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Apple's Adoption Of HEVC Will Drive A Massive Increase In Encoding Costs Requiring Cloud Hardware Acceleration (streamingmedia.com) 203

An anonymous reader shares a report: For the last 10 years, H.264/AVC has been the dominant video codec used for streaming but with Apple adopting H.265/HEVC in iOS 11 and Google heavily supporting VP9 in Android, a change is on the horizon. Next year the Alliance for Open Media will release their AV1 codec which will again improve video compression efficiency even further. But the end result is that the codec market is about to get very fragmented, with content owners soon having to decide if they need to support three codecs (H.264, H.265, and VP9) instead of just H.264 and with AV1 expected to be released in 2019. As a result of what's take place in the codec market, and with better quality video being demanded by consumers, content owners, broadcasters and OTT providers are starting to see a massive increase in encoding costs. New codecs like H.265 and VP9 need 5x the servers costs because of their complexity. Currently, AV1 needs over 20x the server costs. The mix of SD, HD and UHD continues to move to better quality: e.g. HDR, 10-bit and higher frame rates. Server encoding cost to move from 1080p SDR to 4K HDR is 5x. 360 and Facebook's 6DoF video are also growing in consumption by consumers which again increases encoding costs by at least 4x. If you add up all these variables, it's not hard to do the math and see that for some, encoding costs could increase by 500x over the next few years as new codecs, higher quality video, 360 video and general demand increases.
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Apple's Adoption Of HEVC Will Drive A Massive Increase In Encoding Costs Requiring Cloud Hardware Acceleration

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  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @04:47PM (#54936145)

    Isn't that kind of the point? You optimize once and you save more on the other end since each playback device isn't wasting battery and bandwidth playing the less efficient version.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @04:50PM (#54936175)

      Not to mention VP9 and AV1 are royalty-free, so you can imagine hardware encoders being built into future devices and server GPU/CPUs for both of these.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @05:19PM (#54936415)

      Indeed. You encode once when the video is created or uploaded. Then you save bandwidth and decompression costs every time the video is downloaded, which may be thousands or even millions of times. I would expect this to put less load on the server hardware, rather than more.

      • by TheFakeTimCook ( 4641057 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @05:26PM (#54936469)

        Indeed. You encode once when the video is created or uploaded. Then you save bandwidth and decompression costs every time the video is downloaded, which may be thousands or even millions of times. I would expect this to put less load on the server hardware, rather than more.

        Exactly.

        IMHO, this article is scaremongering, or at the very least, written by someone who hasn't thought (or costed) the whole chain through.

        • by ddtmm ( 549094 )
          I'm surprised more people here haven't questioned the 500x stat. Seriously, 500x more processing-intensive? If that's even remotely accurate, which I'm positive it's nowhere near that, it simply will just stay H.264 until things get cheaper.
          • I'm surprised more people here haven't questioned the 500x stat. Seriously, 500x more processing-intensive? If that's even remotely accurate, which I'm positive it's nowhere near that, it simply will just stay H.264 until things get cheaper.

            That, and as another commenter said (paraphrasing) "What costs 500x today will cost 1.4x in a year."

            As I said: "Scaremongering".

      • It's probably not a problem for Netflix where most videos are viewed millions of times. But sites like youtube have a lot of videos that are almost never viewed. All of those still need encoding.
        You are probably right that the total load will be less, but it might be a shift in where the load is. If uploads are suddenly slower because there is a long queue at the servers that encodes the videos during peak times, uploaders may not like that. And they will surely not give a crap that google saves money some
    • You optimize once and you save more on the other end since each playback device isn't wasting battery and bandwidth playing the less efficient version.

      Pretty sure compressed content uses more battery than uncompressed content

  • The patent situation on h.265 is a total mess. Why even bother with it?

    • Actually, my question is: why does an OS have to make that choice for people? Is it not possible to provide more than one video codec on mobile devices? I could perhaps see the point of Google choosing NOT to support a format in which you need pay royalties, but why would Apple NOT choose to support a free format in addition?

      • by plague911 ( 1292006 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @05:08PM (#54936325)
        Because the company is run by fucking cunts.
      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Actually, my question is: why does an OS have to make that choice for people? Is it not possible to provide more than one video codec on mobile devices? I could perhaps see the point of Google choosing NOT to support a format in which you need pay royalties, but why would Apple NOT choose to support a free format in addition?

        People have bad experience on the iPhone because of poor battery life because of a poorly supported codec so people buy less iPhones. So Apple says only these codecs, providers comply because they have to, users get a good experience, everybody happy? Not sure if it passes a reality check, but I'm pretty sure that's the line of reasoning.

        • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

          People have bad experience on the iPhone because of poor battery life because of a poorly supported codec so people buy less iPhones. So Apple says only these codecs, providers comply because they have to, users get a good experience, everybody happy?

          Yeah, that's it. The iPhone's battery life if poor because of a lack of accelerated video playback... not because the phone is too thin to have a decent-sized battery...

      • by TheFakeTimCook ( 4641057 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @05:41PM (#54936573)

        Actually, my question is: why does an OS have to make that choice for people? Is it not possible to provide more than one video codec on mobile devices? I could perhaps see the point of Google choosing NOT to support a format in which you need pay royalties, but why would Apple NOT choose to support a free format in addition?

        Because when you are designing an SoC, and want to design-in a video codec subsystem, you generally only have the real-estate/budget to design-in ONE.

        I'm sure they support more formats for DECODE, but ENCODE is where the rubber meets the road, and Apple really DOESN'T "need" to support more than one ENCODING format on their PHONE.

        And a quick trip to Google allays my fears. Multiple formats are still supported for encode and decode; but the hardware preference is moving toward HEVC/H.265, which everything from the A8-forward for iOS/TVOS, and everything from 6th Gen. Intel-forward supports HEVC encode/decode in hardware.

      • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

        Actually, my question is: why does an OS have to make that choice for people?

        The same old usual, boring way: The OS maintainer says "Hey customers! We're including the libraries & paying the licensing so you can use [this codec]."

        Apple has a pluggable system for codec support in QuickTime - if you want VPx, Theora, Opus -- get the plugin, and the codec works. It's not unlike adding a codec in GStreamer. That said, you can only install the codec plugin on a Mac.

        For more special-purpose hardware (iOS and Apple TV), you can compile codec support into your app - VLC for iOS & t

        • 70-80% of all content uploaded to YouTube is in h.264

          YouTube transcodes everything to VP9 at their preferred resolutions and bitrates. The upload format doesn't matter.

          ~0.4% is 4k or higher

          VP9 outperforms H.264 [medium.com] at all resolutions.

          skipping VP9 entirely

          It wasn't skipped. The practical reality is that VP9 has been used for years.

          • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

            Being "better" has never been a sufficient reason to support a technology.

            The fact that most uploads to YouTube are in AVC shows that most of the cameras and editing software pushing video do not use VP9.

            The guys making the cameras and editing software don't see much reason to use VP9, and given AV1 is coming soon, it makes little sense to spend the time designing in support for VP9. H.264 works just fine for their purposes.

            VP9 is only "free" in terms of licensing. Every adopter will have to spend for Engin

            • Spending money to support VP9 for a few months makes little sense.

              It won't be for a few months. It will be a gradual transition from VP9 to AV1. You don't think Netflix is using VP9 [medium.com] for the fun of it, do you?

              • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

                And for those "months"in the transition, you can use AVC or AV1. VP9 isn't necessary.

                Believe me, customers will never notice the difference.

    • The patent situation on h.265 is a total mess. Why even bother with it?

      I encode video with h.265 every day. What's the problem?

      • How much do you pay in patent fees?

        • For content that is free to end users, none of the HEVC licensing bodies charge a royalty/content distribution fee.
          In general, personal use of HEVC with either software or hardware encoders is free.
          Unless you're distributing HEVC-encoded videos under a paid scheme, you're not going to pay any patent fees just for encoding videos.

          • none of the HEVC licensing bodies charge a royalty/content distribution fee.

            You don't know that. You don't know that because the third HEVC patent pool, Velos Media [velosmedia.com], hasn't announced their licensing terms. You don't know that because some companies, like Technicolor [technicolor.com], are not in any patent pool and you must negotiate a separate HEVC license with them.

            No point wasting time on HEVC's licensing mess. Just use VP9 now and use AV1 later. They really are royalty-free for all use cases.

    • by jonsmirl ( 114798 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @05:05PM (#54936305) Homepage

      What a mess now there is a third licensing pool for h.265...
      http://blog.streamingmedia.com... [streamingmedia.com]

    • The three - soon to be four - most recent generations of iPhones have hardware support for h.265 already built-in [appleinsider.com]. Apple has been using the codec for FaceTime for three years now.

      I suspect Google will support h.265 in addition to their own codecs. I mean, they talked a lot about removing h.264 support, but when push came to shove they quietly shelved that idea.

    • Because it's what everyone else uses.

      Unless you can trick smart phones with h.265 acceleration built inside it to look smooth and not smoother battery life then you be my guest?

