Apple Joins Alliance For Open Media To Promote Cheaper 4K Video Compression

by on January 7, 2018
Juan Carlos Ropel – January 7, 2018

The high licensing costs of using the H.265/HEVC codec for assorted video compression needs may have finally pushed Apple to join in with the Alliance For Open Media, which includes other industry titans like Google, Amazon, Cisco, Intel, Facebook, Netflix and so forth. The alliance by the industry’s leaders is a joint effort to develop an open, royalty-free, and more efficient video codec to replace the costly, but extremely entrenched, H.265/HEVC.

The new format is known as the AV1 video codec (AOMedia Video 1) and is currently being designed by the Alliance for Open Media developers to improve and make more efficient video transmissions over the Internet.

The AV1 codec was first showcased by Mozilla (also a member of the Alliance) with an early version a few months ago. According to Mozilla’s statement, this compression technology makes video files 25% to 35% smaller than those compressed with HEVC and Google’s VP9. The HEVC itself offers a 50% reduction in file size compared to H.264, so this means that the AV1 itself can achieve 85% file size reduction if compared to H.264, which has been the dominant standard in recent years.


Apple adopted the HECV compression standard last year on its iOS 11 operating system, achieving dramatic decreases in file-size and improving efficiency when streaming 4K UHD videos in particular. But the benefits came with the trade-off of requiring almost 10x more computing power and the high licensing fees that had to be paid to various patent licensing groups. These compression issues will only increase as Apple increasingly moves into the transmission and storage of its own 4K home entertainment through iTunes and the new Apple TV 4K, so the need for better, cheaper compression becomes obvious from the tech giant’s standpoint.

Also Read: Our Review of the impressively advanced Apple TV 4K HDR set-top streamer

The level of hardware efficiency of the AV1 codec is unknown yet, but better compression usually means longer time to shrink video and a greater demand of scarce computing resources like memory and battery life.

The AV1 codec is still in development, though according to the Alliance For Open Media, the first version of the new video compression format should be finalized in coming weeks. Also, with the inclusion of a content and hardware giant like Apple, more technology companies are expected to join the group.

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