a likely worst-case scenario.

However, the solution is not complete as a high level of compression leads to low quality output and no advantage is taken of the availability for most of the transmission time of a higher bandwidth availability.

US Patent No. 6,014, 694, Aharoni et al, discloses a system for adaptively transporting video over networks wherein the bandwidth varies with time. The system comprises a video/audio codec that functions to compress, encode, decode and decompress video streams that are transmitted over networks having available bandwidths that vary with time and location. Depending on the channel bandwidth, the system adjusts the compression ration to accommodate a plurality of bandwidths ranging from 20kbps for POTS to several Mbps for switched LAN and ATM environments. Bandwidth adjustability is provided by offering a trade-off between video resolution, frame rate and individual frame quality. The system generates a video data stream comprising of key, P and B frames from a raw video source. Each frame type is further comprised of multiple levels of data representing varying degrees of quality. In addition, several video server platforms can be utilized in tandem to transmit video/audio information with each video server platform transmitting information for a single compression/resolution level.

P and B frames are delta frames that depend on previous frames to allow a complete picture to be generated. Thus it is not possible simply to mix groups of frames of different quality levels since the deltas between frames are different. The above US Patent solves the problem by taking advantage of what is known as a group <img class="EMIRef" id="024186810-00030001" />

<tb> of <SEP> pictures <SEP> (GOP) <SEP> which <SEP> is <SEP> a <SEP> self-contained <SEP> unit <SEP> such <SEP> as <SEP> a <SEP> scene. <SEP> Because <SEP> they <SEP> are <tb> self-contained, <SEP> Gaps <SEP> of <SEP> different <SEP> compression <SEP> levels <SEP> can <SEP> be <SEP> successfully <SEP> mixed. <tb>

However, <SEP> GOP <SEP> boundaries <SEP> are <SEP> content <SEP> related <SEP> and <SEP> thus <SEP> irregular. <SEP> When <SEP> GOP <tb> boundaries are widely spaced, dynamic following of bandwidth changes are highly inaccurate or generate delays for new users.

Summary of the Invention Embodiments of the present invention attempt to solve the above problems by modifying the quantity of data to be injected into the channel to accord with a measured capacity or bandwidth of the channel. The quantity of data is preferably modified only by altering compression parameters, so that data fully usable in real time can be received from the channel. Thus a reduction in bandwidth of the channel leads to a drop in quality of the received signal and not to dropped frames or a reduction in performance.

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is thus a device for streaming of media file data to be sent over at least one channel having a dynamically variable bandwidth, comprising an input for receiving media file data at a first rate, a multiple stream creator for creating a plurality of streams of said media file data, each stream compressed to predetermined other rates, each stream comprising a series of autonomous compressed data units which are mutually compatible, and a stream selector for dynamically matching a bandwidth of the channel to rates of said streams to send said data file as a combination of said autonomous units from said streams via said channel, wherein said autonomous units have durations which are one of a group comprising fixed predetermined durations and durations determined by changes in said channel bandwidth.

Preferably, said stream selector is operable to select a combination of said streams in succession said combination being chosen to produce an average stream rate over a period of time which matches said channel bandwidth.

Preferably, said bandwidth of said channel is liable to vary dynamically and wherein said stream selector is operable to repeat said matching throughout said streaming operation.

Preferably, said bandwidth of said channel is liable to vary dynamically and wherein said stream selector is operable to repeat said matching throughout said streaming operation.

Preferably, said autonomous units match each other across said plurality of streams, thereby to enable switching between said streams.

Preferably, said data file is arranged in said streams in a compressed media format utilizing reference frames and delta frames and wherein each autonomous unit is self-contained in respect of reference frames.

In an embodiment, said channel is a cellular telephone channel.

Alternatively, said channel is an Internet channel.

Preferably, the predetermined other rate is different for each stream. In another embodiment, the predetermined other rate is identical for a set of said streams, each stream in said set being assigned a different balance between quality and speed of said media.

