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Theora Ahead of H.264 In Objective PSNR Quality

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the why-ayn-never dept.

Media 313

bigmammoth writes "Xiph hackers have been hard at work improving the Theora codec over the past year, with the latest versions gaining on and passing h.264 in objective PSNR quality measurements. From the update: 'Amusingly, it also shows test versions of Thusnelda pulling ahead of h.264 in terms of objective quality as bitrate increases. It's important to note that PSNR is an objective measure that does not exactly represent perceived quality, and PSNR measurements have always been especially kind to Theora. This is also data from a single clip. That said, it's clear that the gap in the fundamental infrastructure has closed substantially before the task of detailed subjective tuning has begun in earnest.' Momentum is building with a major Open Video Conference in June, the impending launch of Firefox 3.5 and excitement about wider adoption in a top-4 web site. It's looking like free video codecs may pose a serious threat to the h.264 bait-and-switch plan to start charging millions for internet streaming of h.264 in 2010."

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313 comments

bullcrap (-1, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870103)

h.264 is not bait and switch. do you really hate paying people for their work that much?

Re:bullcrap (5, Insightful)

CSFFlame (761318) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870171)

If they pretend it is going to be free until people get locked in, then pull the pay me or get sued stunt.... then yes.

Re:bullcrap (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870283)

how exactly do you switch out a software agreement? even if there was a clause in there stating "we can change this at anytime" if they tried changing it to greating disadvantage you, i'm no lawyer, but i suspect you'd have a great get out of jail free card right there. the other option is to simply stop using it so they can't sue.

Re:bullcrap (5, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870419)

how exactly do you switch out a software agreement?

What software agreement? I think that they are licensing patents. They have merely said that you don't have to pay to use the patents before 2010, but if you use the patents after that, you may need to pay (depending on volume). Yes, products that have shipped will be safe, but most companies want to continue shipping products, which will be affected by the royalty demands.

Re:bullcrap (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870531)

"...even if there was a clause in there stating "we can change this at anytime"..."

That's *exactly* what's in the MPEG licenses. And software vendors don't get indefinite licenses for distributing MPEG implementations, they have to reup on a regular basis.

Re:bullcrap (2, Informative)

kelnos (564113) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870821)

How are they pretending? The linked license agreement explicitly states the term of the agreement, and even notes that some activites are royalty-free until then *for the express purpose of increasing market share*. It's not a bait-and-switch if they inform you about the switch ahead of time.

How is that any different than a company selling a physical product deeply discounted or below cost for an initial period of time in order to gain market share?

For one, it's usually illegal (4, Insightful)

xiphmont (80732) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870977)

How is that any different than a company selling a physical product deeply discounted or below cost for an initial period of time in order to gain market share?

That practice is called 'dumping' and is illegal for most goods and services, at least in the United States.

Re:For one, it's usually illegal (2, Interesting)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871145)

Then why haven't video game companies been hammered? Just about all video game consoles for the last decade or so have been sold at a loss for market share.

Re:For one, it's usually illegal (1)

PitViper401 (619163) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871257)

it would be dumping if initially they sold PS3s (for an example) for $50 for the first two months to build interest and then jacked the price to $400.

Re:bullcrap (1)

dmsuperman (1033704) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871467)

Time Warner signed me up for cable internet @ USD$25/month. 6 months later, they upped it to USD$40/month. Same deal.

Re:bullcrap (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870247)

what about the free codec's? there is ppl that work on them to so what about them? so that argument really holds no water cause both sides have people that in essence should get paid.

Re:bullcrap (2, Funny)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870393)

your making zero sense. the free codec's are willingly given away for free, where here /. is yet again wailing when they have to pay for something.

Re:bullcrap (1)

bigmammoth (526309) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870257)

I think it by definition bait and switch. It is offered for free right now ... once it more widely adopted and all your infrastructure is organized around using it you have to start paying in 2010. Which is not exactly heavily publicized. This may surprise people that already purchased the encoder only to find that because their site is popular they have to pay once again.

Re:bullcrap (2, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870323)

"Which is not exactly heavily publicized"

if your laying out cash on infrastructure i'd say it serves you right for not doing your homework first.

Re:bullcrap (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870395)

But unlike the article's summary says, broadcast will still be free for markets less than 100,000 households, and $10,000 "per market" per year thereafter. That's hardly "millions of dollars".

From the license:
* Over-the-air free broadcast - There are no royalties for over-the-air free broadcast AVC video to markets of 100,000 or fewer households. For over-the-air free broadcast AVC video to markets of greater than 100,000 households, royalties are $10,000 per year per local market service (by a transmitter or transmitter simultaneously with repeaters, e.g., multiple transmitters serving one station).

