One of the things that makes it possible to stream 4K Ultra HD video over the internet is video compression: it takes a lot of bandwidth to stream a 4K video, but it takes a lot less to stream a H.265/HEVC file than it does to stream one encoded using MPEG-2.

But now there’s a new codec in town that’s likely to replace HEVC.

It’s called AV1, and it has a few things going for it. The new codec is open source, royalty-free, and it offers roughly 30 percent better compression than HEVC or VP9.

The first version of AV1 was released today, and it was developed by the Alliance for Open Media, a group formed by a number of major tech companies including Amazon, Apple, ARM, Cisco, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, and NVIDIA.

In other words, there’s every reason to expect this codec to be used in major streaming services such as YouTube, Amazon Video, and Netflix. If it’s as good as promised, users shouldn’t see any significant difference in video quality, but it’ll take less data to deliver that video… which is good for users, ISPs, and the companies delivering video.

And since the codec is open source, third-party developers that want to bring AV1 support to new or existing apps or services can do that.

While adoption of AV1 by online video giants is interesting, the open source, royalty-free nature of the codec could be even more important in the long run since it’ll likely lead to faster adoption of the new technology than of predecessors like HEVC. It could also lead to innovation from startups and independent developers who won’t be hampered by the need to pay royalty fees.

It’ll still take a little while for AV1 to be widely adopted though. Firefox already has early support, but Google, Microsoft, and Apple have yet to bring support to their web browsers. And it could be a few years before there’s native, hardware-accelerated support for decoding AV1 using a smartphone or media-streaming device like a Roku.

via CNET

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13 replies on “Open source AV1 video codec released, coming soon to streaming video”

  1. The most important name, Qualcomm is missing from that list. I would trade all the names on the list for that one.

      1. Adreno gpu is Qualcomm-only and is where h265 is decoded in hardware. No ARM IP there. All of my phones and tablets have been Qualcomm chipsets… maybe even all my future phones and tablets will Qualcomm. If I can’t play AV1 on my phone or tablet, I will stick to collecting h265 files. Intel already has h265 hardware playback in Kaby Lake and later. AMD has h265 in Ryzen. Odroid C2 has h265 hardware decoding too (with the HDMI 2.0 port).
        H265 has already taken 4k video playback… AV1 means nothing to me.

        1. AV1 means nothing to me…yet. AV1 is free to use. H265 not so much. It is most likely only a matter of time before all the major players adopt AV1. It is in their financial best interests. If it only benefited the consumer you would most likely be right.

          1. VP9 is open source and royalty-free too. Hardware decoding is available in almost every modern mobile and desktop cpu. Has been around since 2012… I personally don’t have any files in the format… all my content is in h264 (x264). Smartphone video, movies, tv… everything I have is in h264. I would hope VP9 saves Google a ton of money, maybe my youtube app uses it… I just don’t use it personally.

          2. It’s awesome that many things are open-source and royalty-free. For me, media is different in that portability is the most important detail. I still collect music in mp3 format for that reason. I suspect that AV1 will be a browser and app technology… which is great, but doesn’t touch my life or influence my decisions… unless I want to rip/scrape the streams into files.

          3. I use the h264 codec to transfer movies from DVD to my computer as well. It seems to work fine, it will even transfer movies from DVDs that are too scratched or otherwise defective for normal use and I end up with a fully playable copy on my computer if I slow the encoding process enough (it slows encoding greatly, with my C2D equipped computer slowing encoding for a severely damaged DVD triples the time needed to encode and copy the movie). There is a hack from the same people that maintain VLC allowing for copy protected DVDs to be copied to a computer, the Windows version hasn’t been updated in a few years but it still works for about 95% of the DVDs I have copied using the current Handbrake version (the Linux version is actively maintained to this day). If you go back a couple of Handbrake for Windows versions the hack will copy pretty much everything. The hack (libdvdcss) must be separately downloaded and installed from the VideoLAN website. Please don’t use this information to post movies on tube sites, that is illegal and essentially distribution of stolen property — this hack is intended for use in a PLEX or similar server application or simply to copy DVDs to your hard drive in a more data efficient manner (movies use about 1.5-2.5GB when copied with Handbrake rather than the 6-8GB a direct DVD to computer copy uses). Handbrake is pretty CPU intensive, with my Core 2 Duo 3.16GHz equipped computer running Windows 7 takes 1-2 hours to encode a DVD movie using Handbrake, I tried it with my AMD E1-2100 1.0GHz equipped computer running Windows 10 and it took about five hours to encode a two hour movie and my P4 equipped computer running Lubuntu 16.04 took about 4-5 hours as well so you need a reasonably powerful computer to make using Handbrake worthwhile.

        2. Online Streaming Platforms have to pay for their Bandwirth, and Browser and Hardware Makers have to pay licensing fees to be able to offer h.264/h.265 playback, wether or not you like the switch means nothing to them.

          1. My original point is that if my mobile device does not have hardware decoding support, my app or browser on that device will have horrible battery life or worse not be able to play it at all. For me, Qualcomm support for AV1 is at the top of my list.
            How far do you think AV1 is going to go if all Qualcomm chipsets don’t support it?

        3. “AV1 means nothing to me.” It may in the near future if AV1 dominates, and there’s a good chance it will. Soon you might be wasting lots of time picking through the weeds looking for those rare h.265 download files you must have.

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