A preferred device comprises a plurality of media types, said predetermined other rate being identical for a set of said streams, each stream in said set being assigned a different balance between quality of said different media types.

Preferably, streams in said set are selectable by a signal received from said channel.

Preferably, streams in said set are selectable by a signal received from said channel.

An embodiment comprises a detector for detecting a change in the bandwidth of said at least one channel and operable to request a corresponding change in the data rate, and wherein the device is operable, upon receipt of said request, to set a delay, and to issue a reference frame within said delay.

The device preferably issues said reference frame at the end of said delay.

The device alternatively issues said reference frame at the occurrence of a largest detected interframe change within the time delay.

According to a second aspect of the invention there is provided a multiple stream creator for receiving a data stream at a first data rate and converting said data stream into a plurality of data streams at a plurality of data rates, said creator comprising an input for receiving said data stream at said first data rate, and a plurality of outputs, each operable to receive said data stream at said first rate and to output said data stream at a predetermined rate individually set for each output as a series of autonomous units having a duration, and wherein said duration is one of a group comprising a fixed predetermined duration and a duration dynamically changeable in accordance with bandwidth conditions in a transmission channel.

Preferably said outputs each comprise data buffers.

The multiple stream creator preferably comprises a data stream processor for processing said data stream received at said first rate into said plurality of autonomous units, said autonomous units being synchronized blocks, thereby allowing said output streams to be mixed in said transmission channel to produce continuously usable output.

Preferably, said received data stream is in an uncompressed data format and said data is compressed into a compressed data format independently for each one of said output data streams.

According to a third aspect of the invention there is provided a method of sending a datastream over a variable bandwidth channel comprising modifying a quantity of data to be injected into the channel to accord with a measured capacity of the channel, said method comprising the steps of compressing the datastream, using an algorithm having compression parameters, to produce a plurality of compressed datastreams each comprising reference frames and delta frames, each compressed datastream produced by using the algorithm together with different parameters, and synchronizing reference frames between the compressed datastreams so that combinations of said compressed datastreams can be sent via said channel.

Preferably, said step of synchronizing reference frames is carried out at intervals determined by a dynamic status of said channel bandwidth.

Alternatively or additionally, said step of synchronizing reference frames is carried out at predetermined intervals.

Alternatively or additionally, said combination of said compressed datastreams is selected substantially dynamically to match the measured capacity of the channel.

Preferably, a change in bandwidth of a channel causes a request for commencement of a new autonomous unit, and wherein said request causes initiation of measurement of a time delay, and wherein a new autonomous unit is commenced within said time delay.

Preferably, the new autonomous unit is commenced at the end of said time delay.

Preferably, the step is provided of determining the largest delta frame during the time delay and sending a reference frame, to initiate said new autonomous unit, in place of said determined largest delta frame.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided a tool for controlling receipt of media file data over a network, wherein said media file data is available at a plurality of quality levels, the tool comprising a quality selector to enable a user to select between said different quality levels for receipt.

Preferably, said media file comprises a plurality of data groups and each quality level is a different balance between quality levels of the plurality of data groups.

Preferably, said quality selector comprises a slider operable to be moved along a scale, the position of the slider on the scale indicating a quality level.

Brief Description of the Drawings For a better understanding of the invention and to show how the same may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, purely by way of example, to the accompanying drawings, in which: Fig. 1 is a generalized diagram showing a data source sending data to a series of targets over a variable bandwidth network, Fig. 2 is a generalized block diagram showing a first embodiment of the present invention in which feedback concerning available bandwidth within a channel is used to modify parameters governing compression of the datastream, Fig. 3 is a generalized block diagram showing a second embodiment of the present invention in which a series of compressed datastreams are continually created and are selected for use in individual channels according to measured parameters of the channel, Fig. 4 is a generalized block diagram showing the channel manager and part of a downlink manager of Fig. 3 in greater detail, Fig. 5 is a generalized block diagram showing a third embodiment of the present invention in which the user is able to set a quality level of the data that is being sent, Fig. 6 is a generalized schematic diagram of a quality level selection tool for use by a user in selecting a quality level in the embodiment of Fig. 5, and Fig. 7 is a generalized schematic diagram of another quality level selection tool for use with the device of Fig. 5.