* Internet broadcast (non-subscription, not title-by-title) - Since this market is still developing, no royalties will be payable for internet broadcast services (non-subscription, not title-by-title) during the initial term of the license (which runs through December 31, 2010) and then shall not exceed the over-the-air free broadcast TV encoding fee during the renewal term.

Re:bullcrap (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870435)

that's sweet fuck all considering they have a free pass up to 100,000 customers. i can't think of a fairer way to allow the industry to asses a piece of technology.

Are you forgetting the previous bait and switches (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870753)

No royalties were levied on mp3 implementations until MPEG changed their minds in 1998, ironically not long after the format really took off, and delivered Cease-and-Desists to every free encoder project and a bunch of companies too.

"Thanks, boys, for promoting our format for us. We thought it was only good for hold music over ISDN! Since you did such a fabulous job, we're gonna have to ask you to hand everything over right fucking now or we sue you into oblivion. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."

Don't you remember that was the whole reason Ogg and Vorbis got started? We just had Unisys/GIF threaten to sue everyone, then we had MPEG threatening to sue everyone and someone finally had the guts to say no fucking more. MPEG can't even keep its own members from suing each other, and you plan to trust them for the basis of your own smaller business?

But one thing is funny, MPEG has mostly (mostly) behaved since then. Maybe MPEG is only playing fair now *because* of Ogg? Ogg is pretty much the only viable non-MPEG codec effort left.

Re:Try to check your spelling next time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870823)

asses

I think a link to goatse is in order.

Seriously though, curse words and misspellings don't really add weight to your argument.

Re:bullcrap (2, Interesting)

bigmammoth (526309) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870749)

my reading was $10,000 per year per local market service... assuming your internet services hits many thousands of local markets you would hit the maximum royalty for Participation ie millions. This may be an inaccurate reading. Your reading seems logical as well.

Re:bullcrap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871111)

* Internet broadcast (non-subscription, not title-by-title) - Since this market is still developing, no royalties will be payable for internet broadcast services

Translation: Its free until the market is large enough.. then we start charging you.

$10,000 per year per transmitter? I'm guessing that would be per server when they start charging for internet streaming.

title-by-title (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871273)

Internet broadcast (non-subscription, not title-by-title)

Therein lies the rub. YouTube, Hulu, and the like are on demand, which is how I understand the term "title-by-title".

Re:bullcrap (2, Insightful)

kelnos (564113) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870839)

once it more widely adopted and all your infrastructure is organized around using it you have to start paying in 2010. Which is not exactly heavily publicized.

How does being in the license agreement itself count as "not heavily publicized?" C'mon, people... anyone who signs a legal agreement like a patent license without having a lawyer look over it is a moron.

It's not bait and switch if they tell you about the switch up front.

Re:bullcrap (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870265)

Software patents should all be invalid.

There are numerous and completely independent ways for people to construct software that does the same thing. Software and data compatibility is far more important that limiting what programmers can write independently without also being required to research whether or not their work is already covered under a patent somewhere.

And to be clear, what software patents do most often is PREVENT people from being paid for their original work or at the very least allow some otherwise uninvolved party to come in and tax your ability to market your work if not block it entirely.

Software protected by copyright? I'm not entirely down with that but it makes a lot more sense than patenting software.

Re:bullcrap (2, Insightful)

bug1 (96678) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870459)

do you really hate paying people for their work that much?

It depends how much...

Im happy to pay people how much i think their work is worth to me, but only a victim would pay what a capitalist says their work is worth.

Re:bullcrap (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871033)

h.264 is not bait and switch. do you really hate paying people for their work that much?

Yes it is, and yes I do, especially when it comes to "intellectual property" holders milking what are essentially commodity technologies.

i just shit an obama (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870143)

#2. The deuce.

Free codecs are not a major threat (3, Insightful)

EvilToiletPaper (1226390) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870227)

This might not pose that much of a threat to H264, sounds like another OGG or FLAC. Superior in a lot of qualities but largely ignored by the majority

Unless some major device manufacturers or youtube like heavyweights get behind it, it's gonna be pretty much limited to the geek community.

Uh, that's exactly what's happening isn't it? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870267)

Wikimedia, Mozilla, Redhat... Only thing left is to start seeding Theora pr0n on cheggit. Sounds.... slinky... sexy....

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (5, Funny)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870281)

This might not pose that much of a threat to H264, sounds like another OGG or FLAC.

Theora sounds like another OGG, huh? Imagine that.

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870329)

like wikipedia, you mean?

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870357)

This might not pose that much of a threat to H264, sounds like another OGG or FLAC.

Theora is OGG. Perhaps you meant "Vorbis"?

