What is AV1 Codec and Why you should Care about It

In the public debate between Roku and Google, the AV1 codec has emerged as the main subject of controversy. The report says Roku is forcing it to release its streaming stick with AV1 support to reduce bandwidth costs but Roku is resisting saying it will increase consumer spending. So what’s so confusing about the AV1 codec? In this article, we have come up with a clear explanation of what AV1 codec is, where it is used, and whether the new codec is better than HEVC. So without further ado, let’s move on to the interpreter.

AV1 Codec Explained: What it means for online streaming:-

Here, we have explained the AV1 codec, what its main features are, whether AV1 can compete with HEVC, and much more. You can expand the table below and go to the relevant section with just one click.

What is AV1 Codec?

AV1 is a new video codec in the media industry that is making waves for its efficiency. It is a consortium formed by the Alliance for Open Media, which includes Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Mozilla, Samsung, and many other big players. The main feature of this video codec is that in the world of open source and royalty-free online media delivery, codecs play an important role. These two codecs were originally created by a group led by Samsung, General Electric, Dolby, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, and many more. In addition, these codecs are royalty-carrying standards and vendors must pay a negotiable licensing fee.

As we know, video usage on the Internet is growing at an alarming rate, so streaming companies need a royalty-free codec to reduce the high cost of online media delivery. And that’s why notable Silicon Valley companies have joined hands to bring an alternative to MPEG-4. Other than that, the best thing about the AV1 codec is that it is more efficient than the HEVC or H.264 standards. I have discussed the performance of AV1 and compared it with HEVC in the next section.

The Technology Behind AV1:-

The AV1 codec is based on Google’s VP9 codec. However, it adds more coding options for encoders that allow them to adapt better to different types of inputs.

To give a really simple explanation of the process that encoders use when encoding video with the AV1 codec, I explain it in layman’s terms. For starters, encoder partitions are frame-blocks of the same size of 128 × 123 pixels. These are called ‘superblocks’ and are divided into smaller blocks according to different patterns.

These patterns can be 4 × 4 T-shaped patterns that were originally created for the VP12 codec. These partitions are then measured and coded into a bit stream.

Decoders carry this encoded stream of information around and play it again with things like prediction, loop filtering, and film grain synthesis to create an output frame.

Ado Media Video(AV1) Specifications:-

The AV1 codec can currently support up to 8K in 120FPS video. However, it may increase in the future as more levels have been defined. By itself, the AV1 codec has three profiles for decoders, as well as multiple decoder levels from 2.4.

AV1 Profiles:-

As mentioned above, the AV1 specification has three profiles – main, high and professional.

The main profile supports 4:02 Chroma sampling at 8-bit or 10-bit depths. High profile supports Chroma sampling at 4: 0: 0, 8-bit, or 10-bit depths. Whereas, the professional profile supports 8-bit, 10-bit, and 12-bit depths and adds 4: 2: 2 Chroma subsampling.

AV1 Levels:-

A total of 14 levels within the AV1 spec have been defined so far. These layers specify MaxPicSize, Maximized, Maximized, decode rate, header, bit-rate, and much more for decoders – indirectly indicating the resolutions that can be decoded with the Amelia Video 1 codec.

Is AV1 Codec Better than HEVC?

For video codecs, there are two metrics that allow you to measure performance – quality and bitrate. If you manage to reduce the bitrate without affecting the quality of the video, you will get a very good data compression algorithm. In this sense, the AV1 codec is 30% better than HEVC in data compression. This means that for the same video quality, the AV1 codec reduces the bitrate by 30%, a significant reduction for online streaming companies.

Low bitrate means low bandwidth which reduces server costs for companies like YouTube, Netflix, etc. Companies need to store less data on their servers, and consumers can save data when viewing high-definition content. Note that the HEVC codec is not a leading player in online streaming, instead, Google’s in-house VP9 codec is used almost everywhere, including older versions of H.264. And if you compare H.264 with AV1, the gap will be much wider. AV1 is 50% and 25% better than H.264 and VP9 respectively.

That being said, not everything in the AV1 is pink and there is one significant problem that is preventing it from being adopted across the web. In terms of data compression, AV1 is much better, if we look at the time required to encode a video, it takes much longer than HEVC or H.264. Basically, exporting a video to AV1 code takes twice as long as HEVC / H.264.

This is mainly because the AV1 codec requires hardware encoding and currently, there are very few chips that support hardware-based AV1 encoding. On the other hand, HEVC or H.264 takes advantage of hardware-based encoding which significantly reduces processing time.

This is mainly because the AV1 codec requires hardware encoding and currently, there are very few chips that support hardware-based AV1 encoding. On the other hand, HEVC or H.264 takes advantage of hardware-based encoding which significantly reduces processing time.

So far, on smartphones, only a few SoCs support AV1 decoding. These include the Density 1000, as well as the Exynos 2100. So, there aren’t many smartphones that can decode hardware-based AV1, although the number is slowly increasing.

Meanwhile,  Intel has announced some of their top-end chips with AV1 encoding support, and AMDO has joined hands to bring mid-level chips with accelerated AV1 support.

Where is AV1 Currently Used?

Although AV1 has hardware decoding issues, several platforms, devices, and services have begun to support AV1 coding. This is primarily due to the significantly lower bit rates that AV1 requires for high-quality content compared to HEVC, H.265 or H.264 encoded videos. Let’s take a look at which devices, services, and platforms support the AV1 codec so far.

Conclusion (What is the Future of AV1):-

As more chipsets come with hardware-based AV1 encoding support, things will look better for AV1 adoption. We should not forget that the AV1 is quite a new standard. Development started in 2015 so for mass adoption, we have to wait another 2-3 years. After ARM integrates the AV1 specs into its SoC design, Android TVs, including Google TV, will begin supporting AV1.

Even low-end and mid-level chips will begin to receive support for AV1 decoding in the next few years. It seems that the future of low-bitrate, high-quality streaming is not far off. So, what do you think about the AV1 codec? Let us know in the comments.

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