Description of the Preferred Embodiments Reference is now made to Fig. 1, which is a generalized diagram showing a data source 10 sending data to a series of targets 12.1.. 12. n over a variable bandwidth network 14. The network may be a cellular telephone network or the Internet or like wide area data network or a combination. In both cases, the bandwidth of the data network is variable. In all cases the larger the number of users the lower the bandwidth per user, and radio-based networks may also suffer from reduced bandwidth due to environmental conditions. Furthermore, in the case of cellular telephone networks, events such as handover between two base stations may also affect the available bandwidth.

Data is generally compressed before sending over the channel. The level of compression may be preselected to accord with known or likely channel capabilities, as described in the introduction. However such a solution has to concentrate on the lower margins of available bandwidth and thus fails to make full use of higher bandwidth levels when available. Conversely, solutions which send datastreams at higher data rates and do not take the lower bandwidth levels into account lead to unacceptable breaks and delays in performance at the receiving end.

Reference is now made to Fig. 2 which is a generalized block diagram showing a first embodiment of the present invention in which feedback concerning available bandwidth within a channel is used to modify parameters governing compression of a datastream.

A multimedia datastream is received from a source 20 such as a host or server. The datastream may be a video datastream and may be in uncompressed or barely compressed format, for example A VI or MPEG1. The datastream is passed to a compression unit 22 which compresses the data into a very low bit-rate stream using compression parameters. A typical format that may be used for the very low bit-rate stream is MPEG 4 which uses a system based on reference frames and delta frames to compress the image part of the video data. H. 263 is another typical format that may be used. A video frame is selected as a reference frame and encoded in its entirety. Then a series of subsequent frames are selected, but for each of these frames, the only data that is encoded is that which has changed with respect to the previous frame.

The encoded changes form what is known as the delta frame.

Whichever of the available compression formats are used, compression is governed by a series of parameters 24. This allows the compression level to be raised or lowered depending on the data rate required and the quality of picture desired. A greater level of compression gives a lower quality of data at a lower data rate and a lower level of compression gives a higher quality of data at a higher data rate.

In the embodiment of Fig. 2 a channel capacity measurement 26 is received from a channel 28 over which the transmission occurs. The measurement may be received from a receiving client who simply reports the received data rate. If the received data rate is reported to be lower than the rate at which data is being sent then it is assumed that data is being produced too fast for the channel and the parameters 24 are altered to increase the compression level until the data output rate is the same as the channel rate. Conversely, if the data rate rises at the receiving end, the parameters 24 may be altered to reduce the compression level and increase the output data rate.

Reference is now made to Fig. 3, which is a generalized block diagram showing a second embodiment of the present invention in which a series of compressed datastreams are continually created and are selected for use in individual channels according to measured parameters of the channel. Parts that are the same as those mentioned in previous embodiments are given the same reference numerals and are not referred to again except as necessary for an understanding of the present embodiment.

In the embodiment of Fig. 3, an input datastream is received from a source 20 as before. The stream is passed to a channel manager 30, which compresses the input datastream. However, instead of compressing it once only, it compresses it into a plurality of output data streams, each one using different compression parameters so as to produce a plurality of streams each having a different data rate. The various streams are then passed to one or more downlink managers 32.1... 32. n, each of which is able to manage a limited number of channels 28 for sending output data to a limited number of targets 34. Each target 34 is associated with a client 36, typically client software located at the target 34, which is able to send back, to the downlink manager 32, feedback data such as the received channel rate.