And FLAC is the most popular lossless audio codec I can think of. How many artists do you know that distribute in Apple Lossless?

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (1)

kelnos (564113) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870931)

Theora is OGG. Perhaps you meant "Vorbis"?

Ogg is a container format. Theora is a video codec. Theora is not Ogg.

Of course, the full name of the codec is actually "Ogg Vorbis," (though it looks like Xiph is trying to move away from that name) so the OP may technically be correct, even though it's less confusing to refer to the audio codec as Vorbis and the container format as Ogg.

How many artists do you know that distribute in Apple Lossless?

Annoyingly, because the only compressed lossless format the iPod supports is Apple Lossless, a lot of people prefer it over FLAC, even though FLAC is technically superior and more freely available. But yeah, haven't heard of any artists releasing in it...

"But I'm Richard Stallman." "Oh, Okay then" (4, Funny)

xiphmont (80732) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871019)

To be fair, the whole thing is part of 'the Ogg Project'. Saying 'Theora is Ogg' is not actually incorrect, and it might get you laid at parties.

No need to be such a stickler, here have a beer.

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (4, Insightful)

eqisow (877574) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870389)

Like FLAC? FLAC is certainly not as popular as mp3, but that's hardly a fair comparison. It is, by far, the most popular lossless audio codec. A simple search on any torrent site will show that.

Still doesn't mean much (2, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870891)

First off, most people don't care about lossless compression. It's a niche market. After all, even on extremely good sound gear, you are hard pressed to pick out 256k MP3 from uncompressed in blind tests. Also, popular though it might be, it wasn't popular enough for the big boys to pick up. Both Apple and Microsoft did their own lossless formats. Windows Media Audio has a lossless mode, and Apple uses ALAC. Now while Windows Media Player will happily play FLAC if you install a DirectShow codec (don't know about Quicktime), FLAC isn't included.

So popular in a small niche maybe, but not making any waves over all.

Re:Still doesn't mean much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871171)

Yes, it's a niche market - but it is a VERY lucrative one. The people who think they can hear much better sound from their lossless files are the ones spending $$$ on high-end speakers, headphones, sound cards, HiFis...

(Not saying that they can't hear any better, but some probably can't at least some of the time - it's more about elitism than high standards sometimes.)

That Microsoft and Apple both created their own just goes to show that it's worth doing. Naturally, they're going to create their own of whatever we're talking about if there's any advantage to creating one at all. Otherwise, they can't infest it with DRM. Popular has nothing much to do with it (I mean, neither of them deal heavily in mp3 now, do they?)

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (1)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871287)

FLAC is certainly not as popular as mp3, but that's hardly a fair comparison. It is, by far, the most popular lossless audio codec.

Sorry, at this point, I must point out that wav would be the "most popular" lossless audio codec.

A simple search on any torrent site will show that.

Sorry, that only proves that it's the most popular amongst geeks who download from torrent sites.

Talk to average users, and ask them "what is a flac file?", and "what is a wav file?", then ask them "which one would you use to record audio?". 99.999% would say "wav".

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870649)

With audio it was like "what you don't support mp3 all my stuff is in mp3! screw you!" With video it's like "durr video files?" and big business can use the best option without alienating users.

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870849)

Until the first lawsuits come down...

I'm just saying that it is pretty hard to imagine what benevolent purpose the current agreements could possibly serve.

 

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (1)

kelnos (564113) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871027)

Yeah, unfortunately that's been my feelings about Theora as well for some time. It seems like a great project, and the alleged freeness of the codec is a big plus to me as an OSS advocate... but no mainstream hardware device supports it, and no major content provider uses it. Most companies are used to paying royalties for these sorts of things, so H.264 adoption isn't really slowed down by the cost.

Vorbis has been around for over 10 years, stable for 7 or so, but mainstream use just isn't there yet. Theora has been considered stable for barely 6 months, the bitstream having been frozen less than 5 years ago. H.264 has been in wide use for at least a few years now; Theora's facing an uphill battle.

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871091)

"This might not pose that much of a threat to H264, sounds like another OGG or FLAC. Superior in a lot of qualities but largely ignored by the majority"

Show me a professional working in audio production who doesn't know about FLAC. FLAC is *anything* but ignored.

With a codec like FLAC, it's not a subjective question of "superiority" -- the question is more along the lines of "is this lossless compression better than, say, the hardware compression built into an HP LTO-4 Autoloader?"

The business decision comes down to something more like "Do I need twelve or sixteen of these $75 tapes, and do I need 20 or 60 hours to do the job?"

