Cisco Thor: a Royalty Free Video Codec

Jonathan Rosenberg recently posted on Cisco Blog for the release of the project Thor codec to the community some weeks ago (link to Thor project). The effort is being staffed by some of the world’s most foremost codec experts, including the legendary Gisle Bjøntegaard and Arild Fuldseth, both of whom have been heavy contributors to prior video codecs. Cisco decided to open source the code, which is available on http://thor-codec.org. Moreover, Thor was contributed as an input to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) (contribution available here, Presentation slides available here), which has begun a standards activity to develop a next-gen royalty free video codec in its NetVC workgroup.

More documents on IETF NetVC are available also here.

As Jonathan describes, the patent licensing situation for H.265 is dependent on two distinct patent licensing pools that have formed so far, and unfortunately many license holders are not represented in either. On the contrary, for the case of H.264 there is only one license pool, which make H.264 much cheaper than H.265, where the total costs to license H.265 from these two pools is up to sixteen times more expensive than H.264, per unit. Moreover, H.264 had an upper bound on yearly licensing costs, whereas H.265 has no such upper limit, while at the same time the licensing terms preclude usage of H.265 in any kind of open source or freely distributed software application, such as web browsers.

Jonathan invites others to work on Thor by contributing to the codec development or contributing their own Intellectual Property Rights on a royalty free basis (you may contact  netvc-inquiry@cisco.com).

Although activity graphs from github are not really encouraging for the community involvement (see figure below) and that there are many basic features that are not implemented yet, the project progress may be ambitious within 2015, however the project is still promising.

thor_fig_1thor_fig_2

The main Thor-exclusive feature is the 64×64 super block, which provide significant better performance for specific video content types according to the provided performance comparison data (available here).

Summarizing, we may say that currently Thor is a parallel draft to Daala. Daala is the code-name for a new video compression technology promoted by a collaboration between Mozilla Foundation, Xiph.Org Foundation and other contributors. The goal of Daala is to provide a free to implement, use and distribute digital media format and reference implementation with technical performance superior to H.265. IETF may standarddize only one codec within the NetVC activity, therefore the competition for the one codec to prevail will be very tough. Initial comparison to Daala is available (here) but it will be interesting to close monitor the performance competition between the two codecs in the next months.

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Current developments in video quality: From the emerging HEVC standard to temporal video quality assessment and classification

92nd MPEG meeting – H.NGVC/HVC (H.265)

The 92nd MPEG meeting will be hosted by the Institut für Informationsverarbeitung of Leibniz Universität Hannover. The meeting will list from 19 to 23 April, 2010. More information on the registration procedure are summarized hereby:

Registration fees

Early Registration 440 EUR

Regular Registration 590 EUR

Cancellation penalties

  • 50 EUR before 2010-03-26
  • 50% before 2010-04-12
  • from and after 2010-04-12 no refund

MPEG registration includes

  • 6 days meetings and conferences
  • Coffee-breaks (twice a day)
  • WiFi free Internet access
  • Social event

Lunches and Dinners are not included in the fees.

More information is available also via the meeting web site http://mpeg.tnt.uni-hannover.de/

Pleaze note that during the 39th VCEG and 91st MPEG meeting held in Kyoto, Japan on January 17-22, 2010, the call for proposals (CfP) on video compression technology (H.NGVC/HVC) has been finally issued jointly by ITU-T SG16 Q.6 (VCEG) and ISO/IEC JTC1/SC29/WG11 (MPEG) on January 22, 2010. A Joint Collaborative Team (JCT) on Video Coding Standard Development will also be established accordingly between VCEG and MPEG. According to H265.net, the following schedule has been proposed:

2010/01/22:                 Final Call for Proposals.
2010/01/22:                 Formal registration period opens [1].
2010/02/15:                 Formal registration period ends.
2010/02/22:                 Coded test material shall be available at the test site [2].
2010/03/02:                 Subjective assessment starts.
2010/04/12:                 Registration of documents describing the proposals with contact persons.
2010/04/13:                 Submission of documents [3].
2010/04/15:                 Cross-checking of bitstreams and binary decoders.
2010/04/16:                 Subjective test results available within standardization body.
2010/04/16-23:           Evaluation of proposals at standardization meeting [4].

Anticipated tentative timeline after CfP:

2010/04:                 Test model selection process begins
2010/10:                 Test model selected
2012/07:                 Final standard approval

A full description of Call for Proposals on video compression technology (H.NGVC/HVC), is provided via H265.net.

You can click here to download the CfP document, in which is described all the evaluation procedure via the subjective video quality evaluation of the new encoding standard.

For the details about Term of Reference on Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding Standard Development, please click here to download the ToR document.

Candidate names for the next video encoding standard

The next video encoding standard is under development, so candidate names have been placed on the table for discussion.
More specifically, the finalists are:

  • HVC – High-efficiency Video Coding (Note: not High-performance Video Coding? I prefer the latter)
  • EPVC – Enhanced Performance Video Coding
  • HEVC – High Efficiency Video Coding
  • HCEV – High Coding Efficiency Video

Based on this list, an online poll has been set up at Doodle [Poll: Name of new MPEG/VCEG Standard].
Currently HVC seems to be the winner.