RED is well-known as a proponent of 4K, and as a manufacturer of cameras capable of shooting at that resolution (and higher). It's also no stranger to the consumer 4K-viewing realm, a growing market in which the company's REDRAY streaming player competes. Now, RED has announced it has been working with YouTube to employ and improve the open-source VP9 codec for encoding of 4K media to select channels, as opposed to the comparably-efficient but legally-entangled H.265 (aka HEVC) codec. And, to kick off the party, RED has also opened up the new "Shot on RED" channel to host and aggregate RED-shot footage and films.
According to RED's Jarred Land (my emphasis):
We recently worked with YouTube engineers to enable 4K VP9 encoding, and we are very happy that all new 4k videos uploaded to select youtube channels will now be encoded with the updated VP9 Codec. You guys need to try it out, It is a considerable improvement.
To celebrate we are launching our own official Youtube channel " Shot on RED ". If you would like to be considered to have your footage in the channel spotlight email us at email@example.com with a link. Also, REDucation has been holding classes at the YouTube Space Los Angeles every other month and will be offering classes within YouTube's London, New York and Tokyo spaces later this year.
Here are some samples:
Peter Salvia, who works on the first daily end-to-end 4K (including distribution) YouTube series "YouTube Nation," stopped by the RED User thread to share part of his encoding workflow:
As far as best specs for creating a 4K YouTube upload, here's a link to my personal Adobe Media Encoder preset that we use on the show everyday... This is encoded on the server side to VP9 so I don't have a VP9 AME preset (yet).
Come to think of it, RED is also rather well-known for its compression -- shooters are likely familiar with the storage savings incurred by REDCODE RAW's novel wavelet compression, which in turn also makes the company's 4K REDRAY media player, and the .RED format at its heart, a feasible reality. Though users can encode for REDRAY freely, RED's codecs are important proprietary assets to the company's media ecosystem, so it's not surprising you won't be streaming .RED files to anything but a REDRAY. Then again, with VP9, why would you need to?
VP9 is an open-source codec developed by Google. As a proposed format to fill the role of "next-gen video" encoding, there's really no way around comparisons, and yes, even war analogies, to HEVC/H.265. Both H.265 and VP9 are said to be roughly equivalent in their efficiency at encoding video. This is around twice the efficiency of H.264, today's dominant delivery system of compressed video. In other words, VP9 and H.265 should reproduce the same quality as H.264 at half the bitrate -- or, allow double the resolution at the same bitrate. Contrary to a misconception I hope isn't very common, 4K or UHD is four times the resolution of 1080 HD, not double, because it is twice the resolution in both dimensions, horizontally and vertically. (3840 x 2160 = 8294400. 8294400 / 4 = 2073600. 1920 x 1080 = 2073600).
Even so, H.265 and VP9 are quite capable of making 4K streaming viable -- apparently Netflix streams 4K content in H.265 at a brisk bitrate of 15.6Mb/s. It's safe to therefore assume similar rates for 4K YouTube VP9 media. So what exactly is the difference, and why should we actually care? Despite a revision to its licensing agreement that ensures content creators will never have to pay royalties for media encoded in H.265, it's still a proprietary format which, I suppose, you're sort of "taking your chances" in using. (Who knows, the licensing agreement may change again?) VP9 is therefore a functional alternative which is also legally unencumbered, being open source and "royalty free."
VP9 still seems to be a work-in-progress -- in terms of encoders that support it, browsers that decode it and how well each does so, and the format itself, as demonstrated by RED's involvement here. Cinematographer Phil Holland also shared this set of plug-ins for encoding to VP9 in Adobe Premiere (in beta) by Brendan Bolles. Phil has done a lot of experimenting with VP9 on his own, and recommends playing around with FFmpeg for encoding directly to VP9 as well. Matters regarding VP9 (and surely, H.265) will likely heat up over the coming months, and it's nice to see a camera company lend a helping hand in ushering in an open-source 4K streaming future.
For more information, check the links below.