Sun’s new video codec

So Sun Microsystems video codec effort is now public. Actually its been public since the 11th of April, but I missed it until today. I think it is an interesting effort and wish them good luck. That said I noticed from the comments that people where wondering why they where not instead pushing Theora or Dirac forward instead of making their own codec. Well the answer to that question is implicitly given in Rob Glidden’s blog post, Sun wanted something which they felt was 100% sure to not be under any current patents and thus they started with the sure to be patent free H261 codec (due to its age).

Of course that is similar to the approach the BBC took with Dirac, but instead of using an codec implementation they used old text books and research papers as their baseline.

That said neither the OMS video codec or Dirac can be 100% sure that there will never be any patent lawsuits, to many bogus patents for that. So all they can do is what they have been doing, which is to ensure that their prior art story is so strong that if a case ever is brought they should be able relatively easily defeat it.

And while I would of course love even more people contributing to improving out existing codecs like Theora and Dirac and think that getting new codecs launched which has used different strategies for ensuring their royalty free status is only a good thing as it gives us more angles of attack. And once one of these codecs reaches critical mass in terms of consumer adoption I think it can actually open the door to the others as it will reduce the current ‘stigma’ around royalty free codecs.

In the meantime we just need to continue improving our tools as I feel that is the next step we need to take to help push free codecs forward. My goal is that we will get Pitivi and Jokosher to a stage where we have them running on all three major platforms and thus the threshold for getting your marketing department etc., to publish their audio clips and videos with free codecs is greatly reduced. The two Summer of Code students we have working on Pitivi and the renewed Jokosher effort should help push us forward.
I am also hoping that the codec support provided in HTML5 through Firefox will open some doors. While Apple and Microsoft are still trying to sabotage it there is still hope that the market share of Firefox is large enough to make a difference and force the issue.

6 thoughts on “Sun’s new video codec

  1. Yeay, Jokosher isn’t dead :D :P REJOICE :D
    and does anyone else think that opensource seems to be the buzzward for marketing companies these days. I have loved opensource for a very long time but at the same time I find it amusing to see big companies try and use it as a marketing tool to increase their rep.
    Hysterical to see companies like dell and intel push opensource drivers onto manufacturers now considering their response a few years ago was FU :D lol

  2. Oh, oh, oh and also, let’s please physically stop all fanboys from angrily point to projects like PiTiVi, saying “PiTiVi takes care of that for you, and it’s free software!” when PiTiVi barely even loads movies yet. I swear, those uniformed, loud kids are the cancer hurting, well everything (not killing, of course, but creating a lot of pain).

  3. Is there a plan for getting critical mass? Because I don’t think it will happen by itself.

    Speaking as a Mac user, Pitivi and Jokosher are pretty much the last things I want and thus would not encourage me to use free codecs. I expect codecs to plug in to the multimedia apps that I already have installed (iLife). I do use Perian, so free codecs could piggyback on that.

  4. I think this could be genius. I wonder if it’s possible to have advanced decoding already in the bitstream specification and tools and then introduce the patented parts into encoded files as time passes.

    I’ve often thought the video world was driven too much the by gee-whiz, “if the number’s higher it must be better” school of technology evaluation. Much like pharmaceutical companies I’d suspect these codec producers of minor twiddling on top of solid technologies just to get another few years of patent protection on the resultant combination.

    Also ccording to their FAQ they plan to use Vorbis as the audio layer. I always thought it strange that in all the HTML5 video kerfuffle about patents the much simpler and safer Vorbis audio was never mentioned even though audio and video obviously go hand in hand.

  5. @Wes: The plan to call it such is to try to line up the library and tools situation to a level where it become a very enticing proposition. Our partners in the media world is also doing their bit, with Dirac for instance being pushed forward for standardisation as VC-2. Support in things like Opera and Firefox should be another key part of the story to solve the eternal chicken and egg situation.

    As for built-in support for existing Mac (or Windows apps). Well there are DirectShow and Quicktime plugins for a lot of this stuff and more is underway. But I think getting Mac users for instance to get and start using these codecs without ‘market pressure’ will be hard and thus having free tools which will be pioneered by the Linux and maybe even Windows world is a core part of the success formula.

  6. Hi Uraeus. That’s really Great info. I believe its patented codec. But if you also tell more in terms of its commercialization whether its licensable? and if yes how much it cost?

    Also about how its Quality / performance as compared to popular video codecs such as H.264 codecs.

    also something details about pros and cons of this codecs for comparison purpose. recently I’ve read one blog. where great comparative info have been given about pros and cons.

    Waiting for some good info

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