Re:Free codecs are not a major threat (1)

nirjhari (1039166) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871231)

Unlike OGG, Theora had some kinks to iron out, e.g HD rendering. I am glad to see that being taken care of.

bigmammoth == sweet mammaries! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870239)

A Sunday School teacher asks a boy where bigmammoth was born. The boy answers "Allentown." The teacher corrects him, "No, it was Bethlehem." The boy replies, "Well, I knew it was some place along Rt. 22."

Moral of this? Fuck you bigmammoth. That's the fucking moral.

Remember (2, Insightful)

CSFFlame (761318) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870275)

The vast majority of the streaming is flash encapsulated. The host can use any codec they want and it is transparent to the client. By doing this, the client never notices, and they don't pay royalties. It's more likely than you think.

Royalties payable to Adobe (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871349)

The host can use any codec they want and it is transparent to the client. By doing this, the client never notices, and they don't pay royalties.

The manufacturer of the playback device (if not a PC) pays royalties to Adobe for Flash Player and passes these on to the client.

It's more likely than you think.

What is "centipedes in my vagina"? Oh wait, this isn't Jeopardy!.

Problems..... (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870293)

Sure, Theora is great, so is OGG Vorbis and FLAC... Unfortunately I can't really play any of those formats save for on my computer, and if I'm using something other than Linux, I most likely will have to install extra software in order to play them. So no, I don't think this will be some big improvement until I can play them on everything without extra software.

Re:Problems..... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870519)

"Unfortunately I can't really play any of those formats save for on my computer"

Wrong [sourceforge.net]

Oh, and don't forget to rockbox [rockbox.org] your iPod.

Re:Problems..... (2, Interesting)

kelnos (564113) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871067)

It's true (and I've worked on one of the hardware players linked from that page), but until *Apple* puts FLAC support on the iPod (sorry, as cool as Rockbox is, it doesn't count), it's not going to get wide use. As much as I hate Apple's domination of the hardware music player market, that's the reality.

Only on some long-discontinued iPod models (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871381)

"Unfortunately I can't really play any of those formats save for on my computer"

Wrong [sourceforge.net]

FLAC fine. But have you anything to play Theora video that isn't a PC?

Oh, and don't forget to rockbox [rockbox.org] your iPod.

From the page you linked: "not the Shuffle, 2nd/3rd/4th gen Nano, Classic or Touch". That's why kelnos says Rockbox doesn't count.

Re:Problems..... (1)

obi (118631) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870691)

To play H.264 content you also need to install extra software (on Windows). Installing a Theora codec in addition to a H.264 codec isn't really a big deal is it?

Re:Problems..... (1)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870981)

Codec downloads are bad; users will go elsewhere rather than expend extra effort downloading something that *might* be a trojan, *might* not work on their machine, and *will* require the administrator rights that they don't have at work.

Video sites really struggled before the Youtube era because codecs had to be downloaded and no solution worked properly on every platform. Everyone remembers Windows Media, the pisspoor Realplayer and the unspeakably dire Quicktime. Youtube bypassed that cruft, which is why it succeeded where the earlier sites failed.

Theora could really take off if a Flash-based decoder could be made for it, so that no codec download was required, and any video site could use it transparently. But how much of the video decoding for Youtube is actually written in Flash, and how much is done by a H264 accelerator in the Flash virtual machine?

Flash is possible, but no cure all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871455)

We have a Java based decoder for Theora which works really well (at least for the 99.9% of the public which isn't a geek with the classic (and largely justified...) geek hatred of Java). The Java can be used as a slick automated fallback for the video tag [celt-codec.org] .

A Flash Theora player could be done (and a Flash Vorbis audio player also exists), although it would require flash 10-- which probably still has a market smaller than Java (so much for no download!). It would also be fairly slow: The video decode in flash is entirely native code, flash only recently got a VM powerful enough to do this.

What the world really needs for video is browser integration. Some of the firefox 3.5 demos have been amazing [mozbox.org] . All this codec stuff is really sausage making that typical users don't care much about.

impeding? (1)

Drantin (569921) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870317)

the launch of Firefox 3.5 is impeding?

Is Firefox being impeded by the conference, or is Firefox impeding the conference?

Or was it an impending release?

Re:impeding? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870375)

A police officer walks into a computer conference and yells, "Hey, who here's a pedant?"

99% of the hands go up and the last 1% erase their porn stashes in a panic.

Re:impeding? (1)

bigmammoth (526309) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870391)

typo :( ..meant impending

Re:impeding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870539)

It's okay for you to make typos; we have editors to fix them.
Wait, what's that? I'm getting something through my earpiece...

Did I miss something? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870341)

It's looking like free video codecs may pose a serious threat to the h.264 bait-and-switch plan to start charging millions for internet streaming of h.264 in 2010.

Either it's true, or I missed Slashdot's article.

