As the carbon footprint of the video entertainment industry has ballooned to exceed even that of the airline industry, an important question has been what will it take to make sustainability a key element of video content creation? A new whitepaper released this month by InterDigital – and written by Futuresource Consulting –explores the reasons why the video entertainment industry must lead on positive climate action, set higher standards when it comes to energy efficiency, and integrate solutions that mitigate energy consumption across the end-to-end video chain.
More than a billion hours of content is consumed on a single streaming platform every single day and as a consequence the video streaming industry’s annual carbon footprint now exceeds that of the airline industry.
“The video industry is now laser-focused on increasing the sustainability of visual entertainment. From filming and content creation, through broadcast distribution and internet streaming, to consumer devices themselves, all elements of the delivery chain are actively improving efficiency,” says Simon Forrest, Principal Technology Analyst, Futuresource Consulting. “Yet there are continuous challenges: on current trajectories, global TV energy usage alone could increase 5% by 2026 as consumers upgrade to higher resolution screens and transition to 4K HDR video. So, there are clear opportunities for further innovation in video coding and delivery mechanisms to help mitigate this potential rise.”
The whitepaper, Sustainability in Video Entertainment, discusses how the content industry is embracing sustainable change by leveraging the supporting technologies and strategies that actively contribute to a more environmentally friendly production environment. Many within the industry have high hopes for developments including remote production; greater overall efficiency in the delivery of IP-based services; the rise of virtual production; cloud-based solutions; environmentally optimized outside broadcasting (OB) trucks; universally efficient data centers; and the manufacturing drive to make consumer products more efficient and authenticated through transparent energy certification.
“This paper comes at a moment when industry stakeholders are thinking about how they can get a handle on the industry’s carbon footprint, and in response, develop the solutions which are seriously needed to minimize the environmental impact of content creation, exchange, and delivery,” said Erik Reinhard, Distinguished Scientist, InterDigital. “It reflects the industry view that more needs to be done within the video entertainment sector to measure and address what it can to achieve more sustainable operations for the video content we all enjoy.”
The paper reveals how the carbon footprint for production is immense: medium-sized films have an average carbon footprint of 769 metric tons of CO2e, with large films generating substantially more emissions, creating 1,081 metric tons per production.
It also shows that an average day of filming generates more than one person’s annual carbon footprint while an average hour filming is equivalent to the carbon footprint of a return flight from London to New York.
Going cloud native saves energy, says the study. Production services are highly virtualised and as a result, harness more energy efficient equipment than conventional on-premises set ups.
The paper argues that energy-aware streaming protocols promise over 50% in energy savings per hour of content, and InterDigital is an active contributor with innovative solutions in this space. Investigating solutions and technologies to reduce the energy consumption of visual media, InterDigital’s Video Lab has developed critical energy-aware image processing methods, which can help reduce energy consumption without changing visual quality, alongside energy-aware activities in ITU (International Telecommunication Union), DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting), MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) and SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers), as well as foundational support for new video codecs like VVC (Versatile Video Coding), which boasts a significant bitrate reduction and more efficient transmission of 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) content.