    • 3 Reasons to bother with HEVC:
      1. Of the three next gen video codecs, it is the most mature. The number of hardware decoders and encoders for HEVC dwarfs that of VP9. HEVC beats VP9 in both size and quality in many applications, though they are close. AV1's bitstream format hasn't even been frozen yet.
      2. The patent situation is a mess, but it can be navigated. Not by most end users, but in general, most personal use of HEVC with x265 or your hardware encoder of choice is royalty free.
      3. HEVC has already been

      • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

        HEVC definitely makes sense for Apple:

        * Both ATSC 3.0 and DVB-UHDTV adopted HEVC as their codec; this means new TV's in North America, Europe, Australia, and much of Asia and Africa will soon have HEVC built-in. Sattelite TV uses a variant of DVB, so it's probable they'll use HEVC for 4k as well, Digital Cable uses ATSC in the US - so that will also likely be HEVC.
        * Blu-ray 4k adopted HEVC.
        * Most professional 4k cameras use HEVC, as do quite a few consumer cameras.

        There is a hard requirement for HEVC: TV

    • For Internet video there's not a great benefit to it. Of course, when it comes to broadcast, most of the major players already are part of the patent pool so don't really have to bother with paying the fee. Consider that companies like Sony, Cisco, etc... all are part of the pools and they're out there rambling on about standards and inter-op etc... and surprisingly most of their non-mainline encoders and decoders are not compatible with each other.

      As for internet and mobile phones, there's actually a huge
      • It's generally super-easy to implement or accelerate in hardware compared with Google and other open source or patent free codecs.

        And yet there's lots of VP9 hardware accelerated devices out there. Implementing VP9 hardware acceleration is clearly not that hard.

  • purpose built chips will make your "times X" arguments irrelevant, and they'll support any needed coding system

    • purpose built chips will make your "times X" arguments irrelevant, and they'll support any needed coding system

      Precisely.

      And if they can do it in a PHONE, they can sure as HELL do it in full-on GPU.

  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @04:48PM (#54936161)

    Apple means paying customers, so they have a huge weight on CODEC decision for the market.

    But there is one company much bigger than Apple when talking about video and that is of course Netflix. Whatever Netflix decides, companies will have to follow.

    • But there is one company much bigger than Apple when talking about video and that is of course Netflix. Whatever Netflix decides, companies will have to follow.

      I suspect that decision has already been made [dailytech.com]... indications are Netflix is going with h.265.

    • Not at all. A good example of this is Youtube actively adopting VP9 for what was at the time the single biggest source of data moving across the internet. Yet the hardware decoding adoption for consumers for VP9 stands precisely at 0%.

      Netflix can adopt whatever they want, but unless they screw their entire legacy customer base they will need to maintain compatibility with the old, and unless they want to be in a position where someone else wants to take their streaming crown (and every man and his dog inclu

      • Yet the hardware decoding adoption for consumers for VP9 stands precisely at 0%

        Intel has been shipping VP9 hardware decoding [techreport.com] for years. By default Microsoft Edge enables VP9 [windows.com] when hardware decoding is present (though you can override that to enable VP9 in software). VP9 is a standard video format on Android and many Android phones have VP9 hardware decoding.

        • It's only had full hardware support since Kaby Lake, so they've been shipping it for months, not years. Since Microsoft have decided that one's Windows 10 only, you need to be running that in order for VP9 hardware decode. So you need both the latest hardware and Windows 10... ugh.
          • running that in order for VP9 hardware decode.

            No. VA-API on Linux has had accelerated VP9 encoding and decoding [phoronix.com] for a long time.

            The need for hardware accelerated decode is overstated anyway. 1080p VP9 video from YouTube works fine in Firefox on an 11 year-old dual core desktop. My iPhone 7 plays VP9 video just fine in VLC for iOS.

        • Who cares about Intel and Microsoft and browsers? Only nerds watch Netflix on a freakin' computer. Normal people use set-top boxes and tablets.

  • I think it's far more likely that this would drive Google to add an FPGA on a card to some of their boxes if they don't already have one on the motherboard. That would allow them to adapt to any new codec out there. Crisis averted!

    • Yes, FPGA and DSP makers will make a killing on that. Dedicated transcoding chip makers, not so (they will have to pay for license for every codec they touch (unless they are Chinese))

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Google or Amazon could use cloud computing to transcode the video stream before it's sent to the mobile device. Problem solved.

  • by Jahoda ( 2715225 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @04:57PM (#54936233) Homepage
    New codecs like H.265 and VP9 need 5x the servers costs because of their complexity.