Re:Did I miss something? (1)

martijnd (148684) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870553)

The Bait&Switch comment seems a little vague -- but a practical reason for free high quality codecs can be found on WikiMedia [wikimedia.org] :

Why are free codecs important? Wikimedia (and anyone else that wants to switch to free formats) wonâ(TM)t have to pay millions of dollars to in licensing costs to use the h.264 codec and wonâ(TM)t have to sacrifice quality in the process. More importantly it means anyone can encode or decode these files without paying for a license to do so. This means both free and proprietary software can support this format. Where as previously only controlled free as in beer distributions like adobe flash could support video on the web. It enables free software projects like firefogg to package the encoder and give it away for free. It helps opens up the video communication platform for distributed two-way communication.

Re:Did I miss something? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871243)

It's not a "bait and switch". A Bait and Switch is when you offer a particular product, wait for people to come to buy it, then announce you don't have it and push a different product with higher margins on them. If the MPEG LA were, say, to say that in 2010 they plan to charge people for using H.264, and then in 2010 announce that they've decided to refuse to license H.264 to anyone, and that you can only license MPEG2, then that would be a bait and switch.

What the submitter appears to think is a bait and switch is offering something for free on a temporary basis while announcing that continued use after a cut-off date will require payments. Some idiot will doubtless make some drug analogy here, but to the best of my knowledge drug dealers do not, up front, announce they're planning to charge in the future for drugs they're currently giving out for free, nor if they do do they set a ceiling on how much they plan to charge.

In reality, this is a fairly normal business practice. Microsoft is doing it with Windows 7, for instance.

What? (4, Informative)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870381)

H.264 is a specification, not a codec.

There are various codec implementations of it.
x.264 being the most popular.
Main Concept being the best overall.
Nero being one of the first to market and as usual being slow and bloated and buggy.
DivX as usual being late to market but driving the push for playback in embedded devices, while being at the top in terms of quality and decoding speed.

Re:What? (4, Informative)

uhmmmm (512629) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871037)

Main Concept being the best overall.

Oh? this [doom9.org] (and this [doom9.org] follow up post) seem to indicate that it's not so clearcut. Looks like x264 beat MainConcept in most tests, and the major tests it lost in were rather unrealistic.

But in the interest of full disclosure, Dark Shikari is one of the main developers on x264, so he's got an obvious bias. Doesn't necessarily make him wrong though.

I'm sorry, what? (4, Funny)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870407)

test versions of Thusnelda pulling ahead of h264 in terms of objective quality as bitrate increases

Please tell me that's not an actual product name.

Re:I'm sorry, what? (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870659)

Vorbis, Ogg, Theora
And you are surprised by Thusnelda?

But is only the name of the new Theora encoder code base. When it is done it will just be Theora to the masses.

Correct! (3, Informative)

xiphmont (80732) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870861)

And following Thusnelda will be Snuppflog. They're just internal project names.

Intel chooses boring internal codenames like towns, we choose silly things that our incredulous detractors dare us to use. But only if we like them.

Re:I'm sorry, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871239)

The final product name is BroomHilda.

Let's support ogg and theora first (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870445)

I mean, let's dump flash and mp3s and begin to seriously promote .ogg. But the picture now is that you will see mp3 streams well before .ogg streams on Linux and OSS friendly sites. It's absurd!

What are the settings? (4, Interesting)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870483)

I don't mean to belittle Theora, I've really been rooting for them over the years. And this recent test does look fantastic.

But I can't help wonder what settings they are testing x264 with. x264 has recently been shown [doom9.org] to be highly sensitive to clips like the Akiyo one tested here -- it also lost to some other H.264 encoders that it usually beats fairly consistently. The version and settings used to encode this one make a WORLD of difference.

Hopefully... (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870515)

Theora will over take h.264 though I doubt that it will seeing as h.264 has already gained so much momentum :-(.

Repost of TFA in case of Slashdot/Streisand affect (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870573)

Since the last update and alpha release, work has centered on two basic tasks: correcting the substantial energy leakage in Theora's forward DCT and optimization of the quantization matricies (and matrix selection). Here's an early example of Thusnelda with some early quant matrix tuning, along with the new forward DCT versus Theora 1.0 discussed below (same encoder parameters, equal bitrates):

Greg Maxwell has been doing automated regression and comparison testing of the ongoing Thusnelda work against previous versions of Theora, and because there's so much anecdotal FUD flying around about Thusnelda and (especially) h264, he threw h264 (the x264 encoder) into the testing mix too. The following PSNR chart is data collected against the 'Akiyo' QCIF test clip:

X axis is kbps, Y axis is PSNR in dB

The important thing to note is that objective error steadily decreases from Theora, to the SVN version of Thusnelda, to the early experimental Thusnelda work that includes some matrix optimization (but not yet adaptive quantization). Also worth noting is that something is very very wrong with Theora support in older versions of ffmpeg, which for some reason, outside reviewers insist on using to compare Theora against other codecs. The bug is not actually in ffmpeg2theora; the same ffmpeg2theora version linked against a recent ffmpeg does not exhibit the same problem.

