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MPEG Continues With Royalty-free MPEG Video Codec Plans 139

Posted by timothy
from the until-my-couch-can-play-movies-unassisted dept.
yuhong writes "From the press release: 'In recognition of the growing importance that the Internet plays in the generation and consumption of video content, MPEG intends to develop a new video compression standard in line with the expected usage models of the Internet. The new standard is intended to achieve substantially better compression performance than that offered by MPEG-2 and possibly comparable to that offered by the AVC Baseline Profile. MPEG will issue a call for proposals on video compression technology at the end of its upcoming meeting in March 2011 that is expected to lead to a standard falling under ISO/IEC "Type-1 licensing", i.e. intended to be "royalty free."'"
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MPEG Continues With Royalty-free MPEG Video Codec Plans

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  • No worries (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:18AM (#35185896)

    I think I can save MPEG a lot of time. I've found a royalty-free container, a video codec and an audio codec we can all use:

    http://www.webmproject.org/ [webmproject.org]

    • by cynyr (703126)

      Does my unhacked ps3 play webm stuff?

      • by tepples (727027)
        No, which is why you can switch from PLAYSTATION 3 to a home theater PC such as a Dell Zino.
    • by Tharsman (1364603)
      Don't be so sure, WebM may become just another patent trap soon. [appleinsider.com]
    • Pity about all the patents they use but don't actually own. Unfortunately, royalty-free seems to equal indemnity-free (FYI, not a good kind of freedom to have).

      http://www.mpegla.com/main/pid/vp8/default.aspx [mpegla.com]

      • by atamido (1020905)

        Pity about all the patents they use but don't actually own. Unfortunately, royalty-free seems to equal indemnity-free (FYI, not a good kind of freedom to have).

        http://www.mpegla.com/main/pid/vp8/default.aspx [mpegla.com]

        The linked page is a request for people to come forward if they have any patents covering VP8, not an indication that any such patents have been found. (Of course, with the current state of patents, realistically everything infringes some patent, it's just a matter of finding it.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:27AM (#35185964)

    So we won't find any videos of Charles, Camilla, William and Kate, Harry and the rest of the family in that format then

  • Wrong move. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bleek II (878455) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:29AM (#35185974)
    Better than Mpeg 2 they say? Well I should hope so. And AVC Baseline isn't great. They're clearly making some crap/free encoder so that they can start charging more $$$ for their good ones. The only issue for them is that Google/Xiph have good ones that will always be free. If MPEG tries to force this new standard people will move to VC8 which has been around for some time.
    • Re:Wrong move. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:35AM (#35186016) Homepage Journal

      This is part of an at least two-pronged attack. They are attempting to put together a patent pool for VP8, even if they totally fail they will still gain FUD-based victories. If they can convince most people who matter that VP8 is really theirs then they can convince them to use their upcoming low-grade codec and prevent Google from becoming a name in yet another market.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by lordholm (649770)

        MPEG is not the same as MPEG-LA. These are two completely separate organizations that have nothing to do with each other.

        • Re:Wrong move. (Score:5, Informative)

          by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:49AM (#35186110) Homepage Journal

          Completely separate? MPEG-LA handles licensing MPEG patents. That's what they do. To say they are completely separate is like saying the ocean and an ocean basin are completely separate.

          • by JAlexoi (1085785)
            To be precise, neither is a subsidiary of the other.
          • by KugelKurt (908765)

            Completely separate? MPEG-LA handles licensing MPEG patents.

            MPEG LA handles also VC-1 patents which has no relation to ISO MPEG

          • by EnsilZah (575600)

            My friend, your cynical views are not welcome here, clearly MPEG-LA and MPEG are two completely independent organizations that merely happen to share part of their name and in the spirit of cooperation and well intentions decided that, though some confusion between the two might occur, it wouldn't be fair for one to request the other to pick a different name and all the hassle that would involve.

