Walking from stand to stand in hall 14 my first impression was that not much had changed from last year, but I didn’t need to scratch too deep to find some exciting new developments.
AV1 Poised to Launch into the Mainstream through Firefox and Chrome
For those of you who have been following the AV1 codec story since the beginning, you could be excused for feeling a little impatient. Since the Alliance for Open Media was formed back in 2015, there have not been too many highlights. The long awaited code freeze finally happened earlier this year, several major chipset manufacturers have announced hardware support in their roadmaps, although they won’t be shipping until 2020, and of course the latest version of our our own Bitmovin Encoder now offers AV1 encoding out-of-the-box, for both VOD and live/linear applications. But apart from that there was not a lot of hype around the most advanced video codec on the market at IBC 2018. This is likely to be because there is still no way to deliver AV1 to the market. It’s not supported by any browsers, or frameworks, so right now, it’s virtually unusable.
But that is just about to change. According a Mozilla team member who was at our booth to help present a talk on the AV1 codec, both Google Chrome version 70 and Mozilla Firefox version 63 (both due for release this December) will support AV1 decoding. I have since done a little reading through release notes and this definitely seems to be the case – https://www.chromestatus.com/feature/5729898442260480. This means that by the end of the year over 50% of desktop and mobile users will be able to play AV1 with a simple version update of these popular browsers.
With a 60% efficiency improvement over the widely deployed H.264 codec as well as significant performance increases over the VP9 and HEVC advanced codecs (up to 40%), AV1 is good news for everyone. In places with good bandwidth, quality will go from good to great. And in areas with poor internet it will open up new markets by making video accessible.
Quality, Efficiency and Usability
Another theme that stood out amongst the usual noise of marketing jargon was that of Optimization. Optimization of quality, optimization of efficiency and optimization of integration times and flexibility. There seems to have been a clear evolution past the “how do we do it?” phase, where we were all racing to overcome challenges like playing 360° video on iOS, or delivering comprehensive multi-DRM solutions. Now the industry is racing to deliver the same solutions, but at lower costs while delivering a better user experience.
Per-Title Encoding is a good example of this type of optimization. It does not add a new product or feature, but improves on an existing one. By adjusting the bitrate ladder to fit a specific video title (or asset), it saves bandwidth and improves visual quality. Quality enhancement and efficiency has been one of the major themes driving the Bitmovin roadmap for some time. You can read more about our offerings in this area here; Quality and Bandwidth Optimization with Advanced Video Streaming Techniques.
The Rise of AI in Video
It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s on the way. There was a clear increase in the number of AI (mostly machine learning) offerings. Most of them revolved around advertising and content identification, where the AI component is used to recognize specific types of content, or events within the content. Looking further ahead I expect we will see more applications that relate to further optimizing workflow, such as big data analysis. An exciting application here is the predictive bitrate modelling outlined in our own research and development Video Analytics roadmap.
Looking Towards IBC 2019
Next year it seems likely that we will see more of the same. A focus on optimization rather than new products or features. As mentioned above, AI will very likely have a much bigger impact next year, and most likely in the area of optimization, whether it is ad revenue or workflow efficiency. AV1 is one of those optimizations and I think it’s a safe bet that by next IBC, AV1 will be streaming to millions of users all over the world and almost certainly being delivered via a multi-codec workflow.
If you missed us at IBC, it’s not too late for a tour through our demonstration site. Reach out to our solutions team at any time.