    H.265 encode and decode is baked into all hardware produced by the big three video card manufacturers.
    • And what video card do you think a Lights Out server uses?
    • baked into all hardware

      There's broad hardware support for VP9 [wikipedia.org] as well. The major CPU and GPU manufacturers are all members of the Alliance for Open Media [aomedia.org], so eventually they'll all have AV1 [wikipedia.org] support when it's finished.

      The licensing mess around H.265 makes it a non-starter. There are three separate patent pools you need to buy a license from (MPEG LA [mpegla.com], HEVC Advance [hevcadvance.com], and Velos Media [velosmedia.com]).

      No one can tell you what your final licensing cost will end up being. Velos Media hasn't even announced their licensing terms yet. Some companies, l [technicolor.com]

  • by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @05:10PM (#54936347) Homepage

    ..and with better quality video being demanded by consumers...

    Yeah, remember that meeting we all had last Spring? We all got together with our pitchforks and torches, rammed down the door to the codec people's house, and said, "Enough with H.264, already! Give us something better, dammit." That was a helluva time.

    • I think the studios got confused.

      Many people are demanding better quality movies instead of the crap that currently gets churned out by Hollywood. But apparently the studios think that means we want to see more of JJ Abram's patented lens flare in higher resolution.

  • The story summary talks all about the costs and nothing about the benefits. Less data to be served for high quality output could very well be worth the higher encoding cost.

  • Apparently the people that wrote this article think you'll be encoding media assets per request, instead of once per millions... otherwise what they are saying makes even less sense...

  • This is nothing but good news for AWS.

  • A nice shiny expensive new mac will get the job done just as well as your previous computer. Sure no ulterior motives there.

    As moores law comes to an end technology companies need new ways to invent sales. One is renting software. The other is making standards require more expensive versions of their products

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @08:55PM (#54937521)
    I remember in the 1990s when this new picture format called JPEG was being tested. I downloaded it and tried it out. It took a minute to decode a 640x480 picture in 24-bit color on my PC, compared to about 2 seconds for a GIF of the same resolution (albeit 8-bit). It took way too long on computers at the time, but the picture was beautiful and I knew computers would become fast enough that this was the future.

    Same thing with encryption. Old encryption standards typically aren't retired because they've been cracked. They're retired because a brute force attack against them used to take centuries or millenia, but computers have become fast enough that a brute force attack now takes only days or hours.

    MPEG2 with its horrible compression ratio became the standard for DVDs because at the time MPEG4 took too much processing power to be economically added to every DVD player. The same is going to be true for these newer video codecs. Initially they'll be computationally expensive, but within a few years they'll be tolerable. And after a decade it'll be trivial and we'll be looking towards replacing them with a new codec which takes advantage of more powerful modern hardware.
    • Ironically, patents are what killed gif and tif. The industry back then avoided patents rather than wanting to join them.

      Tif is expired now so if you have Windows 10 you can enable support in add or remove features?

      This move is coloboration to pick shitty tech to increase sales. Needing new Macs and shiny new phones help Apple and Samsung greatly!

  • New codecs like H.265 and VP9 need 5x the servers costs because of their complexity. Currently, AV1 needs over 20x the server costs.

    You encode the file once (which may well take 5 or 20 times the processor power) and upload to the server which will then save bandwidth and storage costs because of the smaller file size.
  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Thursday August 03, 2017 @09:24PM (#54937657)

    This Balkanization of codecs is a mess. Consumers, and developers, just want it to work. Let's see... I've got enough old DVDs and VHSs to watch for a decade... Maybe time to sit out this fight.

  • Let's for the moment pretend I know what I'm talking about regarding video technology.

    The author of this story seems to think that there's a correlation behind business and encoding complexity.

    Let's start with this. While H.264 and H.265 and AV1, etc... are all really cool, large scale content delivery systems tend to profit far greater from better use of core components of a codec than from improvements to core components of the codec.

    Let's consider things like improved motion search. Depending whether you
  • Nice clickbait-y headline, Dan. Despite the fact that the FIRST SENTENCE says "with Apple adopting H.265/HEVC in iOS 11 and [emphasis mine] Google heavily supporting VP9 in Android", the headline only mentions Apple. Gee, I wonder why that is?

    Hey, remember how happy we all were when Android overtook Apple in market share, and now they're several times larger? So wouldn't a more ACCURATE headline put the bulk of the blame on Google? Who, by the way, is ALSO a strong driver of video codec change via YouTube?

    A

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