            • by Teancum (67324)

              To be more correct, the "Motion Picture Expert's Group" (or whatever the current acronym means at the moment... it seems to change with video groups from time to time like the definition of DVD) was established well before the MPEG-LA group was ever put together.

              The problem is that the MPEG guys were just pure researchers and didn't give a damn about patents, royalties, or if anybody was going to even be using their stuff except as fellow computer hacker/researchers. Then it became political after a fashio

      • Re:Wrong move. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Tacvek (948259) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:56AM (#35186148) Journal

        This is not an attack on VP8. It might moot the WebM project, but neither Google nor Mozilla should have much of an issue with implementing such a standard, since automatic royalty free patent licenses don't cause any issues with Free or Open Source software. Indeed, they are even compatible with the GPLv3.

        Please don't confuse MPEG with the MPEG LA. The latter is a a corporation with no formal relationship to MPEG. If anything MPEG doing this is intentionally snubbing the MPEG LA.

      • This is how Google should have released WebM to start with;
        Submit it to a standards body for review.
        Create an official specification (not just a token specification that is secondary to their implementation).
        Have an independent body verify that it is in fact Patent Free.

        As opposed to;
        Buy a company, tweak the format and release it without peer review.
        Write a synopsis of how the format work and then say "But if this is different to how our code works, our code is canonical".
        Stick it up on a website with a big

    • >>>They're clearly making some crap/free encoder

      Good observation. A wiser course would be for MPEG to say, "From this point forward, MPEG2 shall be free of charge." - That would essentially kill Google's attempt to shoehorn VP8, because manufacturers would not want to abandon a current standard that every device can read, and has no cost.

      Free MPEG2 would also be a great benefit for the Free TV stations (US, Canada, Mexico) - they'd save a lot of money in royalty fees and instead be able to hir

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:30AM (#35185978)
    Since the members of the MPEG group are making such good money from the royalties, why would they want to undermine that project with something that's free? It's in their interest to make it only slightly less crappy than VP8 (which won't be hard). This will kill the motivation to develop the independent free codecs, and this is what MPEG wants, I guess. But they don't want to really risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
    • Since the members of the MPEG group are making such good money from the royalties [...]

      MPEG != MPEG-LA

      The first is an ISO standards body, the second... well... some sort of protection racket association, I guess.
      And I'm sure the misleading name similarity is pure coincidence.

      • He said members of the MPEG group, which (tautology aside) is a set of people with a significant overlap with the set of people who have patents licensed to MPEG-LA.
      • by Dr. Spork (142693)
        So you're telling me that a standards body is coding up a video compression codec? That sounds pretty far fetched. No, of course the coding is done by whatever corporate bodies normally write MPEG codecs, and even if they're not exactly the same as the MPEG-LA group, I'd be shocked if the overlap weren't large.
      • by makomk (752139)

        The first is an ISO standards body, the second... well... some sort of protection racket association, I guess.
        And I'm sure the misleading name similarity is pure coincidence.

        Not really. The way it works is that the MPEG members use the MPEG standardization process to get their patents into video compression standards, then charge money to license them via the MPEG-LA.

    • by Tacvek (948259) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @11:10AM (#35186226) Journal

      MPEG wants to merely merely standardize things, ending the problem of searching for a royalty free codec. Mozilla and Google both simply want a royalty free standard that is Good enough. VP8 seems like one possibility, but if something even slightly better than VP8 is standardized, both should be quite willing to implement it.

      MPEG LA on the other hand actively does not want any codec better than say Microsoft Video 1 (the format most classic AVI files used) available on royalty free terms. They would lose out on a substantial amount of royalties if devices like phones or low end Digital Cameras used such a format rather than one of their formats. This is why they so actively fear projects like WebM. They make a substantial portion of their royalties from Cell phones, low end cameras, and similar devices.

      • by westlake (615356)

        MPEG LA on the other hand actively does not want any codec better than say Microsoft Video 1...available on royalty free terms. They would lose out on a substantial amount of royalties if devices like phones or low end Digital Cameras used such a format rather than one of their formats.

