Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Patents Media Open Source Software The Internet

Cisco Developing Royalty Free Video Codec: Thor 145

An anonymous reader writes: Video codec licensing has never been great, and it's gotten even more complicated and expensive in recent years. While H.264 had a single license pool and an upper bound on yearly licensing costs, successor H.265 has two pools (so far) and no limit. Cisco has decided that this precludes the use of H.265 in open source or other free-as-in-beer software, so they've struck out on their own to create a new, royalty-free codec called Thor. They've already open-sourced the code and invited contributions.

Cisco says, "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. We also hired patent lawyers and consultants familiar with this technology area. We created a new codec development process which would allow us to work through the long list of patents in this space, and continually evolve our codec to work around or avoid those patents."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cisco Developing Royalty Free Video Codec: Thor

Comments Filter:
  • No Theora? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2015 @10:16PM (#50298451) Journal

    Why couldn't they contribute to Theora since that was the entire point of it was to be a royalty free video codec.

    • Re:No Theora? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11, 2015 @10:25PM (#50298489)

      Theora [wikipedia.org] (developed from VP3) is not as good as VP8, VP9, H.264 or H.265. Daala and Thor have been contributed to NetVC [ietf.org], so the codec that comes out of that working group will be a combination of the best features of both.

      • the codec that comes out of that working group will be a combination of the best features of both.

        Will there be an implementation on GNU Hurd?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Theora is dead. Long live Daala.

      https://wiki.xiph.org/Daala

    • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday August 11, 2015 @10:45PM (#50298583) Homepage Journal

      Theora, based on VP3, is roughly H.263-class technology comparable to Sorenson Spark (FLV) and MPEG-4 ASP (DivX and Xvid). H.264 and VP8 are a generation ahead of it in rate/distortion performance at Internet bitrates, and Thor is intended to be a generation ahead of H.264.

      • Theora, based on VP3, is roughly H.263-class technology comparable to Sorenson Spark (FLV) and MPEG-4 ASP (DivX and Xvid). H.264 and VP8 are a generation ahead of it in rate/distortion performance at Internet bitrates

        That's mostly true, although Theora has been improved to the point where it is closer to H.264.

        That said, Xiph has also been working on Daala [xiph.org], which is intended to compete with H.265.

    • Why couldn't they contribute to Theora since that was the entire point of it was to be a royalty free video codec.

      Because then they wouldn't have had a good reason to pick their own cool name and fuck up the field with yet another fucking "standard".

      And yes, I agree- they should have thrown their weight behind Theora or something like it. But noooooooo, instead let's roll our own and muddy the waters even more...

    • by cHiphead ( 17854 )

      Because they don't hold a bunch of patents that let them keep control and charge for commercial use 10 years down the line.

    • Because https://xkcd.com/927/ [xkcd.com]

      OMG, I can't believe I actually was the first to post this one!

  • Collaboration (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11, 2015 @10:22PM (#50298475)

    The Daala [xiph.org] team has also experimented [ietf.org] with integrating some Thor's features into Daala. It's likely that the codec developed by the IETF Internet Video Codec [ietf.org] working group will be built from the best features of Daala, Thor and any additional contributions.

  • I checked with a couple of compression and video processing patent pools and the computer says no.

    There is no way not to infringe on pretty much any kind of video compression tech by now

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is no way not to infringe on pretty much any kind of video compression tech by now

      Unless of course you happen to own the IP rights to the video compression tech in question. Thor is built on patents Cisco owns [ietf.org].

      • ...precisely until the moment that Cisco decides it isn't free any more.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11, 2015 @11:12PM (#50298671)

          They're working on Thor through the IETF Internet Video Codec working group and committing to royalty-free licensing for those patents. It will be difficult for Cisco to walk back from that. Many codecs make use of patents which are licensed under royalty-free terms. Baseline JPEG does, Opus [opus-codec.org] does, VP8 and VP9 [webmproject.org] do.

        • by plover ( 150551 )

          ...precisely until the moment that Cisco decides it isn't free any more.

          Dare I say "until they drop the hammer"? /ducks

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          Cisco might not need to. They are in the unique position of benefiting from more video streaming.

