The public release of the AV1 video codec specification, designed for delivering video over the Internet, is being hailed as a market-disrupting event that will not only make video compression more efficient but remove the need for royalty payments. AOMedia Video Codec 1.0 (AV1) has been hailed by major chipset vendors and some traditional television industry vendors but the notable media companies supporting AV1 are born-digital disruptors like Netflix, Facebook, Amazon and Google.
Founding members and supporters from the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), which is behind the codec, point to compression performance that they claim is 30% better than alternatives. One of those companies, Bitmovin (which provides cloud-native video software for a range of ‘headend’ requirements like encoding, DRM and ad insertion) says AV1 is actually 35% better than HEVC and VP9.
Bitmovin, which is already integrating AV1 into products for live streaming and VOD, has given a neat summary of what it thinks the codec will do for the video market. Besides making UHD/4K video easier to deliver, it will boost 360 video and the VR industry, and will give consumers in emerging APAC and Sub-Saharan markets access to quality video services on low-bandwidth network. It could result in new social video experiences from Facebook, Snapchat, etc, among other things. Bitmovin questions whether MPEG can maintain its dominance in the face of a high performing Royalty-free alternative.
“AV1 is the first time that online video innovation does not require payment to a pool of media and consumer electronics companies,” the San Francisco and Austria-based company declares. “AV1 opens the playing field to more Internet companies to compete with the broadcast industry for online video dominance.
“It enables social media and online publishers to offer compelling experiences for consumers. The nature of the new codec also enables the entertainment industry to benefit from more predictability, as the industry will not be affected by changes in patent pools,” Bitmovin says.
It adds: “The launch of a new video codec is always significant but tends to be a tech-focused event. AV1 is different. It marks a significant shift in the balance of power in online entertainment that could have implications across consumer electronics, online TV/ video and news publishers.”
Paul Gray, a Research Director at the research and analyst firm IHS Markit, expects widespread support for the codec, and is especially interested in the potential for AV1 to accelerate UHD adoption. “We expect that the installed base of 4K television sets to reach 300 million by the end of 2019 and therefore there is already latent demand for UHD services over today’s infrastructure,” he observes.
“AV1 will be widely supported across the entire content chain, especially including services. We forecast rapid introduction of AV1 content delivery to help the widespread proliferation of UHD streaming.”
Bitmovin can already deliver AV1 tests using Firefox Nightly and this will be followed by wider browser adoption, then its application to Android. The company predicts that AV1 will get into chips within12-18 months. One SoC vendor, Intel, is one of the Founding Members of the Alliance for Open Media so, hardly surprisingly, will be delivering AV1 hardware implementations in its products.
Zach Hamm, Intel Director of Strategy and Planning, Visual Technologies Team, declares: “The AV1 codec will provide unmatched video quality and lower delivery costs across consumer and business devices as well as the cloud’s video delivery infrastructure. The Alliance for Open Media AV1 codec is the result of collaboration across the industry’s biggest players who are dedicated to delivering unrivalled next-generation video experiences while transforming the ecosystem through a royalty-free, open-source approach.”
The Founding Members of AOMedia include Amazon, Apple, Arm, Cisco, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix and NVIDIA. The independent non-profit organization reiterates that AV1 was specifically designed for the Internet video era, “paving the way for companies to make more of the royalty-free, 4K/UHD (and higher) video devices, products and services that consumers love.”
Mark Watson, Director, Streaming Standards at Netflix, says, “We are pleased to see the broad interest in decoder support and excited to bring the benefit of better streaming quality to our members in the coming year.”
The new specification encompasses:
- A bitstream specification to enable the next-generation of silicon
- Unoptimized, experimental software decoder and encoder to create and consume the bitstream
- Reference streams for product validation
- Binding specifications to allow content creation and streaming tools for user-generated and commercial video.
Designed at the outset for hardware optimisation, the AV1 specification, reference code, and bindings are available for tool makers and developers to download.
“This technology arrives with the support of partners throughout the web video ecosystem – content distributors, web platform providers, application developers and hardware manufacturers,” Matt Frost, Head of Strategy and Partnerships, Chrome Media, at Google, observes. “AV1 is poised to power the future of media experiences consumers love to watch, upload and stream.”
Cisco is onboard. “The creation of an advanced, royalty-free video codec is paramount to the ongoing success of collaboration products and services,” says Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO, Collaboration Technology Group at the company. “This is why Cisco joined AOMedia as a Founding Member, and why we have invested in making AV1 both efficient and accessible to the Internet community.”
AOMedia promoters who have also welcomed the AV1 release include SoC vendor Broadcom and Allegro DVT, which provides H.265/HEVC, AVS2, VP9 and AV1 compliance test suites and encoder, codec and decoder hardware IPs.