        The twenty-nine H.264 licensors include:

        Apple. Bosch. Cisco. Daewoo. Dolby. Ericsson. Fraunhofer. Fujitsu. HP. Hitachi. JVC. LG. Microsoft. Mitsubishi. NTT. Panasonic. Philips. Samsung. Sharp. Siemens. Sony. Toshiba.

        The global manufacturing and distribution horsepower on that list would be difficult to match.

        The 950 or so H.264 licensees rounds out a list of the global 1,000 in tech --- and the Asian Fortune 500 in tech.

        These guys are all big enough to be paying the fixed-price H.264 Enterprise Ca

        • by Tacvek (948259)

          I did not say a crippling amount of royalties, merely a substantial amount. It is currently the codec of choice for many applications in a whole bunch of different industries that would be uninterested in the new royalty free codec. But companies are known for spending more money to irrationally protect a source of revenue than they actually receive from it, so some of those players may object and object loudly.

          If as you imply the loss of smartphones and internet usage would barely touch the revenue and as

      • by evilviper (135110)

        MPEG LA on the other hand actively does not want any codec better than say Microsoft Video 1 (the format most classic AVI files used) available on royalty free terms. They would lose out on a substantial amount of royalties if devices like phones or low end Digital Cameras used such a format rather than one of their formats.

        MPEG-1 video has been freely implementable for a long time. MPEG-2 will be out from under its relevant patents very shortly. Both are decidedly better than MV1, and there's nothing sto

  • Reaction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markdavis (642305) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:33AM (#35186004)

    Probably just another knee-jerk reaction to VP8/WebM. And you can bet this "royalty free standard" will still be protected by tons of patents. It just keeps getting more interesting all the time. Just what we need, though, yet another video standard.

  • H.264 redux (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:43AM (#35186066)

    I happen to know that H.264 was _also_ supposed to be royalty free, with certain patents being reverse-engineered around in the standards development. MPEG-LA had different ideas, and they may have different ideas about this new work as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is it possible that you are confusing H.264 with VC-1? VC-1 was supposed to be completely royalty free, but shortly after Microsoft puplished the standard it turned out that it violated many MPEG LA patents. They formed a patent pool for it and Microsoft joined.

      AFAIK H.264 was never supposed to be royalty free except for internet distribution. Even that was supposed to be up for review until permanent royalty free status was announced last year.

    • Big 'citation needed' there. There are bits of H.264 that look like they were only added so that some of the companies involved would have something to put in the patent pool and get the discounted rate (Apple's solitary patent being an example). VP8 looks like it was designed to work around patents, but H.264 seems to have been designed with exactly the opposite requirement.
  • by Zelgadiss (213127) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:44AM (#35186074)

    I for one don't care all that much about patents issues, as long as Mozilla and Opera can implement it to me it means problem solved.
    HTML5 can be standardized and we can move on with our lives.

    Whether it's VP8 or whatever.

    If it's quality is better than VP8 all the better, those unhappy with VP8's output can now be happy.

    I got a feeling this codec will be highly optimized for low bitrates and streaming, so it won't compete with H.264 main profile for other uses.

    • by DaMattster (977781) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @11:28AM (#35186324)
      Really, I think everyone should care about this issue. It all boils down to device ownership. Say you buy a decent prosumer camcorder with the intent of maybe shooting your own low budget film. You purchased the camera so you own the device and therefore should not have to pay any additional royalties for using it in a way you desire. Under the MPEG-LA licensing agreement, you will have to pay royalties for each copy of the film you distribute to the MPEG-LA. This could get quite expensive and, in effect, creates a legal racketeering operation. You as the filmmaker are threatened with high punitive fines making it even more costly to try your own film out. Ignorance is what allows corporations (and government, too) to get away with such actions. This is where VP8 comes into play. Imagine if you had a prosumer camcorder with the VP8 capabilities - you would not worry about creativity and artistic innovation.
      • by lordholm (649770)

        I am pretty sure that you will re-encode your video after you have edited it. Your camera has nothing to do with the final distribution format of the movie. If you distribute unedited video, it is most likely free of charge in youtube, in that case you do not have to worry, since free internet distribution is royalty free.