The downlink manager 32 simply obtains the received channel rate from the client 36 and mixes the various streams from the channel manager to produce an average stream rate which matches the channel rate as closely as possible. For example if the received channel rate is 39.5 kbits/sec and the downlink manager has available a 35 kbits/sec stream and a 45 kbits/sec stream then the downlink manager will attempt to mix the two streams in suitable proportions to match the 39.5 kbits/sec channel. Thus the target 36 may receive a continuous stream of data, the quality of the channel influencing only the quality of the data and not the continuity.

It will be recalled that the compression systems in use include reference and delta frame style compression. Such compression systems, when used to produce streams at different data rates, do not produce delta frames which are interchangeable between the different data rates. Thus in order to create streams that are interchangeable, it is preferable to arrange all of the streams as a series of self-contained packets of given time duration. Each of the packets is self-contained in that it begins with a reference frame and hence does not depend on previously transmitted data. Thus the target is able to use consecutive packets from different streams without any data discontinuity.

The self-contained units are preferably of relatively short duration. The shorter the duration the better the system is able to follow dynamically changes in the bandwidth of the connection. On the other hand, since each unit must start with a reference or key frame, and such frames are very costly in bandwidth since they must be transmitted in full, the use of short self-contained units itself increases the required bandwidth. A compromise unit length of less than ten seconds, preferably 3,5 or 7 seconds, is preferred.

In an alternative embodiment the length of the self-contained unit is itself allowed to vary dynamically in accordance with circumstances. When the downlink manager 32 detects a significant change in the channel bandwidth it issues a request for a new data rate from the channel manager 30. Alternatively, a new target may be requesting the data feed. The channel manager 30 initiates a time delay when a first request is received, the delay being less than ten seconds, as discussed above, and at the end of the delay starts new self-contained units at all data rates. Thus dynamic following of changes in bandwidth is provided whilst transmitting the minimum possible number of key or reference frames. If no request is received, then the system continues to use delta frames as long as it is practical.

In a variation of the above, instead of waiting to the end of the time delay, the channel manager first of all looks ahead at the approaching data stream and checks whether there is a reference frame approaching during the time delay period in any case. If so, no further action is needed. If there is no reference frame then the channel manager looks ahead to find the biggest delta frame, representing the biggest instantaneous change in the picture, over the delay time period. A reference frame is then inserted in place of the identified largest delta frame. Thus, the insertion of a full reference frame is optimized to the data.

Reference is now made to Fig. 4 which is a generalized block diagram showing the channel manager 30 and a part of a downlink manager 32 of Fig. 3 in greater detail. Parts that are the same as those mentioned in previous embodiments are given the same reference numerals and are not referred to again except as necessary for an understanding of the present embodiment.

As shown in Fig. 4, the channel manager 30 comprises a series of compression units 40.1, 40.2, 40.3, etc. Each of these compression units is preferably operative to compress an input signal received from source 20, using a different compression parameter or set of compression parameters to produce an output having a different data rate. Each compression unit is followed by a buffer 41. The buffer 41 may be used to arranged the compressed data into packets of fixed time duration.

The downlink manager 32 comprises a series of selector switches 42, one for each channel being managed. For the sake of simplicity, only one such switch 42 is shown in the figure. The switch 42 receives each one of the data streams produced by the source 20 and selects one of them at any given time to be sent to the channel 28.

Selection is carried out based on a channel capacity measurement 44, which is received from the client 36.

Reference is now made to Fig. 5, which is a generalized block diagram showing a third embodiment of the present invention in which the user is able to set a quality level of the data that is being sent. Parts that are the same as those mentioned in previous embodiments are given the same reference numerals and are not referred to again except as necessary for an understanding of the present embodiment. As described above, compression parameters are altered in order to change the data rate. Generally speaking, there are numerous parameters that can be set in order to alter the data rate, and there are numerous combinations of these parameters that can give the same data rate. For example, parameters that may be altered include: the extent of image compression within an individual frame, the number of frames per second to be transmitted, the proportion of reference frames to delta frames, and a balance between compression levels of different parts of the data-for example video data includes both sound and image. It is possible to increase a level of compression to the image and to decrease a level of compression to the sound or vice versa.

