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Google Funds Ogg Theora For Mobile 183

Posted by Soulskill
from the swinging-for-the-fences dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has decided to fund the development of Theora optimized for ARM processors. The article on the Open Source at Google blog notes the importance of having a universal baseline video codec for the Web: 'What is clear though, is that we need a baseline to work from — one standard format that (if all else fails) everything can fall back to. This doesn't need to be the most complex format, or the most advertised format, or even the format with the most companies involved in its creation. All it needs to do is to be available, everywhere. The codec in the frame for this is Ogg Theora, a spin off of the VP3 codec released into the wild by On2 a couple of years ago.'"
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Google Funds Ogg Theora For Mobile

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  • Dirac (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:27AM (#31799388)
    This is awesome! Not to detract from it, but why is there so much more love for Theora than for Dirac?
    • Re:Dirac (Score:4, Informative)

      by EdZ (755139) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:30AM (#31799406)
      Because Theora is much further along in development than Dirac?
      • by sznupi (719324)

        Only partially true - neglecting surrounding infrastructure not present in PC world, Dirac the codec seems to be ready, "production" kind of ready. BBC apparently uses it for internal needs / transmission.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AHuxley (892839)
          Any useable codec can fly around a big, wide, fat intranet and seem perfect.
          The real world needs a low bandwidth, US IP lawyer safe, free codec.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kg8484 (1755554)
      I think a big reason is because the Xiph project has a few other codecs developed in-house that are successful. Besides Vorbis, their MP3 alternative, Speex [speex.org] and and FLAC [sourceforge.net] are "under the Xiph.org banner" [wikipedia.org]. This allows them to promote Theora more. Also, Dirac was released in 2008 vs Theora's 2004, so Theora has had 4 more years to get a following.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > why is there so much more love for Theora than for Dirac?

      In order to play Flash video, or Silverlight video, browsers need a plugin.

      Theora/HTML5 video can play in Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome (without any plugin) and IE (this browser alone requires a plugin).

      (You can download that plugin for IE from here: http://code.google.com/chrome/chromeframe/ )

      Ogg Vorbis, Speex, Theora and FLAC files can play on Windows and Linux platforms.

      (Linux support is out-of-the-box, and you can get the support for Windows

      • by tepples (727027)

        In order to play Flash video, or Silverlight video, browsers need a plugin.

        That's less of a disadvantage if PC makers install the plug-in on new PCs. This appears to be the case at least for Flash Player.

        Theora/HTML5 video can play in Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome (without any plugin) and IE (this browser alone requires a plugin).

        Doesn't Safari need the XiphQT plug-in [xiph.org] too?

    • Re:Dirac (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @10:02AM (#31799552) Journal

      CPU load. Theora is based on VP3, which is old. It was open sourced in 2004, but VP3 first shipped in 2000. Back in 2000, I had a 450MHz K6-2, and a lot of people I knew had slower machines. Now, a typical handheld is faster than that machine. Theora, like VP3, relies a lot on postprocessing passes for quality. This has the advantage that you can just not bother on slower machines, and get a slightly worse picture but with a lower CPU requirement.

      Dirac, in contrast, needs at least a 2GHz CPU to play back. It's patent free and looks great, but the CPU load is huge. There have been efforts to offload a lot of it onto the GPU, which is nice for the desktop but doesn't help older machines and handhelds (except the latest generation). The BBC is working with vendors to get Dirac implemented in hardware, but it won't be ubiquitous for quite a few years.

      Dirac also doesn't perform as well as Theora at low bitrates. This is very important for web streaming. Dirac is great for situations where bandwidth and CPU power are plentiful, but Theora makes more sense as a lowest common denominator solution. Ideally, you'd see both supported; Dirac for high quality, Theora for fallback.

      • by Korin43 (881732)
        Last time I checked, it also takes far longer to encode a video with Dirac. I assume that would be a problem for Google..
    • Because the version of Dirac that gives significant advantage is nowhere near usable. I understand it's progressing nicely, though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There are rumors that a number of the major companies, except for Adobe are moving towards an agreement on Dirac in Ogg containers as the new standard at least for higher resolution/bandwith content. From what I understand, Google is also in favor of Dirac but wants Theora as fallback codec for mobile devices/phones with less bandwith and CPU resources -- at least for now. Both are great codecs and it looks like in the long run Dirac may become the standard codec for HD content.

    • Beyond awesome! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KingSkippus (799657) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @10:46AM (#31799714) Homepage Journal

      This is beyond awesome, it's a game-changer. Google is one of those rare companies that singularly has the power to move markets, and it is revolutionary to see it do so in favor of consumers as it has. I understand the reasons why it has preferred H.264 over Theora, but it is really nice to see that it also understands the reasons why we should be preferring an open format instead. It's especially nice in an age of companies wanting to lock everything down and be the gatekeeper to everything, the major player in technology is pushing yet again to open things up.