        The issue is thus mostly non existing. However, if they would try to extract royalty fees for video which was re-encoded from AVC to a patent free format, then it would be an issue. Howeve

      • I believe that nothing of what you've said is actually true, just more of the same old H264 fear mongering you see a lot on Slashdot.

        The royalty scheme includes payments for commercial encoder/decoder writers, subscription services that make money from hosting H264 video, and hardware manufacturers that include H264 playback or encoding in their devices. If you shoot a movie using an H264-capable camera, the cost of the royalties will already be absorbed in the hardware, and will be somewhere in the neighbo

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Totally wrong. Read the licensing in a decent video/camera before spouting lies and FUD in future.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        Right, because I'm going to distribute my movie in the same format that the camera uses. If it's going for broadcast I put it in a format that the broadcaster wants (which won;t be the one the camera uses, necessarily, especially if it's a prosumer one), and if it's going for a film release it will be on 35mm or into a digital format for a digital projector that is still unlikely to be the same as the camera's format.

        If you have "creativity and artistic innovation" you are not concerned overly with your too

      • by Zelgadiss (213127)

        I don't know about device ownership and stuff.

        I'm namely approaching this from the point of view of HTML5 standardization.

        That said, I never really considered the issue from the encoder perspective.
        But if this codec really is completely royalty free (now MPEG is going to manage this I don't know), patents or no patents, then using it in the HTML5 standard shouldn't be a problem.

        H.264 is obvious out unless they make it royalty free too, but that is highly unlikely to happen.

        I think the main issue with includ

  • Should I brace for another exciting period where a truckload of different codecs will be necessary for watching a video on internet, no one with an native Linux installer and no support whatsoever? Amazing! I cannot wait.
    • by jack2000 (1178961)
      Because the encoders who really know their codecs will even care. No one will bat an eyelash at this thing unless it's really good. You have nothing to fear.
      • by DMiax (915735)
        I hope so. But who is to say there will not be "incentives" to encode in this new format e.g. the coming olympic games? Microsoft already pulled that one with silverlight. MPEG-LA may try too.
    • "[...]no one with an native Linux installer[...]"

      If the codec in question is genuinely royalty-free and GPL-compatible, I don't think that'll be a problem. I suspect an implementation would appear very quickly, and show up in standard Linux distribution repositories in short order.

  • by FrostedWheat (172733) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @11:06AM (#35186196)
    A free codec better than MPEG2, but not as good as H.264. So they're re-inventing Theora?
    • Re:Quality (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tacvek (948259) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @11:30AM (#35186338) Journal

      Not necessarily. They could decide to adopt Theora as the basis of the new standard, and see if they can get royalty free patent licenses for possible improvements.

      Keep in mind that MPEG has little issue with standardizing something that already exists, like how the MOV container format was standardized as the MP4 container format, how they standardized Adobe and Microsoft's OpenType as MPEG4 Part 22: Open Font Format, or how they standarized a slight modification to ASPEC as MPEG-1 Layer 3 Audio.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      While interesting why shouldnt they inveset in new codecs? MPEG2 is decent (people seem to knock it then praise their DVDs...). H.264 is much better. However it is from the early 00's. I am sure they can do much better now. The thing is the 'cool' stuff will probably end up in a patent somewhere.

      However, this sort of thing is exactly what got us the GIF fiasco. People wanting a better standard than the rest. It ended up 'good enough' even though there were better ones out there. But a single submari

    • by evilviper (135110)

      A free codec better than MPEG2, but not as good as H.264. So they're re-inventing Theora?

