Due to the scattered video format landscape and inconsistent browser and device support, many of the big players in the video space have attempted to develop standards to simplify the format space and improve upon video quality. ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) developed HEVC, introduced the VP9 standard. VP9 codec was developed with the intention of reducing bit rate by 50% compared to VP8, while having the same video quality. Another goal was to improve upon HEVC compression efficiency, while being open source and royalty free.
The image on the right demonstrates that areas with much fine detail are encoded more efficiently using small blocks, while areas with very little detail are stored more efficiently using bigger block sizes.
Development of VP9 video codec started in Q3 2011, and in December of 2012 the VP9 decoder was added to the Chromium web browser. In February of 2013, the first stable version of the Google Chrome web browser that supports VP9 decoding was released. This was added in version 25 of Google Chrome. As of August 2013, Google released Chrome 29.0.1547 with VP9 final support. In October of 2013, a native VP9 decoder was added to FFmpeg, and on November 15, 2013, to Libav. Mozilla added VP9 support to Firefox in December of 2013 in version 2 (scheduled for release on March 18, 2014).
While 4K video increases picture quality by making individual pixels smaller, VP9 codec and HEVC make them bigger to reduce the bitrate and file size. While this may seem conflicting, the encoding engine takes the larger pixels and turns them into a higher resolution output. Source video, consisting of video frames, is encoded or compressed to create a compressed video bitstream. Each individual frame is first broken up into blocks of pixels. The blocks are then analyzed for spatial redundancies and temporal linkages between frames are analyzed to take advantage of areas that do not change. These are encoded via motion vectors that predict qualities of the given block on the next frame. The residual information is encoded using an efficient binary compression.
As mentioned above, Google’s VP9 video codec is supported on Mozilla, and Google’s own Chrome browser. In addition, As Google announced that most major hardware vendors will soon support VP9 codec natively in their products. In addition, there will be support for YouTube to stream HD content up to 4K directly to computers, TVs and mobile devices.
These new hardware partners include ARM, Broadcom, Intel, LG, Marvell, MediaTek, Nvidia, Panasonic, Philips, Qualcomm, RealTek, Samsung, Sigma, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba. Native support for VP9 video codec across connected media devices, including laptops and computers, will be common by 2015 with support emerging this year. For most laptops and high-end mobile devices, hardware support is optional, as they can use a software decoder. For an optimal user experience, and the longer battery life, hardware support is necessary.
Encoding.com now offers VP9 video encoding. Please see our API docs for more details.
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