January 5, 2014

Google's VP9 Gets Hardware Support, Poised to Be the Dominant 4K Streaming Codec

Vp9-logo-for-mediawiki.svg2014K Continues! When we last posted about the VP9 codec it was just beginning to threaten H.265 for dominance, but recent hardware partnerships with nVidia, ARM, Sony and many other tech giants solidifies VP9 as the next go-to HD and 4K streaming codec. Google's previous VP8 codec failed to win out over H.264, which was already massively adopted by the time VP8 showed up. However, with this announcement Google looks poised to win this round of the knock-down drag out codec war. Will VP9 succeed where VP8 failed? Hit the jump to learn more.

Google boasts a 50% increase in bandwidth efficiency with VP9 over its predecessor, the VP8. Almost all major hardware vendors will begin to support VP9 natively within their products this year, as well as enable YouTube to stream up to 4k to computers and devices. The list of new hardware partners is exhaustive and includes:

  • ARM
  • Intel
  • Nvidia
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Panasonic
  • Sigma
  • LG

TechCrunch reports that it was easy to sign partners up for VP9, as it is unencumbered by complicated licensing issues:

Google is also making the codec available for free, while hardware and software vendors who want to use the H.264 standard have to pay a licensing fee to MPEG LA (which then distributes it to the various patent holders).

For an extremely in-depth article, and an explanation of the video below, check out this post by Levan Chelidze.

The video was converted into different formats and bit rates, and you can see some of the results here, with all of them looking pretty similar as bit rates get higher (first is roughly 300Kbps for each and second is roughly 1000Kbps for each -- click for larger):

Tsahi Levent-Levi from BlogGeek spells it out Google's intentions in layman's terms:

Google is designing VP9 to be comparable in quality with H.265, sans royalty costs on patent licensing.

VP9 VS H265 and H264 Free vs Paid

via BlogGeek

So why does this all matter? One of the largest drawbacks with 4K is the difficulty to move it over the internet, so if Google's efficiency claims are correct, this will go a long way in aiding that. And it's free. It then puts Google into a powerful position going forward as 4K becomes adopted across more technologies over the next year. A demo at CES will aim to promote its adoption as a standard, despite technically being 7% behind its competitor H.265.

VP9 will be rolling out slowly over the next year, first to computers and then to TVs. For the codec-minded, please join the discussion below.

Links:

Your Comment

16 Comments

Crash Bandicoot video? Mistake?

January 5, 2014 at 3:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Cj

Crash Bandicoot is never a mistake.

January 5, 2014 at 5:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
avatar
Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

hehe

January 6, 2014 at 9:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

2
Reply

agreed

January 13, 2014 at 2:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

Italian broadcaster SKY is already using h265 for the first 4k test transmissions.

January 5, 2014 at 3:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
Tj

Dammit Google, get your tentacles out of my pants already... it's impossible to escape.

January 5, 2014 at 3:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

VP9 has been available via Chrome since September. One has to think that any modern chipset can handle multiple codecs. The real difference between H.264 then and H.265 now was that, when H.264 was approved back in ~ 1998-2001, the online streaming was nascent and the codec was designed for the hardware appliances (DVD/BluRay), only later spreading to the internet via the Adobe Player, Silverlight, QuickTime, etc. The interesting twist here is that of the new VP9 participants, many are also members of the MPEG that are responsible for the H.265/HEVC. I suspect hardware will still use HEVC while the online content will slide toward VP9 due to the royalty fees.
.
PS. There are other royalty free codecs in development. Even Google's own techs don't believe that VP9 is going to dominate for long, as it's deemed only an intermediary step in the codec development.

January 5, 2014 at 4:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
DLD

Micah, I read over the Digital Studio 7 test of the Bandicoot codec comparison video. The results are consistently "VP9 edges out H265". While interesting on a technical level, on a practical application, if there is no dramatic difference between the two, what it will come down to on a end-user perspective is ENCODING TIME. At the end of the linked test, there was this: "Encoding speed is still horrible on VP9".

If encoding speed is an issue when VP9 is widely implemented, I predict it will look much like USB vs Firewire / Thunderbolt. H264 is widely established, so moving to H265 makes sense. VP9 may perform slightly better, but it will be uphill to get people to use it.

As always, thanks for writing the articles. Cool stuff.

January 5, 2014 at 7:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply

The problem with V9 is that unless Apple support it, we're looking at the flash / no flash war all over again.

January 5, 2014 at 8:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

2
Reply
Colin B

Bu that's on the acquisition side. I suspect YouTube will allow all sort of formats to be uploaded and then do the conversion themselves. As I understand it, the processing power requirements on 265 vs. 264 are 9:1 in encoding and 3:1 in decoding. Of course, currently to watch a 1080p video on YouTube should only take 10%-15% of an average CPU.

January 5, 2014 at 9:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
DLD

I don't mean soley in the acquisition side. Without hardware decoders in everyday devices it will be hard to watch content. Interesting that at CES today all th 4k TVs announced for this year have hardware H265 decoding to watch 4K at 15Mbs.

January 6, 2014 at 11:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
Colin B

They're pushing for higher quality, much like the directly connected Blu-ray disc has a much higher bit rate than a streaming Full HD. Netflix streams at 3.5 Mbps on their "regular" quality and 6.5 on their "super high" quality but both are still deemed Full HD. With a 50% bandwidth economy, they can hypothetically stream 4K at as low as 7 but they'll probably go up to 15 if their clients demand it. Hastings said to be ready with a 20 Mbps connection for 4K but I reckon this will inch up bit by bit, as it were, over time.

January 7, 2014 at 7:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
DLD

Nothing is "free" in this life.

January 5, 2014 at 9:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

4
Reply
David

damnit nsa=google

January 6, 2014 at 5:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

3
Reply
kev

Micah, if what've I've seen quoted is correct (that HD youtube videos, for example, will only take half of the bandwidth of the current codecs, when using the VP9 codec), that means a 100% increase in codec bandwidth efficiency, not 50%. In other words, you would be able to send twice as much of a movie (ex: 2 hours instead of 1 hour) in the same amount of bandwidth.

January 6, 2014 at 4:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

1
Reply
Shenan

This article encouraged me to experiment with the encoding. FFMPEG is currently encoding to this format but it takes a really long time. Default settings yielded very poor settings so I am trying higher bitrates now.
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/20893128/convert-video-with-vp9-codec...

January 6, 2014 at 6:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

0
Reply
cee