AV1 codec: what it is, why it is important and which devices support it

And codec it is a component that deals with the digital encoding and decoding of a signal. Each codec contains the “recipe” for the data compression and subsequent decompression, with or without loss of information (algorithms lossy e lossless). Codecs are used not only for video compression but also to manage music streams and to compress images, texts, documents and so on. The codec AV1 is an open source video compression standard designed to improve efficiency in video compression. It is developed byAlliance for Open Media (AOMedia), a consortium of companies that includes, among other names, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Cisco, Intel, Mozilla and others.

A few words on the use of codecs in the multimedia sector

If in the case of multimedia streams it is possible to sacrifice a little quality in exchange for a lower occupation of the network bandwidth and lighter files to store and manage, in the case of well-known formats such as Zip, 7-Zip, RAR,… no losses can be introduced (they are all trained lossless), otherwise the integrity of the data itself would be compromised.

We have seen that changing the format of photos and images allows us to obtain more or less lightweight files, often more suitable for insertion in a Word document or easier to send via email.

Likewise, being able to transfer multimedia content with a codec efficace it is useful for everyone and in particular for those who disseminate that content: think of television networks and the various platforms streaming online.

Il DTT Europen remains anchored to the use of the H.264 (AVC) codec; only with the future adoption of the DVB-T2 i broadcaster they will be called to embrace the codec H.265 (HEVC). On the satelliteHowever, thanks to DVB-S2, quality content with 4K UHD resolution is disseminated using it HEVC.

However, it is the streaming platforms that can and must necessarily update themselves using increasingly effective codecs. We have briefly seen the differences between H.264 AVC and H.265 HEVC. From 2018 to today, when the initial version was published, the most recent codec AV1 has received great interest from the entire industry.

AV1 codec: what it is and how it works

Proposed by a consortium of companies (AOMedia) made up of “big guns”, the AV1 codec is open, royalty-free and designed for the transmission of content via the Internet.

We have seen how much bandwidth is needed for online streaming: well, by improving the codec you can transfer better content quality taking up even less banda. By acting on the bitrate it is then possible to regulate the “richness” of information transferred in the unit of time, here too with direct consequences in terms of bandwidth occupation.

Netflix has thrown itself headlong into AV1 support, starting its use on Android as early as February 2020. From around November 2021 the stream AV1 were used by Netflix on smart TV compatible. Netflix and Intel have in fact repeatedly reiterated that AV1 allows the required bandwidth to be halved without penalizing quality.

Support for AV1 codec

Needless to say, i browser are among the first to have embraced AV1: Chrome has supported the codec since October 2018 and since April 2021 it also integrates a encoder; Firefox has embraced the AV1 codec since May 2019 with software decoding, since May 2022 with support for decoding in hardware. Un multimedia player very famous as VLC has adopted AV1 starting from release 3.0.

Currently, the browser Edge does not support AV1: Microsoft said it is working to fix the problem. On the other hand you can try to play this AV1 encoded content: in Edge it does not appear, in other browsers it does.

In Windows 10 e Windows 11 AV1 support can be introduced by installing AV1 Video Extension from the Microsoft Store.

The new ones SoC Apple M3 support AV1 content decoding; The iPhone 15 Pro e iPhone 15 Pro Max they in turn integrate an AV1 decoding module integrated into the hardware.

The Android 14 compatibility definition makes AV1 support mandatory; the chipset Snapdragon 8 Gen 2widely used in 2023 smartphones, also involves the use of AV1.

Google presented AOM-AV1

Among the most active supporters of the AV1 codec, as we have said, there is obviously Google which continues with the continuous updating of AOM-AV1 to further improve the performance del codec.

The latest versions of AOM-AV1 are much more efficient when used with multi-threaded processors and significantly reduce encoding times depending on the resolution of the source. Tests showed a 34% reduction in coding time on a CPU with 16 or more threads.

Performance is 30-34% better for videos up to 1080p while for 4K resolutions there is an evident reduction in encoding time of 18-20% using a 32-thread CPU.

The GPU Intel Arc and NVIDIA cards GeForce RTX Series 40 support hardware encoding and decoding with AV1. In the meantime, Google is working “behind the scenes” to give a strong boost to the diffusion of AV1 at all levels, including streaming platforms.


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