      Sometimes I think that Google is about the only company that "gets it." They understand that more people using the Internet translates to more money in their pocket. Even if those people are not using Google's services directly, they are increasing the market such that collectively, it has more opportunity, which in turn translates into more $$$. They seem to not really care if other people are making more money as well, which really separates them in my mind from other companies, who are of the "it is not enough that I succeed, but everyone else must fail" mentality.

      Anyway, back to the topic at hand, one reason I've seen people regurgitate in why H.264 is the right way to go is because it is supported on hardware. Congratulations to Google on working to negate that argument.

      • by iwbcman (603788)
        Dude, Google *IS* the Gatekeeper.



        They can afford to. With great power comes great responsibility.


        As a footnote this is why, although I abhor Apples control fetish and find their latest coding restrictions for their products utterly insane, I applaud Jobs saying F U to Adobe: thanks to Apple, their is a web which works without Flash, thank the gods.....In one case, Google is preventing H264 from becoming so dominant that the web becomes unusable without H264, by embracing a less popular cod
  • Paging Chris DiBona (Score:4, Interesting)

    by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@davidge ... k ['co.' in gap]> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:28AM (#31799392) Homepage

    Chris DiBona of the Google open source group claimed [whatwg.org] that "If [youtube] were to switch to theora and maintain even a semblance of the current youtube quality it would take up most available bandwidth across the Internet."

    This was shown to be false [xiph.org].

    Mr DiBona then mysteriously vanished without trace.

    Could he please manifest and either (a) support his claims or (b) concede his error?

    Thanks ever so much.

    • by koolfy (1213316)
      I think the difference here is that it aims mobile phone (or netbooks) market.
      AFAIK, vorbis/theora does fine with low and medium quality video (to and including 360p I think, but I'm not sure) but has more problems with file weight and brandwidth usage for high qality videos.

      So what I understand is that they promote Vorbis/Theora for "low-end" video streaming and prefear H.264 for "high-end" videos.

      I'm really not sure about that, it's just the result of my tiny experimentations with converting h264 c
    • They picked this shitty format, so be happy and shut up.

    • While I disagree wholeheartedly with Chris's statement, I also think that Greg's comparison was not a very good one. The only thing he compared was a computer-generated, low-motion, pristine and lossless source. How many of those have have you seen on YouTube? Where is the noisy, poorly-lit video of some kid complaining about his life? Where's the shaky video someone shot on their cell phone? Where's the re-re-re-encoded video from people who re-uploaded the same video other people uploaded? Where's t

      • > No, it was not representative at all.

        How representative of the stuff that actually gets large numbers of hits are your examples? Inefficient transmission of a noisy, poorly-lit video of some kid complaining about his life is unimportant if it only gets downloaded nine times.

    • by Graymalkin (13732) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @12:00PM (#31800030)

      The Xiph's group rebuttal page does nothing to show Chris DiBona's contention was false. As I have said before, through either ignorance or malice the Xiph guys dropped the ball on their comparison.

      1. Their larger Theora video has an audio track that's about 64kbps. The H264 video from YouTube has a 128kbps audio track (the numbers are rough since they're VBR tracks). This means for every second of video the Theora video has an extra 64kbps to throw at the video. While 64kbps might not sound like much that's 13% of the file's total bitrate. This gives the Theora track a 13% data rate advantage over YouTube's video. Every objective test I've ever seen has gauged AAC and Vorbis to have roughly equivalent audio quality at the same bitrate. If they want to make an actual comparison they would need to use a 128kbps Vorbis audio track.

      2. The Ogg file format really sucks for streaming over the internet. The Ogg container tries to be too general of a format when it's only being used to represent time based media. FFMPEG developer Mans has a lot to say [hardwarebug.org] about the container format. Thanks to sample and chunk tables in the MPEG-4 format seeks are really efficient over the network since the header gives you an index to all of the samples in the file. A single HTTP request or file seek is needed to seek to a particular time in the file, even if the full file hasn't been downloaded yet. For services like YouTube and Vimeo, especially in context of mobile connections, Ogg's inefficiency is a real detriment.

      3. MPEG-4 files with H.264/AAC tracks can be handled by the Flash plug-in as well as natively in browsers. YouTube and Vimeo and others can encode a single version of a file and serve it up to older browsers using Flash and newer browsers using the HTML5 video tag. If Ogg is added as an option that is another step in your decision tree. For individual requests this extra logic might be trivial but when you're handling millions of requests per hour this really adds up.

