Eagerly awaited across the tech industry, this week the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) has published the first complete version of the bitstream and decoding process specification for their royalty-free AV1 video codec. The release of the AV1 1.0 spec will enable backers of AOMedia to add support for the technology to their products or services, including taking the all-important step of finalizing the designs for the low-power hardware decoders critical for driving the codec's adoption. At least initially, AV1 will be used primarily for streaming video and user-generated content as an alternative to HEVC and its ongoing royalty disputes, but eventually adoption of AV1 may expand to other applications.

The AV1 open-source video codec was developed with 4K+ ultra-high-def resolutions, HDR, and wide color gamut in mind. Among the key features the new codec, AOMedia mentions a 30% more efficient compression algorithm compared to existing methods, predictable requirements for computational capabilities of hardware, and maximum flexibility and scalability. The backers of the AV1 want the codec to be ubiquitous across devices and platforms, therefore expect it to be supported not only by major chipmakers, software designers, and service providers, but also by leading makers of consumer electronics.

AOMedia does not disclose key technological peculiarities of the AV1 video codec in a short whitepaper form, meanwhile parsing through a 600-page bitstream and decoding spec for developers does not necessarily help to explain all the peculiarities of the tech in general. Therefore, I am going to limit technical details about the AV1 to a necessary minimum here.

On a high level, the AV1 is conceptually similar to existing codecs, such as H.264 or H.265. AV1 uses the same basic elements as various codecs have used for well over a decade: block-based coding, variable block sizes (up to 128x128 pixels), block motion compensation, intra-frame compression, forward-integer transform and so on. Meanwhile, since we are talking about compression algorithms more efficient than existing ones, it is natural that the AV1 has a number of advantages over contemporary codecs.

The AV1 performs internal processing in 8, 10 or 12 bits per sample precision, it also supports all three widespread types of chroma subsampling (4:2:0, 4:2:2, 4:4:4), and virtually all major color gamuts and formats (sRGB, BT.2020 (both 10-bit and 12-bit), BT.2100, etc.). The BT.2020 and the BT.2100 recommendations include support not only for 3840×2160, but also for 7680×4320 (8K) resolution, so the AV1 is technically ready for the next-gen monitors and TVs.

AV1 Profiles
seq_profile Bit Depth sRGB Gamut Support Chroma Subsampling
0 8 or 10 No YUV 4:2:0
1 8 or 10 Yes YUV 4:4:4
2 8 or 10 No YUV 4:2:2
2 12 Yes YUV 4:2:0
YUV 4:2:2
YUV 4:4:4

Speaking of displays, it is necessary to note that the AV1 was designed to be compatible with existing interconnections, such as DisplayPort, eDP, HDMI and so on. That said, the technology should also be compatible with contemporary content protection technologies.

The publication of the AV1 spec 1.0 is merely the first step towards adoption of the technology by the market. AOMedia expects content creation tools and desktop browsers to begin to roll out support for AV1 later this year. To ensure this, AOMedia released an unoptimized/experimental AV1 software decoder and encoder for use in software applications. Then, sometimes in 2019, the consortium anticipates select chips and programs to support the tech. More widespread support of the AV1 along with adoption by software is projected for 2020.

Speaking of adoption, the list of AOMedia members includes a variety of influential companies, including Apple, Amazon, AMD, Arm, Broadcom, Facebook, Google, Hulu, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Netflix, NVIDIA, Realtek, Sigma and many others. These companies either control huge ecosystems themselves, or develop chips that are used by hundreds of millions of customers worldwide. Their support will ensure widespread adoption of the AV1 in the next decade. In the meantime, AOMedia has already started R&D for the AV2, which is to succeed the AV1 codec.

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Source: AOMedia



View All Comments

  • bcronce - Friday, March 30, 2018 - link

    VP9 is used as the primary codec for Roku and Android for YouTube and Netflix. YouTube prioritizes VP9 for desktops, but Netflix does not. Desktops are no longer the primary way to consume streaming media. I would wager that VP9 represents 30%-50% of streaming video since YouTube and Netflix represent more than 50% of world wide streaming video and almost exclusively use VP9.

    h.264 and h.265 might be used for Blurays or 4k, but no one really buys those anymore. I get made fun of for being old and buying discs. I wouldn't doubt VP9 gets more man-hours watched than any other single codec.
  • bcronce - Friday, March 30, 2018 - link

    I just tried on my Samsung S7, Desktop Chrome, and Desktop Firefox, and I only found one video that used AVC/H.264 codec. All of the others where WebM/VP9. Netflix uses VP9 for mobile. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Saturday, March 31, 2018 - link

    It's cheaper and about one gen better. What more does there need to be? Reply
  • saratoga4 - Saturday, March 31, 2018 - link

    >The ONLY times it's used is on desktop browser in linux or other *nix platforms.

  • ZeDestructor - Monday, April 2, 2018 - link

    Well, given I get VP9 (and Opus) on my phone (hardly surprising, given it's Snapdragon 835), and on MSEdge (and Firefox, Chrome, Vivaldi and Opera), I would most certainly not say that "The ONLY times it's used is on desktop browser in linux or other *nix platforms".

    VP9 is out there, widely used, and never noticed. Just as it should be.

    Hardware used: GTX 670, GTX 1080 Ti, Intel HD 620, Quadro K2100M
    OSes used: Android 8.0, Windows 10
    Extra system software installed on Windows: Web Media Extensions, which according to the description adds the Ogg parser, Vorbis and Theora codecs. VP9 is natively supported since 1511
  • ZolaIII - Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - link

    Hire you go:
    Now you can record 4K H265 videos & it also works on much older & less powerful SoC's (from S810, S808, S650, S625... don't know about one's with Tensilica DSP's [HiSilicon, Exynos & most recent MTK]). Its a cure for what you're OEM never provided. Tho it's a paid up but I got it for free doing a promo period. 😝
  • ZeDestructor - Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - link

    My OP5 is perfectly capable of recording 4K30 video. All 30minutes a year of video I record. That I record in 1080p60 anyways because I prefer frames.

    Mind you, I still downloaded it to try it, but seems like no 60fps, so I refunded it.
  • iwod - Friday, March 30, 2018 - link

    May be I will have to go through twitter to have this done and corrected. But Av1.0 has not been released yet. Even if you click on the Spec PDF link it still say it is draft document. Apparently the PR and marketing team when on without even asking the engineering team. They wanted to report this about 10days before NAB Show. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Saturday, March 31, 2018 - link

    Hey! I recognize you from d9:) Reply
  • Lolimaster - Saturday, March 31, 2018 - link

    We are a time where future video cameras (from smartphones-drones to pro-cameras) should have a certain minimal quality certification for day/dark + HDR/10-12bits.

    Consumer win having actual quality video delivered to their new OLED tv's.

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