Amusingly, it also shows test versions of Thusnelda pulling *ahead* of x264 in terms of objective quality as bitrate increases. It's important to note that PSNR is an objective measure that does not exactly represent perceived quality, and PSNR measurements have always been especially kind to Theora. This is also data from a single clip. That said, it's clear that the gap in the fundamental infrastructure has closed substantianlly before the task of detailed subjective tuning has begun in earnest.
Forward DCT

The original VP3 was designed with a forward/inverse DCT pair without perfect reconstruction that exhibits substantial and highly nonuniform energy leakage. It appears that the only real consideration in the design and implementation of the original transform pair was speed on a single platform [a classic case of premature optimization].
Original transform error

The peak and mean square error charts (values arranged by position in the 8x8 output matrix) make clear just how poor the original forward DCT is. (This is an excerpt from the full test and is representative of the results across all input conditions)):

IEEE1180-1990 test results (VP3):
Input range: [-256,255]
Sign: 1
Iterations: 10000

Peak absolute values of errors:
      3 3 2 2 2 2 2 2
      2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
      2 3 2 2 2 2 2 2
      2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
      2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
      2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
      2 3 2 2 2 2 2 2
      2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Worst peak error = 3 (FAILS spec limit 1)

Mean square errors:
      2.1289 0.9616 0.6611 0.3385 0.3458 0.6426 0.5268 0.3499
      0.4746 0.6312 0.6130 0.4239 0.4310 0.6287 0.6312 0.4315
      0.4706 0.6238 0.6300 0.4228 0.4159 0.6278 0.6357 0.4191
      0.3642 0.5461 0.5286 0.3527 0.3467 0.5368 0.5413 0.3405
      0.3483 0.5285 0.5463 0.3531 0.3499 0.5389 0.5294 0.3421
      0.4331 0.6090 0.6244 0.4272 0.4218 0.6296 0.6172 0.4209
      0.4164 0.6225 0.6191 0.4248 0.4285 0.6206 0.6331 0.4269
      0.3419 0.5315 0.5428 0.3586 0.3560 0.5299 0.5390 0.3482
Worst pmse = 2.128900 (FAILS spec limit 0.06)
Overall mse = 0.523162 (FAILS spec limit 0.02)

Improved transform
Although the transform pair is non-perfect (the inverse does not always and cannot always provide the exact results originally input to the forward transform), this performance can still be improved substantially. Peak and MSE error of the corrected transform, now in Thusnelda (again, a representative excerpt):

IEEE1180-1990 test results (Thusnelda r15940):
Input range: [-256,255]
Sign: 1
Iterations: 10000

Peak absolute values of errors:
      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0
      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Worst peak error = 1 (meets spec limit 1)

Mean square errors:
      0.0024 0.0094 0.0006 0.0041 0.0100 0.0033 0.0105 0.0062
      0.0004 0.0088 0.0013 0.0010 0.0001 0.0022 0.0016 0.0004
      0.0033 0.0022 0.0014 0.0006 0.0006 0.0004 0.0028 0.0013
      0.0005 0.0022 0.0006 0.0002 0.0003 0.0006 0.0003 0.0000
      0.0003 0.0006 0.0001 0.0004 0.0003 0.0007 0.0012 0.0004
      0.0006 0.0011 0.0008 0.0003 0.0006 0.0016 0.0008 0.0004
      0.0001 0.0013 0.0010 0.0006 0.0009 0.0002 0.0016 0.0005
      0.0001 0.0011 0.0005 0.0003 0.0002 0.0013 0.0003 0.0002
Worst pmse = 0.010500 (meets spec limit 0.06)
Overall mse = 0.001563 (meets spec limit 0.02)

We can see that although some error remains, it is reduced to the point of complete negligibility (over three orders of magnitude). Despite the lack of perfect reconstruction, we can now say that Theora/Thusnelda has a good DCT implementation.
Subjective/Objective Improvement

The substantial energy loss in VP3's forward DCT is one of two factors that contributes to VP3's well deserved reputation for losing fine detail. Originally, we believed that the leaky forward DCT contributed a small amount toward the fuzziness problem and the suboptimal quantizer matrices the lion's share of the effect.