          • by Altrag ( 195300 )

            If it becomes popular, they'll also be in a unique position of holding whatever "defensive" patents that may come about from this effort.

            If they run into a quarter that isn't performing as well, and they're sitting on this super popular technology that can't be (easily) converted to alternatives.. it might start smelling like a gold mine.

            But whatever.. making an effort is better than not making an effort, and as long as the license (or patents) isn't too restrictive there's nothing stopping someone from for

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There is no way not to infringe on pretty much any kind of video compression tech by now

      Maybe it's RLE.

    • Re:not likely. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2015 @11:20PM (#50298711) Homepage Journal
      It depends how US courts see the IBM PC compatible https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and Clean room design https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] for the movement of images and sound over a server, network to an end device, user.
      The problem is the US offered and court protected "codec" is turning US hardware exports into international internet toll booths for expensive codecs.
      Hard to sell the next gen "internet" hardware if every user has to pay a fee just for moving their own data (movie, sound) along to their own users.
      A codec tax per screen, device, user, connection would hurt global sales just for been connected.
      Other nations and their broadcasters, startups will just look to other solutions that are free and will change hardware imports.
      If the codec tax part is removed, hardware sales are safe globally. Who will be the first big brand to to offer new compression as a free part of ongoing hardware contracts?
      • Re:not likely. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2015 @02:47AM (#50299285)

        Clean room gets around copyright. Patent is a whole other ball of wax. In particular, even if you created a design entirely on your own, if someone else beats you to the punch with a similar enough design to fall under the patent, you're still screwed.

        That's why software patents are so reviled, combined with the relatively loose standards the USPTO puts towards software patents (or at least did in the past.. wasn't there some supposed reforms recently?) If I patent "icon with rounded corners," then you basically can't build any software that includes an icon with a rounded corner without running afoul of my software, even if you had no idea that I existed never mind seeing my code or copying my algorithm.

        And to make things even worse, since you probably think "rounded corners" is a pretty mundane design idea (its been around for many thousands of years in the not-computer part of the world after all,) you probably aren't even going to bother with a patent search until my lawyers come knocking on your door making outrageous "damages" claims.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Yes it will be hard legal work but what option will any US hardware maker have?
          Become just another codec tax collector brand with some price/speed/heat advantage?
          Or offer a way out and enjoy safe next gen hardware?
        • Two quibbles, though I wholeheartedly agree with your overarching points.

          In particular, even if you created a design entirely on your own, if someone else beats you to the punch with a similar enough design to fall under the patent, you're still screwed.

          Yes and no. "Prior user rights" exist in many countries, which permit the continued use of a patented idea by people who independently came up with the idea for the patent before the patent was filed, provided it wasn't disclosed, of course, since if it was disclosed it would count as prior art that can be used to invalidate the patent. But yes, for existing patents, you're quite right, and I completely agree with your assessment about

        • Clean room gets around copyright. Patent is a whole other ball of wax. In particular, even if you created a design entirely on your own, if someone else beats you to the punch with a similar enough design to fall under the patent, you're still screwed.

          It's even worse than that compared to copyrights. Copyright covers the act of "copying" (and all that entails), i.e. the "building/designing" phase of a patented product. But, with a patented product, not only can't you design/build one that's similar, even though you came up with the idea yourself, you can't even use one. Doesn't matter if you didn't build it, mere usage is also a breech of patent.

          Patent trolls have taken this to heart of course, preferably going after users of technology first, users with

  • The propriety codecs like H.264 and HEVC are developed by the same companies which manufacture almost all the world's video hardware ---

    Studio production. Theatrical distribution. Home video. Industrial applications and so on. In this pond, even Cisco is a very small fish,

    If Mitsubishi is not on board, if Philips, Samsung, and a half dozen or so other global giants in manufacturing are not on board, your brightly polished license-free codec is going nowhere.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      your brightly polished license-free codec is going nowhere.

      Not really. The target for NetVC [ietf.org] is the Internet and particularly the web (HTML5 video and WebRTC). It doesn't matter if it isn't used in studio production or theatrical distribution. That wasn't the goal in the first place.