In Fig. 5, part of a channel manager 30 is shown as well as a switch 42 of a downlink manager. In the channel manager of the embodiment of Fig. 5, a series of data compressors 50 are provided for each required data rate. The data compressors are labeled high, medium and low, although in fact they are different compromises between compression parameters. For example"high"may indicate high image quality but low frame rate, whereas"low"may indicate low image quality but high frame rate. The selector switch 48 is the same as in the previous embodiment except that it now chooses channels based on two different items of information. One item of information is the received channel rate 44, which selects the data rate as before.

The other item of information is a data quality request which is received from the target. This selects, within the given data rate, between the different quality levels.

Reference is now made to Fig. 6, which is a generalized schematic diagram of a quality level selection tool 60 for use by a user in selecting a quality level in the embodiment of Fig. 5. The selection tool 60 comprises a simple longitudinal bar 62 which may be marked with labels and numbers, and a slider 64 for moving along the bar 62. The bar shown in Fig, 6 indicates that the user may select different compromises between sound quality and image quality.

Reference is now made to Fig. 7, which is a generalized schematic diagram of another quality level selection tool 70 for use by a user in selecting a quality level in the embodiment of Fig. 5. The selection tool 70 is likewise in the form of a bar and slider but this time the choice is between high quality images at a low frame rate (marked"still") and low quality images at a high frame rate (marked"motion"). It will be appreciated that a low bandwidth"high"may yield a lower image quality than a high bandwidth"low"and vice versa.

Embodiments of the present invention thus provide a system and method in which the measured received data level of a channel is used to select a transmitted data rate so that full advantage may be taken of fluctuating channel capacity levels to send the highest possible quality multimedia data.

It is appreciated that certain features of the invention, which are, for clarity, described in the context of separate embodiments, may also be provided in combination in a single embodiment. Conversely, various features of the invention which are, for brevity, described in the context of a single embodiment, may also be provided separately or in any suitable subcombination.

It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that the present invention is not limited to what has been particularly shown and described hereinabove. Rather the scope of the present invention is defined by the appended claims and includes both combinations and subcombinations of the various features described hereinabove as well as variations and modifications thereof which would occur to persons skilled in the art upon reading the foregoing description.

Claims (34)