This proves to be incorrect; at many rates the leaky forward DCT turns out to be an equal if not greater contributor to the fine detail problem. In addition, Tim unexpectedly found that the first AC coefficient in the original tranform had a higher error rate than most coefficients, and this was contributing to the 'blockiness' of VP3/original Theora at high bitrates. The problem was not solely due to an overly course minimum DC quantizer as we thought. Correcting the transform also reduces blockiness in smooth gradients and surfaces.
Quantization matricies

Work has just begun on optimizing the quantization matrices, both in terms of the matrices themselves and use of multiple quantizer index selection for adaptive quantization within a single frame. At this time, we have some early work on the matrix element selection towards rendering the matrices more inline with contrast the contrast sensitivity curve of the Human Visual System (HVS).
Remaining work

Although a considerable amount of tuning and tweaking reamins (and let's not underestimate the magnitude of that work), the last substantial piece of missing foundation work is Adaptive Quantization, the second substantial aspect of overall quantizer matrix optimization. Hopefully this will be the subject of the next Thusnelda demo/update page.

So fuck you motherfuckers!

Re:Repost of TFA in case of Slashdot/Streisand aff (1)

xiphmont (80732) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870935)

Why would either Slashdot or Streisand apply here? Just wondering. Slashdot traffic isn't exactly likely to bother MITnet much, and I'm hardly likely to censor my own post or have MIT remove it.

I *had* been thinking of adding some gradient improvement screencap examples though.

i just got off the toilet (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870577)

i shit out an obama.

plop!

Why the idiotic naming again? (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870643)

To

Xiph hackers

Your OGG tag looks and sounds odd, for music I mean, now Theora should be the free video codec of choice ? I admit it is slightly better the Vorbis/ogg/xiph oddities but come on. Does it evoke video, film or movie ? Does it inspire us to switch from MPEG ? I can't even pronounce it without bad aftertaste.

Fighting the money machine never works!! (1, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870647)

What happened when GIF patents threatened just about everything on the internet? PNG... and we all know how well that caught on... you've probably never even heard of PNG right?

Re:Fighting the money machine never works!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870775)

Choosy moms choose GIF.

Re:Fighting the money machine never works!! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870787)

Nope, and as a developer for Internet Explorer, I thought I'd heard of every image format already!

Re:Fighting the money machine never works!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871023)

Y'know, GIF is still common, but I don't think it's too uncommon to see PNG nowadays. Just a couple examples off the top of my head:

xkcd [xkcd.com]

The blog of Shimura Takako (a manga artist). [hatena.ne.jp]

Of course, looking at that sample, maybe it's a people-who-make-comics thing.

Re:Fighting the money machine never works!! (1)

f16c (13581) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871113)

I use PNG at work often enough for use in Word documents. Paint has it as an option. For some reason it is a bit smaller and looks better than anything other than BMP in word. Jpeg isn't used for much other than photographic images of setups and such.

Re:Fighting the money machine never works!! (1)

kelnos (564113) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871147)

I'm not sure you can really apply the same reasoning here. Back when the GIF patents were an issue, people (and companies) were way less interested in throwing money into internet-related activities. Nowadays, licensing yet another codec seems like the norm.

Also the cost of reencoding a huge video library may be more than the cost of just paying the patent fees. And you also have the chicken/egg problem to deal with: who's going to sell/distribute Theora video when no (or very few) hardware players support it, and playing it on PCs requires the user to install additional software?

Re:Fighting the money machine never works!! (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871449)

You're kidding, right? GIF is fading away into obscurity, save for animation and simple graphics, and PNG is dominating in the field of lossless images.

GIF's LZW patents may have expired worldwide in 2006, but GIF's suckiness sure hasn't.

PSNR? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870661)

Are you serious?
PSNR numbers don't mean anything anymore. When using Psy-RD and AQ they are completely useless.

You know (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870843)

I'm less worried about benchmarks, more worried about, you know, seeing an actual production, ready for end-user codec released. This only finally happened end of 2008 to all of no fanfare (I didn't see it on /. or anywhere). That is a loooong time they've been messing with it (2001 was when VP3 with open).

The problem is, if you take forever to make it "perfect" you miss the boat. The reason MP3 got so popular is not because it was the first compressed music standard capable of near CD quality. It was also not because it is the best lossy compression standard. It is because it was good enough, at the right time. It's compression level was small enough that people found it usable (as opposed to things like ADPCM which do knock the size down, but not enough) on the technology of the day, and it did it while giving quality good enough people liked it.

So in my opinion it really is to late, they needed to release a couple years ago. As it stands, I think they've missed the boat. Blu-ray is done and uses VC-1, MPEG-4, and MPEG-2, ATSC is done, uses MPEG-2, Flash Video uses H.263 and VP6 (and also H.264), mobile stuff uses MPEG-4 (part 2 and 10). They have just missed the boat. So they release a codec in a year or two or five that's maybe a little better than MPEG-4 part 10... Ok so what? Nobody will really care. Net connections only get faster, harddrives get larger, so even if you offer 20% better compression it doesn't matter, people will stick with the standard.