      I'm not defending any hyperbole Chris DiBona was spouting off about the internet grinding to a halt but Ogg and Theora are simply not optimal for a "baseline" media format. It's only real feature is the fact it is open source and doesn't require a license. This isn't the most useful feature in today's world because all of the mobile devices that would be served Theora files already have licenses for MPEG-4. Tens to hundreds of millions of phones already support MPEG-4. They're using MPEG-4 to do send video over MMS and e-mail and for watching video on the web. Theora improve any of those experiences.

      • >The Ogg file format really sucks for streaming over the internet.
        No, it is rather good for streaming. It is actually a bit weaker for downloaded or progressive downloaded (youtube-style) content, but not horrible even there.

        >It's only real feature is the fact it is open source and doesn't require a license.
        It may not be optimal, but it is good enough, and so the fact that it is Free is enough.

      • by iwbcman (603788)

        It's only real feature is the fact it is open source and doesn't require a license.

        Yeah buddy, that's the difference which make a difference. Theora is good enough(tm). And it's only getting better.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chrisd (1457) *
      Sorry, but Theora is still not as high quality as later codecs. That hasn't changed. But I was very happy to fund this work out of my group.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by David Gerard (12369)

        "Theora is still not as high quality as later codecs."

        Indeed. However, I didn't say otherwise, the xiph.org page doesn't say otherwise and that isn't what your original assertion said. You are answering in a manner difficult to distinguish from being evasive.

        Could you please address the original questions, and the findings detailed on that page?

    • A few things:

      1) Please stop citing that. It's not fair to compare highly tweaked Theora encodes to untweaked H.264. Put them on level ground at least.
      2) That quote is clearly hyperbole.
      3) For Theora to maintain equal video quality in the sub-1mbit range, it would take at least 30% higher bitrates on most videos. For some videos that H.264 compresses well, it could be 80% higher bitrates. H.264 does extremely well with fading, single-colour areas that aren't updated often (slides, captions), and preserving s

      • The comparison was typical to typical - "highly tweaked" Thusnelda is actually the reasonable way to encode Theora.

        • But highly tweaked H.264 is amazing, and there's GUI tools that make it ridiculously easy to get set up.

          I'm just saying... tweak both, or neither. If you spend the same amount of time tweaking H.264, you end up with incredibly good quality.

  • by MojoRilla (591502) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @10:37AM (#31799676)
    If Google was serious, they would release VP8 as open source, and open source the patents. They did just buy On2 [wikipedia.org]. Why support a codec that was state of the art in 2000?
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @11:31AM (#31799916)

    Theora lost because it wasn't as good as H.264 and it's still not as good as H.264 bit for bit. The only reason why the opensource world support it isn't because it's better, but because it's the only "open source friendly" option. Sorry, but that just because it fits an idelogoy doesn't mean much to the part of the world that uses the product. It's like suggesting that a professional 3D/video shop use Blender instead of Maya or Cinelerra instead of Final Cut Pro or Avid. The professionals are going to take a look at it for a while and go, "Nice toy, now I've got to get back to work."

    If the opensource world wants Theroa to succeed, you're going to have to produce something that's better than H.264 end of story. Until then the people are working in Video are going to continue using H.264 because it's everywhere and is currently the best mainstream codec available.

    I worked in Video production in the late 90's through about 2005. H.264 was a godsend when we finally had a single Codec that was adopted by pretty much all recording hardware and editing software. Before it was a Codec Hell. Nobody I talk to in the industry, and I still have a lot of friends who work everywhere from their basement to large production shops, have any interest in embracing Theora or anything else. They only want to support 1 Codec that works everywhere, and that's H.264. Even if it costs them a little bit of money. Because whatever it costs them is likely cheaper than the headaches of having to support multiple formats.

    Now, if Theora or some other patent free format gets to the point where it can offer at least the same (really it has to be BETTER than H.264 in features and quality) only then will the production houses be interested in switching. And by better, offer at least the same quality as H.264 at a lower bit rate than H.264.

    • by mqduck (232646)

      Now, if Theora or some other patent free format gets to the point where it can offer ...

      That brings up a question I've had in my mind for a while. I don't know how codecs/formats work, but can someone tell me if the theora format can be improved to the point that it rivals H.264, while still being the theora format? Or at some point is it necessary to call it new format? And if so, what effect would a new, better theora-derived format have if the world, hypothetically, had standardized on theora?

      Also, how much of a difference does the quality of the codec used to create theora videos make? I r

      • by Arker (91948)

        I don't know how codecs/formats work, but can someone tell me if the theora format can be improved to the point that it rivals H.264, while still being the theora format?

