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Google Technology

Google Discontinues On2 Flix Engine Video Encoder 56

Posted by timothy
from the save-us-obi-wan-kenobi dept.
trawg writes "Google have recently discontinued sales of the Flix Engine, the last remnants of the purchase of On2 that they were selling directly to users. On2, developers of the VP8 video codec that formed the basis of their new WebM video format, was bought by Google early in 2010. The Flix Engine was a comprehensive API for Windows and Linux that allowed integration of On2 encoders directly into any software product. While you can still buy some On2 products from another company, it's not clear what effect this will have on Google's ultimate video strategy."
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Google Discontinues On2 Flix Engine Video Encoder

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  • by a Flatbed Darkly (1964478) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @01:50PM (#34666362)
    However large/successful/influential a company is, one must always take into account whether or not the product in question is actually necessary. Codecs are a flooded market.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @02:03PM (#34666426)

      Yes, but WHY are codecs a flooded market? Because every maker of some kind of crappy hardware thinks it's a spiffy idea to create its own proprietary format(s) that only their own products may used and can be compatible with, in an attempt to lock-in potential customers.

      It's especially damaging to market transparency when it's done by makers of hardware. You can already see it happen where certain (cheap) video equipment can only export what you record with it in a "special" format so only the "special" software from the maker can work with it and only the "special" DVD player from them could play a DVD made with it.

      It's not that we need fewer formats. What we'd really need is fewer of those lock-in formats that serve no purpose but to force people to buy overpriced, unnecessary hardware because they have no choice.

      • by sirsnork (530512) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @02:17PM (#34666492)
        FInal Cut Pro comes with an Apple encoder and thats the default format it saves in. Unfortunatly you can't get he codec (even for decoding) seperately from FCP, so the only way to read a Final Cut Movie without it being reencoded is by buying FCP.. and thats Mac only.... Apple don't even release the decode codec for the Apple platform. I discovered this a little while ago and was reminded just how much lock in Apple goes for.
        • Borrowed a video camera from people in another department, but it's firewire output was borked. They then went to dump the tape for me. I got asked at least 4 times if ProRes was ok and said "no we aren't Mac, I edit in Vegas it reads native files, HDV format please." What did I get in the end? ProRes. Of course Vegas can't read that because, as you noted, Apple doesn't release it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          http://support.apple.com/downloads/Apple_ProRes_QuickTime_Decoder_1_0_for_Windows
          http://support.apple.com/downloads/Apple_ProRes_QuickTime_Decoder_1_0_for_Mac

          You're welcome.

        • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday December 25, 2010 @03:07PM (#34666658)

          Apple's codec is not necessarily the default - you get to choose what format you want your timeline to use, and what format you want an export to use (either self contained or reference).

          Back when I was doing it professionally, we were using sony's xdcam HD format right in fcp, since we were shooting on HD xdcam gear. We also had a small group of Sony z1's that shot in HDV for little projects.

          We never used apple's pro res codec, and were never forced to. If you want fcp to work in a heterogeneous editing environment then it is easy to do from a format perspective - it supports many common professional formats, as well as its own prores codec, that you do not have to use if you don't want. Even if you somehow don't pay attention and get stuck with something in that format you can use compressor to convert it into something else. Just take the generation loss as a penalty for not paying attention to what formats you were using.

          • by slaingod (1076625)

            The issue is that agencies and their creative teams aren't on the same page. Not too long ago, I was asked why my video processing code wouldn't work with iCompany's video. I asked for the video they were trying to upload, and it was a 750MB Pro Res two minute clip for a pep-club musical tv show. Trying to explain to iCompany that their own Pro Res format was only supported in their program and that they needed to get us a more standards compliant version was a two day ordeal.

            • by jo_ham (604554)

              What creative professional is making that mistake? I would wager that whatever tool you put them in front of, if they are that dense then it wouldn't matter. You're skirting dangerously close to inferring that people who use FCP are clueless.

              FCP's export toolchain features a whole raft of presets designed for all manner of output scenarios. You can even add WMV as an option with third party codec packs (it's not included by default). If they've just never opened Compressor before then why are they even work

              • by slaingod (1076625)

                Lol, I'm not 'skirting close to anything'. If anything I am saying that agencies or people that perform the agency function at companies are clueless. I mean seriously, who tries to upload a 750MB Pro Res clip to Facebook and then throws a fit when it doesn't work, and takes 2 days to manage getting a more appropriate format despite the fact that FCP is made by their own company? Oh right...they do.