      Theora can't compete with MPEG-2 to begin with. MPEG-2 is designed for high-bitrate, high quality video encoding. Theora can't handle that at all. No matter how much you crank up the bitrate, Theora will continue to be fuzzy. It was designed exclusively for very low bitrate encoding. H.264 learned from On2's mistakes, and designed their codec to excel in low-bitrates, but having the ability to shut off those featur

      • by makomk (752139)

        MPEG-2 is designed for high-bitrate, high quality video encoding. Theora can't handle that at all. No matter how much you crank up the bitrate, Theora will continue to be fuzzy.

        That turned out to be due to a really stupid and trivially fixed issue with the default inverse and forward DCT.

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @11:16AM (#35186252) Homepage Journal

    Whatever happened to Dirac? Wasn't it meant to achieve greatness as open, free and high quality video codec?

    • Re:Dirac? (Score:4, Informative)

      by BZ (40346) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @11:45AM (#35186446)

      Dirac is meant to be a high-quality codec, period; it was largely designed for archival work. It makes no particularly strong effort to be low-bitrate in the process.

      The result is that at high bitrates it's pretty good (and even offers lossless compression, etc). At the bitrates at which people normally serve internet video today, it's worse quality than Theora, I'm told. But this is third-hand, so don't take my word for it.

      As bandwidth goes up, Dirac might find a place on the web, but we're not there yet.

    • Yes, but not for video streaming.
    • Re:Dirac? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:02PM (#35186546) Homepage
      Dirac was designed for the future. Whilst it can achieve the same bitrate/quality as H.264 it is much more computationally expensive. It is also too different from H.264 to reuse the existing hardware acceleration. It was designed (by the BBC) for distribution of broadcast streams, where the required hardware is irrelevant, its better performance at high bit rates on super-HD content, optional lossless-compression, and ability to down-sample without re-compressing are all more important. In a decade Moore's Law may make it the obvious choice for all content. By acting as prior-art for most wavelet encoders it may be very important indeed.
  • It is interesting to see this sudden almost about-face by the MPEG group. It will be interesting to see if they produce something better than VP8. However, VP8 is a very reasonable replacement for H.264. I have normal vision (i.e. without glasses) and I have a hard time discerning any differences between H.264 and VP8. All things being equal, I'd sooner go with something both open source and patent unencumbered.
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      It's not really an "about face" since the Mpeg group and the MPEG-LA are not the same thing.

      You can't really about-face from someone else's position.

      • by makomk (752139)

        It is an about-face. The traditional policy of the MPEG group has been to totally ignore patents as an issue and allow members to cram as many of their own patented techniques in as possible, even when there's a non-patented alternative that's just as good.

  • All I want is ONE high-quality video format standard for websites that works on all browsers and all platforms with the stock operating system. IMHO, this is the final battle in the browser/OS wars. No, I don't want to host my content on Youtube. No, I don't want Flash. It's down to WMV and H.264 (Ogg? What's that?). WMV always looks like crap. Ain't It Cool, a connoisseur of film, always makes a point of announcing that a trailer is in "glorious Quicktime". But of course there are still a lot of Windows us

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Quicktime is not a format though.

      Quicktime can play H.264 though, as can Windows Media Player. There's no reason that a person needs Quicktime to see H.264. The key is the container format, or the nature of the stream delivered to the browser, so we need a standard format and a standard container.

    • by macshit (157376)

      Hmm, "Ain't It Cool News" are a bunch of idiots, so clearly if they love Quicktime it must suck. Similarly, WMV has "windows" in the acronym, so it sucks pretty much by definition; that's out as well.

      That leaves webm as the only thing that doesn't suck. Good work, Google!

  • EXPECTED and INTENDED 'nuf said

  • I can't wait until the patents necessary to create the first DVD players run out.

    The only thing patents are doing is holding back innovation, increasing costs and unjustly enriching those who no longer have an incentive to offer anything but dead labor.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      I can't wait either! Once the patents run out, we'll finally be able to buy DVD players for 19.75$ instead of 20.00$.

  • by jensend (71114)

    Ok, if you were going to post a knee-jerk response about their intentions, motivation etc please note that MPEG != MPEG-LA.

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