Feeds

Google open-video codec goes experimental

Branches code tree for formats future

Boost IT visibility and business value

Google has added an experimental branch to the VP8 code tree, encouraging developers to begin work on the next incarnation of its newly open sourced video codec.

Mountain View open sourced its $124.6 million VP8 codec less than a month ago in an effort to create a royalty free standard for web video, rolling it into a larger media format known as WebM, and WebM has already turned up in developer-build and beta browsers from Mozilla, Opera, and Google itself.

The VP8 bitstream – the format of the video itself – is fixed. As the encoder and decoder are tweaked, the project's main tree will stick to the same bitstream. But on the experimental branch, Google is already looking ahead to future versions of the codec, allowing changes to the bitstream as well. The experimental branch will house work on, say, VP9.

"To maintain codec stability while also allowing for quality and performance improvements in VP8, we have added an experimental branch to the VP8 source tree," reads a blog post from Google codec engineering manager Jim Bankoski.

"The WebM community can use this unstable branch to propose changes to VP8 that will produce the best video codec possible, but without the constraints of a frozen bitstream. At some point in the future, when the experimental branch proves significantly better than the stable branch, we will create a new version of the codec."

Google says that it already has teams of developers investigating and evaluating new techniques and that these teams "are committed to do so for the long term."

Though Mozilla and Opera have put their weight behind WebM, the two other browser vendors have not. Steve Jobs has indicated that Apple will stick with H.264, a royalty encumbered codec licensed by the MPEG LA. And though Microsoft says it will allows netizens to use WebM if they load it on their own systems, IE9 will only includes H.264 as well. Both Apple and Microsoft are part of the MPEG LA patent pool that backs H.264.

The MPEG LA has said its putting together a patent pool for VP8, which would challenge Google's effort to make the codec royalty free. In open sourcing the codec, Mountain View has also granted rights to the various Google-owned patents backing the technology. Google acquired VP8 as part of its $124.6 million purchase of video compression outfit On2 Technologies.

On YouTube, Google is already encoding larger videos with VP8, and various partners are working to provide hardware acceleration for the format. Bankoski says that these partners are committed to providing hardware based sometime next year. So the current bitstream will stay in place for at least a few years.

"Devices that use hardware acceleration for video are a very small percentage of overall web traffic today, but they are a rapidly growing segment of the market and our project must be mindful of these vendors' needs," he writes. "Given the longer lead times for changes in chipsets, hardware companies implementing the codec today need to be confident that it will be stable and supported as VP8 content proliferates." ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.