                I am sure the editor who made the clip was very capable, despite the Gleeful subject matter, but that doesn't

                • by slaingod (1076625)

                  I am exaggerating to some extent on the 'throwing a fit' aspect too. It just was an issue that got thrown in my lap with a 'make it work' directive, and there wasn't anything I could really do about it.

        • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday December 25, 2010 @03:57PM (#34666872)

          The codec is available for both Mac and windows on apple's site. Yes, a true example of "lock in".

      • by Sancho (17056) *

        Yes, but WHY are codecs a flooded market? Because every maker of some kind of crappy hardware thinks it's a spiffy idea to create its own proprietary format(s) that only their own products may used and can be compatible with, in an attempt to lock-in potential customers.

        It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the reason for this has more to do with patents than NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome. If a company thinks that they can create their own codec less expensively than licensing, they'll do it.

        • There is a codec that cannot be replaced with another of similar properties where no GPL/BSD variant exists? Which one would that be?

          • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Saturday December 25, 2010 @07:26PM (#34667740) Journal

            MP4. I had the "pleasure" of helping several customers on the run up to Xmas learn how to convert videos with this proprietary app or that, because apparently little PMPs were being pushed on sale at several retailers and everyone bought them for stocking stuffers. Nearly all were just using some funky format as a wrapper to help cover the fact they were using MP4. Since IIRC the chip that decodes MP3/MP4 is actually dirt cheap but the licenses to MP4 are not these company use funky formats to try to cover up their lack of a license.

            I don't know of any BSD/GPL codec that will decode on those dirt cheap MP3/MP4 chips you get on those little PMPs, and it isn't like they have enough native CPU to decode anything that it doesn't have a chip for. Meh at least they don't make you convert the music into funky formats anymore. Either the license for MP3 must be dirt cheap or nobody gives a fuck about the license anymore, because they all had built in WMV, WAV and MP3 support, followed by whatever funky format they used for MP4.

            Of course the big "gotcha" with the BSD/GPL codecs is that MPEG-LA has over 2000 patents that pretty much cover everything one has to do to get video to go from a file on a medium to a picture on a screen, so unless the guys in charge of Vorbis and Theora are willing to sign a contract saying they indemnify users of their codecs (which I doubt they would) then you are no more safe than if you just used MP4 or H.264 without a license. I'd say the only reason the guys making those codecs haven't been sued already is that no major OEMs have been pushing those formats in a popular PMP. If someone like Best Buy or Walmart were to release their own branded PMP that used those formats and took off I have NO doubt the excrement would hit the bladed cooling device. As it is now MPEG-LA simply can't be bothered to raise a stink and stir up bad will over such a tiny niche.

            • by arose (644256)

              Of course the big "gotcha" with the BSD/GPL codecs is that MPEG-LA has over 2000 patents that pretty much cover everything one has to do to get video to go from a file on a medium to a picture on a screen

              Or so they would want everyone to believe. [xiph.org] They might have over 2000 patents stuffed into the standards but that is altogether different.

    • by trawg (308495)

      (Disclaimer: I'm the submitter. I've used the Flix Engine and other On2 products as part of our video encoding pipeline; I have been encoding videos as a part of my job ~6 years so have some experience with the range of software available.)

      Flix Engine was for me a necessity, basically because it let me build command-line encoding tools that I could use reliably in automation, with the following benefits:

      - On2/Google are MPEG-LA licensees, so I could use it without having to worry (too much, anyway) about pa

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Since you're clearly not married to a mainstream codec, what's stopping you from using Theora?

        • by trawg (308495)

          We are married to a mainstream codec really - we're stuck using h264 as we need to encode for the web and mobile devices.

          One of the big reasons for going with Flix Encoder was that it also supported WebM, with the (now reduced) hope that Google would get behind WebM in a major way and it would get everyone off h264.

  • Sales must have been really unexciting for them to do that.

    It would be totally unsurprising(and seems to be standard industry practice in general) to put any products that you've acquired but have no strategic in more or less on ice, cutting engineering down to bare minimum critical bug fixes and selling on a more or less "only if you ask" basis, rather than actually marketing.

    Actually killing a product, though, when all you need to do to keep selling it is maintain some minimal licensing and payment
    • by devxo (1963088)
      Google didn't buy On2 for their business and software, they bought them for their technology and patents.
      • I realize that and fully expected them to take any actual products and either OSS them(if that served a strategic goal in terms of driving WebM adoption) or put them on life support, with essentially no further development and only bare-minimum sales and support.

