Behind The Scenes: Microsoft Talks About Bringing Skype’s Perfect HD Video Call Across The Devices

In blog post on Skype blog, Microsoft discussed about how they worked to build a cross-platform software that enables Skype video in HD on a broad set of hardware, all with a consistent audio and visual experience. In the process of building it, they even invented many tech components to enable such experiences. In addition to delivering HD videos calls across the devices, Skype is also focusing on features like face tracking, improving low light conditions, new group experiences and more.

From Skype blog,

In the last two years, Microsoft has created cross-platform software that enables Skype video in HD on a broad set of hardware, all with a consistent audio and visual experience. We had to invent many of the essential tech components and, in the process, came to understand video in a way that makes our engineering team one of the most experienced realtime communication groups in the industry.

In order to achieve these successes, we had to research various technologies that could allow us to 1) permit the same compression efficiencies on both ends of the Skype Video Call and 2) deliver a ubiquitous experience across devices. Compression is a fundamental tenet of internet communication as optimizing the bandwidth usage in a call is crucial to send and receive video. “Ubiquity” is necessary so that all Skype endpoints can interact with each other and are all speaking the same “language.”

As we searched for how to make Skype truly multiplatform, we determined the H.264 codec as a common denominator with the compression efficiencies and ubiquity that we required. We built our own optimized implementation of the H.264 codec and utilized partner versions where H.264 was fully integrated in specific platforms. From television to desktop, mobile, web, and – most recently – Xbox, we created a universal HD video calling experience built on Skype cross-platform components combined with an optimized H.264 codec.

As we evolved our technology stack and learnt more about H.264 compression, we’ve continuously innovated aspects of Skype for realtime usage. The internet is a living organism with fluctuating conditions, we’ve built in resiliency features for Skype video calls. We learned how each frame is compressed down to the pixel-level and how we can transmit that pixel across the wire. Then, we created software to efficiently control and compress camera feeds and resend information when necessary, without disrupting the user’s experience. We’ve shared our learnings with partners, contributed to standards, and defined (certification) specifications to ensure we always deliver user the best Skype experience across devices.

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Source: Skype blog

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