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Google has released a new SDK for its open source and royalty-free VP8 video codec, promising faster encoding and improved video quality.

Mountain View has not changed the VP8 format, merely the software around the format. The new SDK is known as "Bali", and it's the second major update to the platform. According to a Google blog post, on x86 processors, Bali encodes 4.5 times faster than the initial V8 SDK release in "best" mode and 1.35 times faster than previous release, known as Aylesbury. Google likes to name its VP8 SDKs after ducks.

In "good" mode, Google says, Bali is 2.7 times faster than the initial release and 1.4 times faster than Aylesbury.

In addition to other improvements, the company has improved the use of multiple processor cores by reducing the overhead related to thread synchronization, and has made some multithreading optimizations on ARM. As a result, real-time encoding is 21 to 36 per cent faster than Aylesbury on the NVidia Tegra2 platform, while real-time encoding of video telephony is 7 percent faster on a single-core ARM Cortex A9, 15 per cent faster on a dual-core, and 26 per cent faster on a quad-core.

VP8 was originally developed by On2 Technologies, which Google acquired last year in a deal worth $124.6m. Not long after the acquisition, Mountain View open sourced the technology under a royalty-free license and rolled it into a larger would-be standard dubbed webM. WebM is now used in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, while Apple and Microsoft continue to back the royalty-encumbered H.264 video codec. Chrome also includes H.264, but Google has said it plans to remove that codec – at some point.

On Tuesday, Google also announced that it's working on a follow-up to Bali called Cayuga. Like we said: ducks. "We're calling this release 'Cayuga' in honor of our project's roots in New York state. Also because it's fun to say. Go ahead, say it: Cayuga," Google said. This is planned for release in the second quarter, and Google said it will again focus on encoding speed. ®

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