Cobalt Pushes Latency Limits as Low as They Can Go with Release of Ultra-Low Latency Mode’ for Encoder

Development designed to dramatically improve live production

Champaign, IL – August 17, 2020 – Cobalt®, an industry-leading designer and manufacturer of award-winning edge devices for live video production and master control, and a founding partner in the openGear® initiative, is pushing latency to the lowest limits possible. The Company has announced the release of an Ultra-Low Latency Mode for its 9992-ENC software defined broadcast encoder card series. The breakthrough combines parallel processing with GDR (Gradual Decoder Refresh) and a suitable CPB (Coded Picture Buffer) to achieve encoder latencies as low as 10 milliseconds making it desirable for any broadcaster of live events such as sports or news.

Even before this significant development, the 9992-ENC series – made for openGear, met the most stringent production requirements by combining traditional broadcast features with advanced network options. Cobalt’s HEVC video encoding technology provided a dramatic compression efficiency improvement over previous standards, while also supporting existing MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 AVC.

Explained Ciro Noronha, Cobalt VP of Engineering, “In any sort of video compression, there is a tradeoff between three variables: latency, quality, and bit rate.  Essentially, any two of these can be optimized at the expense of the third, and a quality encoder will allow you to adjust the levels and choose the operating point that works for you.The Cobalt 9992-ENC has always had this capability, and where latency is concerned, the most important ones are the CPB delay, and the use of GDR that allowed latency to vary from over a second (for high quality at low bit rate) to about 100 milliseconds.  This is available for both AVC and HEVC (and, with some limitations, for MPEG-2 as well).  

“Now with Ultra-Low Latency Mode, this is reduced to as low as 10 milliseconds, a significantly important innovation for broadcasters.”

Noronha also noted that this latency level is lower than the intrinsic latency of the usual audio encoders, so the 9992-ENC offers LPCM audio support to bypass them.

In a related development, Cobalt are also releasing updated firmware for its 9992-DEC, with tunable latency.  When combined with the 9992-ENC, end-to-end latencies of about 100ms are achievable in HEVC mode, and about 300ms in AVC mode.