        Dont get sucked in by the group-think. Theora already rivals H.264 - in real most applications it's highly unlikely anyone would ever notice the difference.

        And yes, encoder and decoder development is at least as important than the underlying algorithm.

    • by tangent3 (449222)

      I worked in Video production in the late 90's through about 2005. H.264 was a godsend when we finally had a single Codec that was adopted by pretty much all recording hardware and editing software. Before it was a Codec Hell. Nobody I talk to in the industry, and I still have a lot of friends who work everywhere from their basement to large production shops, have any interest in embracing Theora or anything else. They only want to support 1 Codec that works everywhere, and that's H.264. Even if it costs them a little bit of money. Because whatever it costs them is likely cheaper than the headaches of having to support multiple formats.

      I worked in GUI applications in the 90's through about 2005. Windows was a godsend when we finally had a single OS that was adopted by pretty much all hardware and software. Before it was an OS Hell. Nobody I talk to in the industry, and I still have a lot of friends who work everywhere from their basement to large production shops, have any interest in embracing Linux or anything else. They only want to support 1 OS that works everywhere, and that's Windows. Even if it costs them a little bit of money. Bec

      • by chill (34294)

        They only want to support 1 OS that works everywhere, and that's Windows.

        You had a point until right there. Windows doesn't work everywhere, and the places it does then it is only for some definitions of "work".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      ``Theora lost because it wasn't as good as H.264 and it's still not as good as H.264 bit for bit. The only reason why the opensource world support it isn't because it's better, but because it's the only "open source friendly" option. Sorry, but that just because it fits an idelogoy doesn't mean much to the part of the world that uses the product. It's like suggesting that a professional 3D/video shop use Blender instead of Maya or Cinelerra instead of Final Cut Pro or Avid. The professionals are going to ta

      • by evilviper (135110)

        Thirdly, looking at history, it's clear that it's not always the best technology that succeeds.

        On the contrary. It's just your definition of "best" is inaccurate.

        One example is Vorbis vs. MP3, where MP3 has stayed the most popular format, even though Vorbis has been both freely available and better.

        Vorbis had no installed base, was computationally more complex, and quality was only slightly better than the best MP3 encoders, and even then, not in all cases (it really falls apart on some audio, where MP3 is

  • Where space and power matters most (pocketable devices), I'm just not entranced by support for more codecs that aren't efficient.

    Some day it'll be reasonable for the device in your pocket to play video in any format you find it in. But for now, I think I'd rather the effort were concentrated on maxing out the efficiency (bits and power) of the codecs that are already in wide use.

  • Technical Objections To the Ogg Container Format:

    http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/03/03/1913246/Technical-Objections-To-the-Ogg-Container-Format [slashdot.org]

    [I really don't know]

    Is this a branch not discussed in the above article?

  • by Criffer (842645)

    We already have an unpatented, royalty-free, unencumbered, lowest-common-denominator video codec for use on the internet: H.261.

    H.323 specifies it as the lowest common denominator for video-over-IP, so all video phones already support it, including hardware implementations. It was published in 1990 - twenty years ago - so it is as patent-free as you can get. And it's published by the ITU, so the specification is freely available.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by thalassinos (1006625)
      H.261 only supports two video frame sizes: CIF (352x288 luma with 176x144 chroma) and QCIF (176x144 with 88x72 chroma). Although still useful (and widely supported as you rightly mentioned), the supported resolutions are rather low. It can probably compete with a low resolution youtube video, but for more advanced uses, H.261 is not a player.
  • by rawler (1005089) <ulrik...mikaelsson@@@gmail...com> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:05PM (#31802768)

    I've recently read the short description of the MPEG-LA license terms for broadcasters. (Not the full licenses, though)

    If I understand it correctly, by purchasing a license, you're allowed to use h.264 for YOUR distribution, but the terms does not mention re-licensing to third party. To my best guess, that would mean re-licensing is not allowed.

    But, and here's the catch, when YouTube-videos are embedded into other sites (Facebook, or Joe Shmoe:s blog) isn't that a form of re-sale to third party?

    Can someone with more insight comment on this?

    • by evilviper (135110)

      when YouTube-videos are embedded into other sites (Facebook, or Joe Shmoe:s blog) isn't that a form of re-sale to third party?

      Youtube continues to serve the videos. They're only "linked" (embedded) from other sites.

      Additionally, non-paywalled online videos in H.264 are gratis for the next several years at least, so it would make no difference.

  • Didn't Google buy On2? Why aren't we seeing open VP7 and VP8?

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