AV1: An Open Source Codec to Improve Coding Efficiency by 30% or More

Posted by Olivia Quinn to AV1, HEVC, Format Compare | Last Updated on Dec.4, 2018

Nowadays, pictures and words are far from enough to meet our needs of getting information. With the network bandwidth and layout development, we've experienced the times from small mobile screens to 4K TV screens as video has been a significant part of our life. And to process videos with great sharpness and clarity for less bandwidth, what HEVC and VP9 codecs are doing, comes before everything. But that's not enough, though HEVC improves compression ratio up to 50% compared with H.264, it still takes a lot of bandwidth. Thus, a next generation video codec AV1 has arrived, which claims to have a 30% bit-rate efficiency edge over the current HEVC and VP9 codec.

AV1 codec

What is AV1?

AV1 is a new open source video coding format designed for high-quality video transmission over the Internet efficiency without paying royalty fee. It's the first complete version of the bitstream and decoding process specification from Alliance of Open Media (AOM), constituted by tech giants like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Facebook, Intel, NVIDIA, Microsoft etc., which aims at replacing the current HEVC and VP9 on UHD or 4K video codec.

How is AV1 Different? What Can You Benefit from AV1?

Today, most of the Internet leverages AVC/H.264, and some 4K UHD videos has adopted the HEVC and VP9 codec, which represents the latest and most advanced system of video coding compression. However, comparing with AV1 codec, they're still undercompetive. AV1 uses next-generation compression technology that nearly improves coding efficiency by 30% over HEVC and VP9, thus leading a faster high-quality video transmission over the Internet. Better yet, it has no licensing fees, and anyone can decode and compress 4K video files without paying royalties. Even when the bandwidth is constrained, you can deliver higher-quality experiences to end user as well.

You see, AV1 is open, fast, royalty-free and featured with ultra high definition. To be specifically, according to AOM, AV1 codec is:

AV1 advantages

AV1 Codec Performance Over HEVC, VP9, H.264

To some degree, AV1 is conceptually similar with H.264 and HEVC codec, using the same basic elements: block-based coding, variable block sizes (up to 128x128 pixels), block motion compensation, intra-frame compression, forward-integer transform and so on. But with the more efficient compression algorithm, AV1 has a better performance over contemporary codecs.

Firstly, the AV1 performs internal processing in 8, 10, or 12 bit per sample precision, supporting three types of chroma subsampling including YUV 4:2:0, YUV 4:2:2, YUV 4:2:4. And virtually it supports all major color gamuts and formats, namely the sRGB, BT.2100, BT.2020 of 10-bit and 12-bit. Briefly, the BT.2020 and BT.2100 enable resolutions not only in 3840 x 2160 pixels, but also in 7680 x 4320 pixels.

AV1 Profiles

seq_profile

Bit Depth

sRGB Gamut Support

Chroma Subsampling

0

8-bit or 10-bit

No

YUV 4:2:0

1

8-bit or 10-bit

Yes

YUV 4:4:4

2

8-bit or 10-bit

No

YUV 4:2:2

2

12-bit

Yes

YUV 4:2:0, YUV 4:2:2, YUV 4:4:4

Then, AV1 produced the highest quality output, but you'll be waiting for a long, long time. According to the analysis from MSU, here is a chart about the codec comparison among AV1, HEVC, H.264, VP9 etc. You'll see AV1 produced the same quality as x264 at 55% of data rate, while x265 running in three-pass and two-pass Placebo mode at 67% and 69% data rate respectively. And VP9 is proved better than x265 two-pass mode using the Veryslow preset, which is what most producers actually use for delivery. As for encoding speed, AV1 encoder has extremely low speed, about 2500-3000 times lower than competitors. And x265 Placebo presets of 2 or 3 passes have 10-15 times lower speed than the competitors. But you need know that AV1 encoder hasn't been optimized yet, indicating that AV1 has quite a bit to go to make it widely used.

Also See: HEVC vs VP9, x265 vs x264, H.264 vs MPEG4

AV1 codec performance

Can You Transcode Among AV1, HEVC, VP9, H.264 etc?

With the release of the AV1 codec, you have more codec choice to transcode your video to, for better quality and obvious reduction of video size. However, it's not very popular yet and the previous versions of your devices are not friendly with the newly AV1 codec. So transcoding comes to be a problem in playing AV1 videos on various devices. MacX Video Converter Pro gives you a solution to transcode videos among HEVC, H.264, MPEG-4, MPEG-2 etc. at blazing fast speed and highest video quality. Free download it to make your videos playable without codec issue.

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What Does AV1 Codec Mean for You?

Well, it depends on who you are. For our ordinary users, the advent of AV1 makes 4K or higher definition videos better quality but in smaller size, shrinking 30% at most. You don't have to pay any royalty fee like HEVC codec requires. This also means that there won't be one or two AV1 encoders, but a great many ones to transcode AV1 like ffmpeg, MacX Video Converter Pro, Handbrake etc. Moreover, from the members of the AOM, we can have a glimpse of the impact of AV1 of our future life.

All browser vendors and large online streaming vendors are there, meaning you're no longer troubled by the problems like YouTube 4K failed to play on Safari, or iPhone recorded HEVC 4K video cannot be open on Windows platform etc., since all of them will adopt the same AV1 codec. Most of the significant chipest vendors are included, so that you don't have to worry about your CPU/GPU doesn't support AV1 tech or your encoders/decoders are incompatible with AV1 codec. Facebook is there and for the enterprise video conferencing vendors, AOM has Cisco, Vidyo and Polycom. You absolutely can upload AV1 videos to Facebook and facetime with your cooperators.

In short, AV1 innovation is driven by the entire video ecosystem. But there is still a long way to go, more widespread support of the AV1 along with adoption by software is projected for 2020.

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