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Introducing the Industry’s Next Video Codec: AV1

Today’s announcement from the Alliance for Open Media is a big one for the industry. Today, after three years of collaborative innovation amongst many technology companies, the next generation video codec has arrived. Welcome, AV1!

AV1 is a product of the Alliance for Open Media (AOM). AOM was founded in September 2015 by Google, Mozilla, Cisco, Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, and Intel to create the next generation video codec for the Internet. We joined forces with them shortly after starting project Thor, having discovered that others were innovating in similar ways around new codecs.

Today, most of the Internet leverages H.264. While wildly successful, it is 15 years old and there have been many advances in video coding techniques since its standardization. In addition, new applications are driving the need for even higher quality, lower bandwidth video. The arrival of 4K TV — and beyond — is one of these forces. Another is consumer demand for extremely high-quality screen sharing, requiring crisp edges and high frame rates at the same time. New applications, like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) put even more demands on codecs.

Initially, many in our industry had put their hopes on HEVC (also known as H.265) as the successor to H.264. Unfortunately, the licensing conditions for HEVC have become cumbersome. There are three (3) patent pools formed so far, one of which has not published its pricing, and there are several patent holders that have not joined any of those pools. Considering only the pricing published to date, the minimum cost per-unit and the large annual caps have caused HEVC to become a non-starter for many products and projects beyond some high-end systems.

The newly released AV1 codec improves on the coding efficiency of current, widely deployed video codecs by 30% or more depending on the content.

AOM was formed to respond to these challenges and responded it has. The newly released AV1 codec improves on the coding efficiency of current, widely deployed video codecs by 30% or more depending on the content. This makes it suitable for the most demanding, high-resolution and frame-rate applications. It has built-in capabilities for screen coding and avoids the interoperability challenges of incompatible profiles. It is optimized for both streaming media and real-time, making it valuable across a range of applications. And, perhaps most importantly, royalty free has been a primary consideration in its design. All participants in the process, AOM members and adopters of AV1 alike, agree to license any of their patents applicable to AV1 on a royalty-free basis, and the codec was carefully designed to avoid technologies that would get in the way of the royalty-free goal.

Much work remains to be done before AV1 sees widespread deployment, including hardware and software implementation, optimizations for real-time operation, and interoperability testing — all typical for introduction of new video codecs. This will come over time, and AV1 will pave the way for the next generation of video on the Internet.



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18 Comments

  1. What is the difference between this and VP9 , the royalty-free codec from Google? Or is AV1 just VP9 , but rebranded for this alliance ??? Thanks Gonzalo

    • VP9 was the starting point; it was augmented with contributions from the participants (including many pieces of the CIsco Thor and Mozilla Daala codecs), yielding a result that improves upon VP9.

      • Thanks Jonathan, keep up the good work!

  2. This sounds a bit April Foolish.................

  3. Any idea when this codec will be supported by our endpoints and conference bridges.

    • Not soon. There is a long cycle until this makes its way into chipsets for hardware encoding.

      • Thanks

      • That's disappointing. There were blogs like this eight years ago around H.265, and it's implemented in a number of the current CE8/9 endpoints, but none of the bridging supports it. Please do what you can to accelerate AV1 adoption into both the bridging as well as the on-prem endpoint line.

  4. Hi Jonathan, excellent news !!! Although there is much to be done, AOM is formed by strong companies that are able to "make it happen" in a very fast pace ... what is your most optimistic date of AV1 adoption? PS.: AV1will take center stage at NAB 2018 (https://aomedia.org/the-alliance-for-open-medias-av1-takes-center-stage-at-nab-2018/)

  5. This is a great, positive step forward for the global video industry. That said, for those in the streaming & TV businesses, it's worth noting that HEVC currently has a big head-start when it comes to end-consumer-devices like 4K UHD TVs, for example. (Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing some clever demos at NAB Show in two weeks.)

  6. Didn’t Apple sign on to AV1 as well?

    • Apple is an AOM member, yes. You can see the members here: https://aomedia.org/membership/members/

  7. Hi , It is great that the Alliance for Open Media (AOM) was formed by Google, Mozilla, Cisco, Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, and Intel. Whilst H.261, H.263 , H.264 and H.265 is ITU standard, will AV1 be an ITU standard, especially for interoperability?

    • Something doesn't need to be produced by ITU to be an interoperable standard. In this case, the goal is an interoperable standard, but it was produced by this new alliance - AOM. There are no plans to send it to ITU for "rubber stamping" as is sometimes done, in order to get another body to approve a standard approved by a different one. Another example is the Opus audio codec which was produced by IETF and not ITU.

      • I read somewhere else that IETF is considering taking AV1 as its NetVC standard. How is that going? Thanks. Shawn

  8. sounds promising Jonathan - Thanks for the post and update!

  9. Hi Jonathan where we will find more details on this codec? for the first time i see major OEMs worked jointly. looking forward to get more details for implementation..

    • The actual spec can be found here: https://aomedia.org/av1-bitstream-and-decoding-process-specification/ This is still draft and the doc needs some work. You can find additional information at the AOM website.