Google’s 4K Video Format Creeping into TVs, Smart Phones and PC Displays

by on July 25, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – July 25th, 2014

Lots of us who are regularly following the growth of 4K UHD technology already know about the spread of the HEVC (H.265) video compression format. This technology is widely being implemented by many content distributors such as Netflix and the BBC so that they can easily compress and transmit Ultra HD 4K video streams across different broadband networks.

However, it seems that HEVC is also getting a run for its money in the form of competition from the Web Giant Google.

It seems that Google is working with a number of hardware makers so that their TVs, smartphones, PCs and other 4K displaying electronic devices can play the ultra-resolution format from streaming sources such as YouTube while using only half the bandwidth normally required to send 4K content across the web.

The format, called VP9, is a direct competitor to the increasingly popular HEVC compression codec and while not as known as HEVC, it’s getting a lot of support from numerous hardware makers and TV manufacturers.

What also lends weight to the spread of VP9 is the obvious fact that Google itself is going to make it the preferred compression format for its soon to develop collection of 4K content on YouTube. And since YouTube is the single biggest source of video content on the web today, that’s a lot of influence that Google is swinging in favor of VP9.

According to Francisco Varela, global director of platform partnerships at Google, “Starting in 2014, you’ll see products from major mobile, PC and TV partners that are using a new, more efficient format called VP9 that gives you UHD quality at half the bandwidth”.

So far, major name brand manufacturers of 4K display technology, such as Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic and LG are pledging their support for VP9. And while this doesn’t rule then out from also supporting HEVC, the Google based format will also be compatible with their TVs, display monitors and other UHD display devices.

Furthermore, many of these vendors are also introducing powerful new graphics chips and processors that will make 4K easier to render at efficient speeds in a general sense.

Additionally, chip makers such as Nvidia and Qualcomm, both of which are developing processing chips for tablets and TVs that will be better able to process 4K content, are also pledging their support of VP9 in the technologies they will be working with. It’s also worth noting that numerous smart phones, from Samsung, LG, Nokia and Sony run on or will soon run on Qualcomm’s processing chips.

Other supporters of VP9 include Intel, whose chips run in most PCs, and RealTek, whose graphics systems are also highly popular in many multimedia electronic devices.

While VP9 is definitely competing with the compression standard HEVC/H.265, this isn’t to say that the two need to be mutually exclusive in emerging display hardware platforms.

HEVC itself is being supported by the International Telecommunications Union and also has some heavy corporate backing from content creators such as, Netflix and even the BBC.

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