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YouTube starts testing AV1 video format

13 Sep 2018 | Rasmus Larsen |

YouTube has started experimenting with using the new AV1 video format and has created an AV1 beta playlist. “We have ambitious goals for rolling out the new format”, the company said.

AV1 to replace VP9

Google has largely opposed the industry HEVC compression standard, partly due to high royalty costs. Instead, the company developed its own VP9 format for HD and 4K HDR video but it has seen limited uptake outside of Google’s own properties.

AV1 is meant to supplant both HEVC and VP9. The new video format has been developed by the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), with includes Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, and several other internet giants. The initiative was announced in 2015.

Google’s YouTube has now started doing public tests with AV1 video and has created an AV1 beta launch playlist. To watch the videos in AV1 you must use Chrome 70 or Firefox 63 that were both recently updated to support AV1 (deactivated by default). The company explains that AV1 videos are currently available in 480p SD only, switching to VP9 for higher resolutions, but it appears that YouTube is uploading higher-resolution versions as we speak.

- “At time of writing, these transcodes are encoded at a very high bitrate for decoder performance testing. The videos selected here represent a large slice of content that YouTube users enjoy, from talking-head programs to popular music videos. We've chosen action videos featuring snow and water spray, as these tend to stress encoders and decoders alike. Animated footage and game captures (coming soon) provide a wider range of content, and we round out the set with some beautiful stuff straight from the makers of cinema cameras,” YouTube said.

Here is one of the videos from the playlist.

”We have ambitious goals”

Google is once again making its position very clear by saying that users can expect “AV1 transcodes on the videos from your favorite creators soon”.

- “Just a few videos today, but our commitment to AV1 is strong, and we have ambitious goals for rolling out the new format. Look for AV1 transcodes on the videos from your favorite creators soon.”

Facebook and Netflix have also committed to using AV1 in the near future. Apple and Amazon have not yet commented on their roadmaps. At the moment, only web browsers offer support but hardware AV1 decoding in consumer devices is expected to arrive next year, with wider deployment in 2020.

 AV1 roadmap

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