The world of video codecs can be a confusing one. Popular codecs including HEVC (H.265) and AVC (H.264) are widely supported, and will be familiar to streamers. But there’s another codec that gaining momentum and industry support. AV1.
AV1 decode is supported by a wide variety of hardware including current generation Nvidia and AMD GPUs (but not the RX 6500 XT). However, hardware encoding support is more limited. Intel’s upcoming Arc series of GPUs are set to include encoding support. That will definitely appeal to creators and streamers who prefer the AV1 codec.
During a recent Arc presentation (via Digital Trends), Intel claimed that hardware encoding of AV1 on an Arc GPU is up to 50 times faster than a software only encode. It goes on to state that an AV1 encode is 20% more efficient than HEVC at the same bit rate and 50% more efficient that H.264.
Although AV1 encoding may be a niche feature to many users, there are definitely users out there who work with AV1 content and Intel is hoping to peel away some of that market.
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Other than offering greater efficiency at the same bit rate, AV1 is notable for being royalty free. It has the backing of major companies including Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix.
This means AV1 is available in a wide variety of open source and free software including web browsers that would otherwise have to pay a licencing fee to include HEVC support. Just recently, Samsung found itself being sued by MPEG LA, a licensing body that holds the patents for the HEVC codec in a German court.
Now that Arc is set to include full AV1 encode support, it’s likely that next gen AMD and Nvidia graphics cards will too. Interestingly, Twitch is currently testing the feature which will add more pressure on companies to add encoding support.
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