AV1 Open Source Video Codec Update at FOSDEM 2018 (Video)

We first covered the Alliance for Open Media’s AV1 video codec in summer 2016, as an open source, royalty-free video codec aiming to replace VP9, and compete or even surpass H.265 capabilities. At the time, everything was pretty new, and when I tried the open source implementation encoding was really slow.

Since then, AV1 has gained momentum with for example Apple, Facebook, and IBM recently joining AOMedia, and Mozilla adding HTML5 AV1 video support to Firefox Nightly builds at the end of last year. I was able to play a 720p video @ 800 Kbps almost smoothly in my computer based on AMD FX8350 processor. Many companies want AV1 to succeed since they may not be willing to pay MPEG LA license fee for H.265 and future MPEG codecs (e.g. H.266), and there indeed seems to be issues with the currently MPEG licensing business model.

AV1 vs H.265 vs VP9 Bitrate for a Fixed Quality – Click to Enlarge – Source: Moscow State University

However, AV1 is not quite ready yet, although it’s getting there as you’ll find out from Mozilla’s Timothy B. Terriberry presentation at FOSDEM 2018 which provides a very technical update to the progress of AV1 codec support in the video below. If you don’t have background in video encoding / decoding, I propose you skip the video altogether, as it’s filled with terminology and acronyms that most people won’t understand. To illustrate the point, some of the subjects covered include:

  • Adaptive Multisymbol Entropy Coding
  • Transforms (with 64-point transforms added)
  • Coefficient Coding
  • Intra Block Copy
  • Motion Vector Coding
  • “Extended” Skip Mode
  • etc..

Specific times to still work on with regards to the specifications:

  • Fix remaining problems with TXMG
  • Final details of high-level syntax
  • Last-minute changes to MV prediction
  • Fix all of the bugs
  • IPR analysis

You could also read AV1 specifications for the full details (after building the docs…).  There were still a few tidbits easy to understand. First, independent tests – see chart on top – have shown AV1 to offer lower bitrate than H.265 and VP9 implementations in June 2017, and now the results are said to look even better, with a target of 30% better compression compared to H.265. It will also take a while before you get an AV1 camera, as AV1 encoding is currently 2500 to 3000 slower than VP9, but they are working on making it faster.

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11 Replies to “AV1 Open Source Video Codec Update at FOSDEM 2018 (Video)”

  1. h.265 is maybe 25% better than h.264, and that improvement comes with a giant pile of unresolved patent issues and royalties. I just don’t think it is worth it to switch off from h.264 right now. Better just to continue on with h.264 and wait for AV1.

    Google has promised free hardware IP for AV1. They already offer this for VP8/9.

  2. @Jon Smirl
    The problem that VP9 is much slower to encode and decode than h.265, quality wise I always found that hevc is better for the same biterate but maybe is subjective, although AV1 looks very promising it’s needs support from Chipset manufacturer to implement hardware decoding at least othewise is impossible to succeed

  3. Many have not even switched to H.264 yet. DVB broadcasts may use MPEG2, even some Blurays are still MPEG2. H.265 isn’t particularly better at compressing 1080i/1080p.

  4. @Jerry

    “DVB broadcasts may use MPEG2”

    Long established ones do, but DVB broadcasts in HD (and some in SD as well) use h.264 eg DVB-t France TNT (terrestrial). On satellite, h.264 is used for all (?) DVB-s2, except UHD which is h.265, and for DVB-s with HD content. In Germany, the new DVB-t2 network current being rolled out to the various lande is using h.265.

    So althought many DVB broadcasts are still currently using MPEG2, there is an ongoing transition away from MPEG2 to h.264 and even h.265.

  5. It depends of what it is filmed in. One of my many interests is indie film making and people pick the camera rather than the standard first. Big budget studios don’t need to worry they just spend the cash, but budget film makers, often have to make money choices.

    Now that’s fine but each time you change the video from one standard to another the algorithm throws bits away, so over time quality fails. Remember that’s before people even start putting it through editors. Editor software costs, and different brands have their own styles.
    Yes there are set, agreed broadcast standards and colour ranges and you always keep a original as filmed copy of your video.

    But changing present hardware is a financial investment and while at present OTT ( over the top ) seems to be winning and SVOD ( subscription video on demand ) is booming in many terotries. There are still linear broadcasts by satellite and aerial. People pay good money for market reviews and forecasts, but it is still a place your bets gambling game.

    All the above affects the medium of video before it even gets to the broadcast delivery hardware

  6. @cnxsoft
    so Live Encoding is hopeless without hardware acceleration..
    but for VoD services like Netflix, youtube they have cloud power it is easy to do on the encoding site

  7. This is from August 2017

    ” with AV1 expected to be released in 2019. As a result of what’s take place in the codec market, and with better quality video being demanded by consumers, content owners, broadcasters and OTT providers are starting to see a massive increase in encoding costs. New codecs like H.265 and VP9 need 5x the servers costs because of their complexity. Currently, AV1 needs over 20x the server costs. The mix of SD, HD and UHD continues to move to better quality: e.g. HDR, 10-bit and higher frame rates. Server encoding cost to move from 1080p SDR to 4K HDR is 5x. 360 and Facebook’s 6DoF video are also growing in consumption by consumers which again increases encoding costs by at least 4x. If you add up all these variables, it’s not hard to do the math and see that for some, encoding costs could increase by 500x over the next few years as new codecs, higher quality video, 360 video and general demand increases. ”

    Source ” https://m.slashdot.org/story/329535 ” .

    Remember because it is said, does not make it true.

  8. The sheer time that it takes to encode H265 and VP9, even on top end hardware makes it unlikely for AV1 to make a dent in the consumer market right now until the hardware capabilities catch up and can match the times that it takes for H264, which looks likely to remain the dominant codec for a while to come yet.

    But the advances being made will reap their rewards one day, so I do applaud their efforts.

  9. Don’t get too caught up in the slow encoding aspect. h.265 is painfully slow to encode without hard assist too. The answer is simple, chips for doing AV1 encoding will soon appear in the market after the standard is finalized. Google is promising free chip IP for doing this.

    h.265 support in chips is deceptive. If you buy a chip with h.265 support and solder it to a PCB it does not come with a license to turn on that h.265 hardware. The royalties for turning on the hardware are paid at the last stage of the production chain when the final product is ready for consumers. At that point those royalties may be upto $5 a device. Sometimes the royalties cost more than the chip does. But that is not the end of h.265 royalties. They hit Google/Amazon/Hulu again for a royalty when they encode their content. And the most militant h.265 patent holders are trying to force a per minute royalty on stream transmissions in h.265. All of this adds up to billions in royalty demands for a spec with only increment additions over h.264.

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