Startup of the Week Beamr: How to Take Great Camera Pix

That don't eat up your camera's memory – and can be sent around without onerous compression techniques

Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv
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The trick is to "tell" the encoder to continue compressing the picture up to the precise point where picture quality is affected.
The trick is to "tell" the encoder to continue compressing the picture up to the precise point where picture quality is affected. Credit: Beamr
Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv

Smartphone cameras have been getting better and better. That's great for people who like to take pictures (new parents and cat owners are the immediate suspects here), but there's a snag.

Each picture file on a smartphone takes up 4 to 8 megabytes on average. This doesn't just eat up memory – if you've ever tried to send a big bunch of photos, you know how slow and frustrating it can be. Video is even worse: a few great moments take up dozens of megabytes.

This is why Beamr was born. Beamr says it can reduce video bitrate and photo file size by up to 80 percent without affecting quality.

"We deal with optimizing still photos and video," says CEO Sharon Carmel. "If you're familiar with the art of compression, you know that a photo or video can be compressed to 50 percent of the original size and still retain excellent quality and even a professional in the field wouldn't be able to tell the difference."

Their trick is to "tell" the encoder to continue compressing the picture up to the precise point where picture quality would be affected.

"We basically have a quality index for the picture that can match human vision practically 100 percent. All this occurs on the regular standards for video and pictures, Mpeg and Jpeg," Carmel says.

How does one use it? The company's first product, JPEGmini, is for compressing pictures. It's marketed primarily to professional and amateur photographers, to enable them to keep more space available on the hard disk as well as to forward pictures. You just mark the folders you wish to compress and that's it. A video demonstration clip shows how the product can compress a picture library from 293 to 71 megabytes. The JPEGmini software is also available for the Mac and for Windows PC. It is priced at $20 for the regular version and $150 for the Pro version.

Carmel: "With professional cameras, we are able to compress the file by 80 percent, and on cell phones by 60 percent. I want to point out that while it's called JPEGmini, it's a regular JPEG file and the recipient of the picture doesn't need to install anything special in order to see the picture. This principle is maintained in all of our products."

For video, the company does not have a mass market product. Its target audience here is composed of studios, television companies that broadcast over the Internet, news sites and other websites, and social networks. Carmel: "We are mostly aiming for television companies that broadcast over the Internet (Over the Top). We offer them a compression server that can help them in two ways: One is the user experience, because after compression the user can be given the HD experience in places where the broadband isn't usually wide enough, and you also spend less on broadband. We can save 30-50 percent on the cost of video transfer." If a company like YouTube or Netflix currently spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on content distribution, compressing the material could significantly reduce this expense.
Carmel adds that the company's products, for both video and pictures, are already being used by some of the world's largest commercial websites, social networks and photo-sharing platforms. But he won't name names: "I wish I could. It's like a secret weapon for our clients. It's very flattering in terms of the technology, but it's makes it harder in terms of marketing."

At the start of the month, the Israeli company Beamr announced it had raised an impressive $9.5 million. This round of financing was led by Marker LLC and Innovation Endeavors. The company was founded in 2009 and employs 20 people in Tel Aviv.



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