      • Is everyone going to ship it? Are Apple and Microsoft? Presently, neither support WebRTC, which requires VP8 as well as H.264 (Apple never comment on future releases of Safari, and Microsoft do "not currently plan" [modern.ie] to implement the WebRTC API, yet alone the other requirements). It doesn't help establish a new baseline for HTML5 video unless all browsers with any notable marketshare support it --- and there's nothing indicating that NetVC is going to get universal adoption, as far as I'm aware.
    • by epine ( 68316 )

      If Mitsubishi is not on board, if Philips, Samsung, and a half dozen or so other global giants in manufacturing are not on board, your brightly polished license-free codec is going nowhere.

      For those of us who are nowhere (and happy to live there), nowhere is grand central station. I don't need no stinking brightly polished codec. I just need the video equivalent of Opus.

    • by msobkow ( 48369 )

      The hardware manufacturers are irrelevant. What matters is whether the web distributors and web browsers support it, as well as the various encoding utilities that people use to transcode video.

      Personally I don't expect it to gain much traction, but it will because those "new technology" companies and products aren't supporting it, not because the tired old hardware manufacturers don't. Nowhere has Cisco suggested this would be used for the next generation of BluRay devices, or to address the needs of

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Really, Google is the only company that matters. And maybe Netflix.

      Those two companies probably handle as much video in a day as Philips and Samsung and all of the other traditional video companies do in a year.

      Google in particular is uniquely positioned to sway the entire industry since they provide both the most popular video service (Youtube) and one of the most popular video clients (Chrome browser.)

      Whatever codec Google decides to adopt, its simply going to take over the world. Youtube is too big an

      • Really, Google is the only company that matters. And maybe Netflix.

        You might have those the wrong way around, at least for the US market. I didn't find newer figures in a quick search, but in 2013 YouTube consumed 18.69% of downstream bandwidth in the USA, Netflix consumed 31.62%. Netflix passed one third a little while ago, I'm not sure how YouTube has grown in that period, but I suspect it's still around 2/3 of the use of Netflix.

        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          Yep, your numbers look correct (according to a quick Google search! Though I certainly had thought the opposite,) but I still think Google will be more of a codec driver than Netflix though due to having their fingers in the client side of things as well.

          • You might be surprised. Netflix currently supports around 80 different clients for their service (apps for various platforms, different technologies for the web interface, and embedded things). Codecs are a big issue for them.
            • To some extent, ya. But DRM formats and streaming/container formats are a bigger issue for them - on the vast majority (nearly all? all?) of their supported platforms, the video is h.264.

        • by LihTox ( 754597 )

          The difference between the two is that Netflix has a dedicated userbase, who are willing to jump through hoops to get their service; it's the only reason I've installed Silverlight, for example. Youtube, on the other handbasically everyone has watched a Youtube video at one point or another, even if they didn't visit the Youtube site, thanks to embedded videos and such. If I'm a typical user, and Netflix stops working on Firefox, I'm probably going to blame Netflix. If embedded videos stop working in Fire

      • The animated gif is a testament to the importance of compatibility and adoption for a file format. It sucks at compression and quality, and doesn’t support any sound whatsoever.

        How many expert committees and standards organizations and patent wars have revolved around implementing and promoting dozens of “superior” video formats (including codecs and containers and server/client software)? Despite all that effort and conflict, the animated gif reigned supreme as THE most widely used vid
      • The pro industry can get on whatever they like, it doesn't matter as to what people will use. That'll be whatever the big streaming services go for. Youtube, Netflix, Twitch, Amazon, these are the places that matter.

        Hardware makers will get on board too. If Youtube needs a certain kind of acceleration to work well, smartphone processors will get it. Doesn't matter if the media industry says it should be something different, they want to sell new phones and something that'll do that is it working well with t

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Google in particular is uniquely positioned to sway the entire industry since they provide both the most popular video service (Youtube) and one of the most popular video clients (Chrome browser.)

        Don't forget that without hardware decoding support in mobile/tablets a new codec will have a very tough time. Being able to make demands for the Android platform might be just as important.

      • Really, Google is the only company that matters. And maybe Netflix.

