Thursday, March 31, 2011

H.264/AVC vs. VP8: another view

The EBU BroadThinking event has been held in Geneva (CH), between 29 and 30 March. This year we have contributed to the session "What are tomorrow's web tools?" with a presentation entitled "H.264/AVC and VP8 performance analysis for consumer videoconference applications", as you can find here. The slides are available for download from here in pdf format, but only for the people registered on the EBU website.

Update (Apr.13th): the presentation is now available through Slideshare.

Let me copy&paste the abstract here for your convenience:

In this contribution we compare the performance of H.264/AVC and VP8 video coding formats for consumer videoconference applications for mobile or consumer terminals. For the H.264/AVC format we chose the popular x264 open source implementation of the standard, whereas for VP8 we used the libvpx software model that Google open sourced to the web community in May 2010. Since videoconference is strictly a low-delay application, both encoders were similarly configured avoiding backward temporal prediction that would introduce a structural delay in the encoding-decoding chain, and they were also set in constant bit-rate mode, using single-pass bit-rate control with target bit-rates between 512 kb/s and 8 Mb/s, constraining the allowed delay between 125 ms and 500 ms by properly limiting the maximum output buffer capacity.

Our test bed was not limited to evaluating video compression only, as in fact we considered the full video processing chain, including image acquisition. For this purpose we used a proprietary analytical model of a typical CMOS sensor, introducing the corresponding distortion and noise to 7 standard test sequences at 1280x720 spatial resolution. The sequences were then fed as input to the two software encoders, and then the decoded pictures were compared to the noisy source signals considering both PSNR (Peak Signal to Noise Ratio) and SSIM (Structural Similarity) measured on the luminance component. The simulation results demonstrated that the H.264/AVC and VP8 encoders have very similar performance: libvpx resulted somewhat better than x264 in term of PSNR (+0.16 dB on average) and very slightly worse in terms of SSIM (-0.005 on average). 

We would also like to compare the commercial implications of the two codecs, (royalties vs. Open source), and public visibility on reciprocal road mapping.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

VP8 hardware encoder

Last week the WebM Finland team finalized the first VP8 encoder hardware RTL design. The initial release, which they're calling "Anthill," is now available through the WebM Project hardware page.

Google does not require payment of any license fee or royalty in connection with use of the encoder RTL.

See the WebM blog for details about performance.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Warner to offer movies via Facebook

Warner Bros. Entertainment said it will start renting movies via Facebook, the latest effort by movie studios to find new revenue sources as consumers buy fewer DVDs and spend more time online. The first movie on offer is "The Dark Knight" the 2008 hit Batman movie. Warner's president of digital distribution, Thomas Gewecke, said the studio chose "The Dark Knight" as its launch title largely because it has already been "liked" by 3.9 million Facebook users.

The Wall Street Journal tells that studios can no longer count on DVD sales and are experimenting with new ways of earning revenue online. Last year, U.S. sales of DVDs totaled $7.8 billion, down 43% from their 2006 peak of $13.7 billion, according to media-tracking firm IHS Screen Digest. From 2009 to 2010 alone sales of the discs plunged roughly 20%.

See "The Dark Kinght" on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Microsoft to release Kinect SDK

Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, and Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, announced that the company plans to release a non-commercial Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) from Microsoft Research this spring.

While Microsoft plans to release a commercial version at a later date, this SDK will be a starter kit to make it simpler for the academic research and enthusiast communities to create rich natural user interfaces using Kinect technology. The SDK will give users access to deep Kinect system information such as audio, system application-programming interfaces, and direct control of the Kinect sensor.

Source: Microsoft Research.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Antitrust probe to MPEG LA

The Justice Department is investigating whether a group representing some top technology firms is unfairly trying to smother a free rival technology for delivering online video that is backed by Google Inc.

According to The Wall Street Journal's sources, the problems stems from the MPEG-LA creating legal uncertainty over the status of Google's VP8. "Antitrust enforcers are investigating whether MPEG LA, or its members, are trying to cripple an alternative format called VP8 that Google released last year - by creating legal uncertainty over whether users might violate patents by employing that technology," the sources told the WSJ.