Claims
1. A device for streaming of media file data to be sent over at least one channel having a dynamically variable bandwidth, comprising an input for receiving media file data at a first rate, a multiple stream creator for creating a plurality of streams of said media file data, each stream compressed to predetermined other rates, each stream comprising a series of autonomous compressed data units which are mutually compatible, and a stream selector for dynamically matching a bandwidth of the channel to rates of said streams to send said data file as a combination of said autonomous units from said streams via said channel, wherein said autonomous units have durations which are one of a group comprising fixed predetermined durations and durations determined by changes in said channel bandwidth.
2. A device according to claim 1, wherein said stream selector is operable to select a combination of said streams in succession said combination being chosen to produce an average stream rate over a period of time which matches said channel bandwidth.
3. A device according to claim 1, wherein said bandwidth of said channel is liable to vary dynamically and wherein said stream selector is operable to repeat said matching throughout said streaming operation.
4. A device according to claim 2, wherein said bandwidth of said channel is liable to vary dynamically and wherein said stream selector is operable to repeat said matching throughout said streaming operation.
5. A device according to claim 1, wherein said autonomous units match each other across said plurality of streams, thereby to enable switching between said streams.
6. A device according to claim 5, wherein said data file is arranged in said streams in a compressed media format utilizing reference frames and delta frames and wherein each autonomous unit is self-contained in respect of reference frames.
7. A device according to claim 1, wherein said channel is a cellular telephone channel.
8. A device according to claim 1, wherein said channel is an Internet channel.
9. A device according to claim 1, said predetermined other rate being different for each stream.
10. A device according to claim 1, said predetermined other rate being identical for a set of said streams, each stream in said set being assigned a different balance between quality and speed of said media.
11. A device according to claim 1, said media file comprising a plurality of media types, said predetermined other rate being identical for a set of said streams, each stream in said set being assigned a different balance between quality of said different media types.
12. A device according to claim 10, said streams in said set being selectable by a signal received from said channel.
13. A device according to claim 11, said streams in said set being selectable by a signal received from said channel.
14. A device according to claim 1, comprising a detector for detecting a change in the bandwidth of said at least one channel and operable to request a corresponding change in the data rate, and wherein the device is operable, upon receipt of said request, to set a delay, and to issue a reference frame within said delay.
15. A device according to claim 14, operable to issue said reference frame at the end of said delay.
16. A device according to claim 14, operable to issue said reference frame at the occurrence of a largest detected interframe change within the time delay.
17. A multiple stream creator for receiving a data stream at a first data rate and converting said data stream into a plurality of data streams at a plurality of data rates, said creator comprising an input for receiving said data stream at said first data rate, and a plurality of outputs, each operable to receive said data stream at said first rate and to output said data stream at a predetermined rate individually set for each output as a series of autonomous units having a duration, and wherein said duration is one of a group comprising a fixed predetermined duration and a duration dynamically changeable in accordance with bandwidth conditions in a transmission channel.
18. A multiple stream creator according to claim 17, wherein said outputs each comprise data buffers.
19. A multiple stream creator according to claim 17, comprising a data stream processor for processing said data stream received at said first rate into said plurality of autonomous units, said autonomous units being synchronized blocks, thereby allowing said output streams to be mixed in said transmission channel to produce continuously usable output.
20. A multiple stream creator according to claim 17, wherein said received data stream is in an uncompressed data format and wherein said data is compressed into a compressed data format independently for each one of said output data streams.
21. A method of sending a datastream over a variable bandwidth channel comprising modifying a quantity of data to be injected into the channel to accord with a measured capacity of the channel, said method comprising the steps of compressing the datastream, using an algorithm having compression parameters, to produce a plurality of compressed datastreams each comprising reference frames and delta frames, each compressed datastream produced by using the algorithm together with different parameters, and synchronizing reference frames between the compressed datastreams so that combinations of said compressed datastreams can be sent via said channel.
22. A method according to claim 21, wherein said step of synchronizing reference frames is carried out at intervals determined by a dynamic status of said channel bandwidth.
23. A method according to claim 21, wherein said step of synchronizing reference frames is carried out at predetermined intervals.
24. A method according to claim 21, wherein said combination of said compressed datastreams is selected substantially dynamically to match the measured capacity of the channel.
25. A method according to claim 22, wherein a change in bandwidth of a channel causes a request for commencement of a new autonomous unit, and wherein said request causes initiation of measurement of a time delay, and wherein a new autonomous unit is commenced within said time delay.
26. A method according to claim 25, wherein said new autonomous unit is commenced at the end of said time delay.
27. A method according to claim 25, comprising the step of determining the largest delta frame during the time delay and sending a reference frame, to initiate said new autonomous unit, in place of said determined largest delta frame.
28. A tool for controlling receipt of media file data over a network, wherein said media file data is available at a plurality of quality levels, the tool comprising a quality selector to enable a user to select between said different quality levels for receipt.
29. A tool according to claim 28, wherein said media file comprises a plurality of data groups and wherein each quality level is a different balance between quality levels of the plurality of data groups.
30. A tool according to claim 28, wherein said quality selector comprises a slider operable to be moved along a scale, the position of the slider on the scale indicating a quality level.
31. A device for streaming of media file data to be sent over at least one channel having a dynamically variable bandwidth, substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
32. A multiple stream creator for receiving a data stream at a first data rate and converting said data stream into a plurality of data streams at a plurality of data rates, substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
33. A method of sending a datastream over a variable bandwidth channel comprising modifying a quantity of data to be injected into the channel to accord with a measured capacity of the channel, substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
34. A tool for controlling receipt of media file data over a network, substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
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