Intel, Netflix team up to deliver AV1 codec for visual workloads

AV1 is an open-source, royalty-free video codec that was developed by the Alliance for Open Media. (Getty Images)

Intel and Netflix today announced at NAB that they’re working together on the AV1 high-performance video codec that will make the AV1 standard commercially viable for the first time. Their joint technology is named Scalable Video Technology for AV1 (SVT-AV1).

AV1 is an open-source, royalty-free video codec that was developed by the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia). AOMedia, which was founded in 2015, counts Amazon, Apple, Intel, Microsoft and Netflix among its founding members. AOMedia makes the open AV1 video compression software available on GitHub.

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Lynn Comp, Intel’s vice president of the Network Platforms group and general manager of Intel's Visual Cloud division, said in an interview with FierceVideo that one impetus for AOMedia and the AV1 codec is that streaming media companies “really needed bandwidth efficiencies that weren’t present in other standards and with less restrictive patent pools or undefined ownership.”

She said SVT-AVI is seeing more than 50% better bit rate efficiency than AVC with no drop in quality.

eBrisk's Technology

Intel has been able to advance the AV1 codec with technology from Intel’s acquisition of eBrisk in 2018. There doesn’t appear to be an official announcement of the eBrisk acquisition, but eBrisk’s former President and CEO Faouzi Kossentini has been working at Intel since August 2018 in the role of director of architecture and engineering in the Visual Cloud software innovations group, according to his LinkedIn profile.

While Intel is contributing encode software to SVT-AV1, Netflix “will contribute an AV1 decoder to share a common library between encoder and decoder,” said Craig Hurst, Intel’s director of Visual Cloud software strategy.

Intel says the SVT-AV1 performance advantages are based on the SVT architecture, which is a cohesive and highly optimized codec architecture that has delivered multiple generations of codecs already, including SVT-HEVC, SVT-VP9 and SVT-AV1. The new SVT-AV1 codec is unique in that it allows encoders to scale their performance levels based on the quality and latency requirements of the target applications, ranging from highest quality video on demand (VOD) to live streaming use cases. The codec is optimized for video encoding on multicore Intel Xeon Scalable processors.

There isn’t any device news yet in terms of AV1, and Comp said, “In general, codecs on devices tend to be embedded by the device vendor. Our focus for 2019 will be on VOD.”

Although the initial users of SVT-AV1 are expected to be VOD and OTT content providers, Comp said that cable providers are also looking at the codec. “You’d be surprised how efficiently operators like to keep their bandwidth,” she said. “Some operators are looking at AV1 for their cable operations, but I think that will be a little bit longer term.”