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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System Requirements Wording

Usually I receive from my students (especially during thesis supervision) the question if there is a standard way to describe the wording of a system requirements.
An interesting approach to this is IETF RFC 2119, which defines the key words “MUST”, “MUST NOT”, “REQUIRED”, “SHALL”, “SHALL NOT”, “SHOULD”, “SHOULD NOT”, “RECOMMENDED”, “MAY”, and “OPTIONAL”

1. MUST This word, or the terms “REQUIRED” or “SHALL”, mean that the definition is an absolute requirement of the specification.

2. MUST NOT This phrase, or the phrase “SHALL NOT”, mean that the definition is an absolute prohibition of the specification.

3. SHOULD This word, or the adjective “RECOMMENDED”, mean that there may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances to ignore a particular item, but the full implications must be understood and carefully weighed before choosing a different course.

4. SHOULD NOT This phrase, or the phrase “NOT RECOMMENDED” mean that there may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances when the particular behavior is acceptable or even useful, but the full implications should be understood and the case carefully weighed before implementing any behavior described with this label.

5. MAY This word, or the adjective “OPTIONAL”, mean that an item is truly optional. One vendor may choose to include the item because a particular marketplace requires it or because the vendor feels that it enhances the product while another vendor may omit the same item.

For more info please refer to the RFC here