AV1 Codec – Ready for Production

The Alliance for Open Media is a non-profit industry consortium that was formed in 2015 with the mission of developing open, royalty-free technologies for multimedia delivery. Its creation was largely a response to the complicated and potentially expensive licensing and patent protection around the dominant MPEG standard codecs (mainly HEVC) and would be especially important for creators of UHD content requiring more advanced compression techniques. The efforts of the AOM became a reality when the AV1 codec was finalized in 2018, but even before that, Bitmovin had added experimental support and debuted the world’s first AV1 live stream in April 2017. 
As is the case with most codecs, it would still be some time before the rest of the OTT ecosystem would fully develop to make AV1 a viable production option. Hardware manufacturers had to wait for the final spec to be locked before designing their decoders and only then could their production cycles begin. This meant that it would be at least another year if not longer before AV1 decoding would be available on mobile and OTT devices. The data from Bitmovin’s annual video developer report illustrates this effect, with AV1 adoption rates still in the single digits for the first 2 years, followed by momentum building more recently toward broader usage.

AV1 Codec in Production_Adoption Line Graph_2018-2021
% of respondents using AV1 codec in production, source: Bitmovin Video Developer Report

In addition, 22% of those same developers indicated that they plan to implement AV1 encoding into their workflows through 2022 – surpassing predictions for h.265/HEVC (20% planned adoption) for the first time.
This is further supported by the rapid adoption of the codec by AOMedia members and industry giants. YouTube’s recent use of AV1 encoding for their most popular videos has been well documented and is an implicit proof point that AV1’s lower bitrates enable savings on storage and CDN that outweigh its slightly higher encoding costs. Netflix began delivering AV1 video to their Android app in 2020 and recently announced they are expanding their AV1 usage to deliver 4K videos to compatible TVs and connected devices. Given all of that, you could say that AV1 encoding is having a moment. 

Give Yourself the Gift of AV1 Encoding with Bitmovin

As mentioned, Bitmovin first implemented AV1 encoding in 2017 and has been updating and optimizing along the way, but we recently focused our efforts and have made some substantial improvements. With the release of Encoder version 2.100.0, AV1 encodings are 5 times faster than before, show approximately 30% higher quality than HEVC and VP9, and are significantly more cost-effective.

Video Codec Bitrate Ladder Quality Comparison_Line Graph
Video Codec Bitrate Ladder Quality Comparison

In the image above we have a comparison of the bitrate ladders and VMAF objective quality scores for H.264/AVC, VP9, H.265/HEVC, and AV1 encoding (2-pass) of the same video. For the 1080p variants at the top end of the ladder, we see roughly equivalent VMAF scores, all in the very good, 90+ range, but the bitrates required to reach that quality level:

  • 6.0 Mbps for H.264/AVC
  • 4.1 Mbps for VP9
  • 3.9 Mbps for H.265/HEVC
  • 3.1 Mbps for AV1

show AV1 as the clear winner. Even though it needed significantly less data than the other codecs, AV1 also technically had the highest VMAF score of all at 92.7. On average across all renditions, the AV1 had a 32% increase in compression efficiency over HEVC, as measured with BD-Rate.  
With that in mind, how can you give a tangible gift of a high-quality and efficient AV1-supported device to your friends and family?  By grabbing one of these great devices:

AV1 Compatible Holiday Gifts

Google Pixel 6 Pro

Google Pixel 6 Pro_AV1 Codec Support_Device Photo
Google announced their latest flagship Android phone lineup, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in October ‘21, which feature hardware-accelerated AV1 decoding powered by Google’s custom Tensor chip. The Pixel 6 Pro has a 3120 x 1440 OLED screen with a 120Hz Smooth Display and HDR support, providing best-in-class viewing capabilities for $899 and with the lower bitrates of AV1, more people than ever before can enjoy its full quality potential.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Amazon Fire Stick 4K_AV1 Codec Support_Device Photo
The most affordable item in our guide (on sale for $34.99 at time of writing), Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick 4K Max is an instant upgrade for older 4K TVs or even newer ones without AV1 support. Wi-fi 6 combined with lower bitrate AV1 streams make congestion issues and quality drops a thing of the past, ensuring you get the full 4K experience you expect. Plug and play with integrated support for your favorite platforms that are already encoding AV1 video…Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and definitely more to come.

Roku Ultra

Roku Ultra_AV1 Codec Support_Device Photo
The Roku Ultra also offers a quick and easy AV1 upgrade for your 4K TV at $99.99. With support for 4K, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos, it provides the premium viewing experience with clever new features like a built-in lost remote finder, and once you find the remote, it has a headphone jack so you can pump up the volume without disturbing the neighbors. The free Roku Channel has been adding new content and gaining popularity recently, so this could be the best budget-friendly option.  

Samsung Neo QLED 8K QN900A TVs

Samsung Neo QLED TV_AV1 Codec Support_Device PhotoAt the top end of our guide and Samsung’s 2021 lineup are the Neo QLED 8K TVs. With 4 times the pixels of 4K, AI-based 8K upscaling, and support for all of the HDR formats, the QN900A models are among the best of the best on the market. AV1 encodings have never looked better than on its edge-to-edge Infinity Screen. Pick up the 65” for a cool $3,497.99 or treat yourself to the 85” for $6,497.99.

What’s next in AV1?

*UPDATE – Feb 8, 2022* With the release of Encoder version 2.109.0, the Bitmovin Simple Encoding API now supports AV1 encoding! Click below to try it out in Postman and check the documentation tab there for more details.

Run in Postman

As production deployments of the AV1 codec become more widespread, Bitmovin is continuing to innovate, optimizing for both quality and performance, in addition to creating an automated testing suite with real-world scenarios and DRM-protected streams on multiple SmartTVs and connected devices. One specific development we can tease is that our Innovation team recently developed a new technique that is cutting the processing time of 3-pass encoding by an impressive 40%. If you’ve been curious about AV1, there’s never been a better time to check it out. It’s available for free in our trial with no obligation or credit card required, so sign up today and see for yourself!
AV1 is the next generation video codec and is on track to deliver a 30% improvement over VP9 & HEVCLearn about Bitmovin and AV1

More AV1 Resources:

 

Andy Francis is a Technical Product Marketing Manager at Bitmovin, mainly focused on the Live and VOD Encoding products. He has extensive experience working with live streaming and encoding workflows, from premium OTT services to user-generated content, and is passionate about spreading knowledge and access to streaming technologies.

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