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Google's VP9 vs HEVC, 4K Codec War Heating Up

Posted by: , 10:07 AEDT, Sat January 4, 2014

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Google puts forward its VP9 codec as a contender for 4K streaming, announcing it will use the open source codec to stream YouTube Ultra HD clips
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A new 4K format war is brewing between the Google backed, and open source VP9 codec and the official successor to the industry standard H.264 codec, HEVC.

HEVC, or H.265, has already been selected by Netflix to deliver its 4K based content and is seen as the natural successor to the ubiquitous H.264 codec. However, both H.264 and H.265's unclear royalty situation has meant that its use has met with resistance amongst the open-source software community, particularly in relation to H.264's use within HTML5.

Google sought to offer an alternative solution when it released its WebM video format, but it did little to settle the divide between the two sides, mostly due to the format's lack of hardware partners. 

And now, Google has initiated the next round in the codec wars by signalling their intention to use their VP9 codec to deliver 4K content on YouTube. This time though, Google has brought in the heavy guns in support, with LG, Panasonic and Sony set to demonstrate YouTube Ultra HD clips at their CES 2014 booths. 

An impressive list of partners for VP9 also includes the likes of ARM, Intel, Mozilla, Nvidia, Philips, Qualcomm, Realtek Semiconductor, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba.

Despite the public backing of VP9, YouTube has not ruled out supporting HEVC for its Ultra HD videos. "We are not announcing that we will not support HEVC," said Francisco Varela, YouTube’s global head of platform partnerships.

Both VP9 and HEVC will offer almost twice the efficiency of H.264, currently used for YouTube HD videos and Blu-ray, thus allowing 4K Ultra HD streams to be transmitted without requiring four times the bandwidth of HD streams.


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