        H.264 blew past Google and YouTube to become the dominant codec for HD distribution.

        The geek is still fixed on web distribution through the browser and viewing video on his monitor.

        But the action in HD is shifting to the app and the HDTV set.

        That is where cable-cutting comes in, the smart tv, the set top box and dongles like the Amazon Fire Stick and Chromecast which bypass the browser and increasingly the computer itself.

  • by Sebby ( 238625 )

    and continually evolve our codec to work around or avoid those patents

    Really sad that one has to work *around* a patent - so much for patents encouraging innovation, at least not the 'get-around-it' kind.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      That's always been the case. There's no shortage of stories and anecdotes about two people who invented similar contraptions at similar times and one happened to win the race to the patent office.

      The difference is that software patents are so ubiquitous and so generalized that you pretty much can't write "Hello, World!" without stepping on the toes of some software giant or other.

      When your patent is for "storage, transmission and playback of a sequence of digitally encoded images," you potentially cover ev

      • The real problem is the cost to fight them. In your example, two people invent at the same time, both have evidence that they invented prior to the filing. That's a clear cut case of prior art and the patent would be invalid. The only requirement is that the person who lost the race has about $1M to spend on legal fees to take it to court. Now multiply that by the number of invalid patents that a video codec might infringe...
        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          I don't know that I'd call it "clear cut," given that it would be fairly difficult to prove you had completed your invention before I filed. As I understand it, it doesn't matter if you're one bolt away from completion when I file, I still win (and hopefully USPTO at least uses the postmark date to judge filing order rather than just crossing your fingers that your papers don't get stuck in the postal system for a week or whatever!)

          Though your point is definitely still valid. Whether I win legitimately or

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...and Cisco will just be Thor losers.

  • Patents at work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Art3x ( 973401 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2015 @12:32AM (#50298935)

    From the summary:

    We also hired patent lawyers and consultants familiar with this technology area. We created a new codec development process which would allow us to work through the long list of patents in this space, and continually evolve our codec to work around or avoid those patents.

    I'm so glad that patents are doing their intended purpose of encouraging progress. Nothing fosters progress like taking a long, circuitous route instead of the straight and patently obvious one.

    • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2015 @08:35AM (#50300123) Journal

      "...instead of the straight and patently obvious one."

      I see what you did there.

    • I'm so glad that patents are doing their intended purpose of encouraging progress.

      Well, at least they're fostering innovation instead of promoting stagnation..

      Since the rest of the world does have to innovate to work around your patents, there's more innovation in society as a whole with patents than would be without... ;-)

  • I like it! *smash* another!
  • It's not enough to make a good CoDec, a plan to propagate its adoption should be in the plans.

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2015 @10:37AM (#50300921) Journal

    There is a lot of stuff going on with HEVC:

    1) Ultra HD Blu-ray is about to roll-out based on HEVC
    2) ATSC 3.0 new digital broadcast standard with HEVC is being finalized
    3) DVB and others are considering HEVC for digital broadcast
    4) UHD/4K with HEVC is being deployed by OTT like Netflix as well as direct broadcast satellite like DirecTV and wireline like BT.

    The HEVC Advance patent pool unlimited content royalties [streamingmedia.com] that was recently announced are giving content distributors a lot of concern. In the professional content world, it is understood that enabling technology intellectual property needs to be paid, but when you are talking about unlimited percentages of "all direct & indirect revenue" from content, not only is the cost too high, but the accounting is impossible.

    Meanwhile from a bit rate versus quality level, VP9 is clearly not performing as well as HEVC.

    If Cisco can show that Thor can perform nearly was well as HEVC, there are a lot of content distribution companies that will take it more seriously than they would have just a few months ago because of the HEVC Advance content royalty.

    However the enabling factor would be if Cisco (and other Thor implementers) will indemnify users (i.e. content distributors) from any infringement by the use of their encoders/decoders.

  • Are they better than the merely foremost codec experts?
  • A competing codec to VP8? Isn't that reinventing the wheel some?

"It doesn't much signify whom one marries for one is sure to find out next morning it was someone else." -- Rogers

Working...