YouTube Preparing to Deploy VP9 on 4K Content

In a TV Technology article, Deborah D. McAdams reported that “YouTube is preparing to use Google’s own VP9 compression for 4K content otherwise known as “UltraHD.” McAdams was recounting Google’s presentation from Day 2 of the Hollywood Post Alliance, an informal gathering of technical glitterati from Hollywood.

Interestingly, when Google’s Anil Kokaram showed slides comparing VP9 to H.264 and H.265, which (of course), showed VP9 as having superior contrast and sharpness, someone from the audience asked which H.265 encoder Google was using. McAdams didn’t mention which it was, but the audience member “said it was the worst one on the market.” Tough crowd. McAdam’s short article is also useful for the technical description of YouTube’s ingest and encoding workflow, and her reporting of the sheer amount of video uploaded to YouTube every day, apparently 100 hours per minute, 24/7. It’s a quick read that you can find here.

Note that this isn’t the first time that Google has mentioned using VP9 for YouTube; they were widely quoted as intending to do so in a GigaOM article available here. In that article, however, Google hedged its bets and left open the possibility of using HEVC as well. Specifically, GigaOm reported, ‘Francisco Varela, global director of platform partnerships at YouTube, didn’t want to frame YouTube’s use of VP9 as an either-or decision in a recent interview. “This certainly isn’t a war of the video codecs,” he said. Varela added that this was just a first announcement around 4K for YouTube, leaving open the possibility that YouTube could add H.265 support as well.”‘

Of course, this is important because Internet Explorer and Safari don’t support VP9 playback. Of course, Google could supply a plug-in to enable this playback, but there’s also an admittedly small chance that they would use 4K on YouTube as leverage to force Microsoft and Apple to build VP9 support directly into the browser. In essence, Google would tell YouTube viewers, “you can only play 4K content in Chrome, Firefox and Opera, and not Internet Explorer and Safari.”

Again, this feels like a low probability move, but unless Google does something dramatic, VP9 will likely go the way of V8, largely gone and mostly forgotten except for very fringe applications beyond Google’s own use on YouTube.

YouTube is preparing to use Google’s own VP9 compression for 4K content otherwise known as “UltraHD.” – See more at: http://www.tvtechnology.com/news/0086/hpa-day–youtubes-video-flow/223783#sthash.OrurVfau.dpufYouTube is preparing to use Google’s own VP9 compression for 4K content otherwise known as “UltraHD.” – See more at: http://www.tvtechnology.com/news/0086/hpa-day–youtubes-video-flow/223783#sthash.OrurVfau.dpufYouTube is preparing to use Google’s own VP9 compression for 4K content otherwise known as “UltraHD.” – See more at: http://www.tvtechnology.com/news/0086/hpa-day–youtubes-video-flow/223783#sthash.OrurVfau.dpufYouTube is preparing to use Google’s own VP9 compression for 4K content otherwise known as “UltraHD.” – See more at: http://www.tvtechnology.com/news/0086/hpa-day–youtubes-video-flow/223783#sthash.OrurVfau.dpuf

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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