        I'm just a bit surprised that there were products that didn't fall into either of those camps. Google has considerable expertise in low-cost file distribution and sells a few other pieces of software, so I would have expected the marginal cost of
    • by EXMSFT (935404)
      First, as the other comment said - On2 wasn't bought for products. It was bought for technology and people. Google's motives should be clear with the WebM open source version of On2's VP8 codec. Second, you're trivializing the cost and complexity required to keep a product alive and supported. It's not just leaving a product in the channel to blossom. It has to be supported, patched, and updated - and the products sold by On2 were not logical for Google to continue selling as they were - but the technology
      • by hedwards (940851)
        Indeed, you can keep selling a product without support or patches for future OS releases, but in practice few people are willing to pay for that.

        Probably the best case scenario would be how Blender was handled. It's not generally that useful to sell old software that's not being updated or bug fixed.
        • Indeed, you can keep selling a product without support or patches for future OS releases, but in practice few people are willing to pay for that.
          Sure you might not sell very many but those stuck with the software and in need of more licenses will be very glad they could get them. Is having a list of licenses that you will sell to anyone who asks but won't market in any way really that expensive?

          Why do we tolerate a software industry that locks customers into products and then leaves them high and dry when a

    • by Animats (122034) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @03:17PM (#34666696) Homepage

      Google sells very little, other than advertising. If they sold something for money, customers would insist on support. Almost the only thing Google sells directly to customers is the Google Search Appliance, which is available as a 1U or 4U rackmount server. The low-end version, the Google Mini, is sold with no support and a two-year replacement warranty. After two years, you're supposed to replace the entire unit. Google tried selling phones directly, and that lasted only for five months of 2010.

      So it's not surprising that Google would drop a commercial software product. They don't sell any.

      • by dubidub (23742)
        They sell Google Earth Pro and Google SketchUp Pro.
      • by trawg (308495)

        Their support for Flix Engine was limited to FAQs, documentation, and a couple of their developers working on the project (possibly former On2 employees?) on the mailing list. I am on the mailing list and the developers are very quick to respond; it is usually pretty low volume so I don't think the support burden was a really big deal for them considering what it gave them.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday December 25, 2010 @03:50PM (#34666830)

    it's not clear what effect this will have on Google's ultimate video strategy.

    For that matter, Google's ultimate video strategy is unclear, quite possibly because they don't actually have one. Google is investing big money in lots of technologies, presumably hoping that one or more of them will become the "next big thing" when advertising is no longer the cash cow for them that it is now.

    • For that matter, Google's ultimate video strategy is unclear, quite possibly because they don't actually have one.

      The reasons behind buying On2 were obvious, it was to get out from under the thumb of MPEG-LA and it's constituents, many of whom are actively working against Google.

      The payoff just from eliminating MPEG licensing would be huge for YouTube. Greater profit by lowering costs, raising revenue is not the only or necessarily best method of increasing profitability.

      Apart from that their video

      • Apart from that their video strategy is clear, provide advertisement (which is revenue on planet Google) whilst not providing content.

        That's their immediate strategy. I'm talking longer-term here ... it's pretty obvious from the way Google has been creating and releasing products that they're looking for a. more ways to gain eyeballs for advertising and b. other ways to make money. Same goes for Microsoft, for that matter: both are basically one-trick ponies that would like to have a few more up their respective sleeves.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          googles long term policy to most companies has been to buy them to recruit the people working in them and then kill their inhouse projects and axe the whole thing. it doesn't sound smart or logical, but that's the way they're doing it.

          • googles long term policy to most companies has been to buy them to recruit the people working in them and then kill their inhouse projects and axe the whole thing. it doesn't sound smart or logical, but that's the way they're doing it.

            In other words, it's the same corporate policy followed by most large tech companies. Microsoft has always operated in much the same way (they're perfectly happy to steal the work and put the company out of business.

    • With the discontinuation of the Flix engine, this marks the end of support for a Flash 8 codec. I imagine a few Wii owners that use Flash 8 to serve their media library will be largely apathetic.

      I also doubt Nintendo will contract Opera to support WebM (VP8/vorbis), but one can hope.

      Google does a pretty good job at figuring out where the interest is. FFMPEG is where Joe User is getting his free encoder, so good support in what's preferred can get your standards into the other browsers. FCP is sufficiently a

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