Netflix’s director of encoding algo-
rithms, Anne Aaron, said “Encoding
time, right now, is very, very slow.
... But I’m hopeful and ... I expect
the complexity to go down. Probably
around five to 10 times more com-
plex than VP9, that’s what we’re ex-
pecting. Or if it’s around that range,
that’s OK with us.”
These comments highlight several
key points. First, when your videos are
viewed millions or tens of millions of
times, as are Netflix’s and Facebook’s,
you can spend a lot more on encoding
if it delivers meaningful bandwidth
savings. So, what’s reasonable for the
largest scale publishers may not be
right for smaller publishers.
Second, we’re in the very early days of AV1
encoding, and running competitive trials now,
before encoders are at least reasonably optimized, is an almost-useless exercise. Over the
next 12 months or so, we’ll see a raft of comparisons; some that confirm Facebook’s findings and some that dispute them. None of these
matter until tests are performed on actual production software producing usable output in a
reasonable encoding time.
Basically, over the next 12 months, AV1 will
achieve the same reach as VP9, but may bog
down on older computers, and will cost orders
of magnitude more to encode, making it too
expensive for all but the absolute largest video distributors. It clearly won’t be viable for
live production or transcoding, or for any kind
of low-latency transmission, and without support from Smart TVs, STBs, or OTT devices,
high dynamic range video.
Moving down the cost factors in Figure 1,
AV1 is also a royalty-free technology, though
this doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges
from companies like Nokia or others that own
HEVC- or H.264-related IP rights. That said, suing AOM would certainly be a formidable task,
as its members include very many well-funded
and IP-savvy technology firms, and the group
established a defense fund in case a smaller
member or licensee is sued.
What did our survey respondents say? As
shown in Figure 7, interest in AV1 was the highest of all listed codecs (HEVC was addressed
in other questions). Whether this translates to
actual adoption, of course, remains to be seen,
but clearly for the vast majority of potential
users, AV1 is not ready for deployment.
Where does that leave us? Over the next 12
months, adding HEVC to HLS seems like the
most obvious move for large content producers.
In many, but not all, regions, this should deliver both improved QoE and significant bandwidth savings. As mentioned, if you’re already
producing HEVC for other platforms, adding
HEVC to HLS makes a lot of sense.
I’d like to believe that a significant number
of companies will deploy VP9 for browser-based and Android viewing, but this opportunity has been available for years with few
takers, and the coming availability of AV1 may
stall VP9 deployments.
As for H.264, it’s clearly not going anywhere.
Companies seeking to reduce their bandwidth
costs here should explore the savings potential
of per-title encoding technologies, which are
now available from almost all encoding vendors. Remember that while H.264 is tried, true,
and familiar, it likely is both reducing your
QoE and increasing your bandwidth costs.
Jan Ozer ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a streaming
media producer and consultant, a frequent contributor to industry
magazines and websites on streaming-related topics, and the
author of Video Encoding by the Numbers. He blogs frequently at
Comments? Email us at email@example.com, or check
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adoption according to
a Streaming Media