Vorbis had more of a chance since it actually did get released around the time that there was interest in upgrading from MP3 to something better for some things. However they largely lost out (it does have some use, in game engines for example) in part because of their silly naming and in part because of their poor surround support. However Theora is too little too late as far as I can tell. The world is already settling in to their HD codecs and once the standards get entrenched, they'll stay there until there's a compelling reason to switch.

Timing is important. If your product isn't ready when it is needed, it isn't going to get used no matter how awesome it is in the end.

Re:You know (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871385)

It's not a zero-sum race to the near-present. We got a lot of future ahead of us. Blu-ray is a stopgap to Internet delivery, which is still in its infancy. At that point, it's just a matter of updating a player to whatever is best, not whatever is the standard. What's best will dictate the standard... hopefully.

Re:You know (1, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871431)

[...] in part because of their silly naming and in part because of their poor surround support.

You really are serious about this, aren't you? I thought you were serious until I read this. So how is the surround support in MP3 (That is not even a name. It's an abbreviation. For a name that also contains an abbreviation. How stupid is that?)? (Hint: It has none.)

Everything else in your comment looks goo. So what is your point with this?

And you were so close...

I contradict myself. (4, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870879)

It's important to note that PSNR is an objective measure that does not exactly represent perceived quality, and PSNR measurements have always been especially kind to Theora. This is also data from a single clip.

The benchmark that looks good in the lab.

YMMV.

The "objective" benchmark that has been "especially kind to Theora."

What the hell am I to make of that?

It's one clip -

apparently of a geek dead on his feet after pulling one too many all-nighters.

You can drown in techno-babble.

I want to see video.

Richly detailed backgrounds.

Textures. Wood and fur and cloth and grass. Subtle rendering of flesh tones.

Give me a real taste of how well your codec handles action. Take your camera outdoors. In the rain. Out on a boat. Take it on stage.

Cortado (1)

mysteryvortex (854738) | more than 4 years ago | (#27870895)

Pair this with Cortado [flumotion.net] , instant flash killer!

I played around with Cortado a few years ago, it was impressive at the time. Java applets in the browser is a much more appealing alternative to me than flash. With the option of having embedded video with a fall back to the Java applet in the future, this is a win all around.

The Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] page tells me somebody is already doing this. [theorasea.org]

Re:Cortado (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871233)

Eww. Kill Flash applets with Java applets? Wasn't Java in the browser killed years ago, and for a reason? I'd rather use <video> with a Flash fallback. At least Flash loads almost instantly and doesn't install a sneaky background task that keeps running after you close the browser. There are some quite nice Flash video players out there.

Flawed test (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27870919)

The PSNR graph [mit.edu] is quite interesting. To get comparable PSNR values from a recent x264 for the given source, you will have to use ridiculously low settings. I got about 700fps, with the required (lowest) settings, which still give better PSNR at 250kbps (47.333db) and above (300kbps is 48.222db), than is marked on the graph. This is with the lowest possible x264 settings, one-pass ABR. Also note, how the PSNR graph for x264 looks like a perfect logarithmic curve. None of the other plots are as smooth. Now, if you were feeling paranoid, you might get the feeling that they didn't even test their source with x264 at all.

No, confuzzled hacker (4, Informative)

xiphmont (80732) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871303)

You have to measure the PSNR of each codec with the same tool, silly (and avoid doing colorspace conversions which are lossy in the interchange. Keep the output in YCb'Cr' format). If you're using the x264 encoder's reported PSNR *cough*ahem* it's known to be wrong. It always reports way higher than other tools, like it's forgetting chroma is subsampled or its log-space algebra is just wrong or something.

Let me check myself with the clip linked in the article....mmmm lessee.... yep! that's what you're doing. So, BZZZT, no gold star, try again.

The results are real -- but don't miss the point (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871325)

The results are real:

x264-0.0.0-0.20.20080905.fc10.x86_64 was used.

PSNR computed with dump_psnr (tool that ships with Theora), so that the same tool could be used with multiple formats. I compared the decompressed lossless yuv4mpeg files. You can easily reproduce these results: Grab http://media.xiph.org/video/derf/y4m/akiyo_qcif.y4m and the current Theora Thusnelda SVN, the above mentioned x264 and go to town. Encode with defaults. Constant QI in both cases. (CRF and other common wisdom x264 knobs hurt PSNR in this case, though because of the nature of the test I would have stuck with defaults regardless)

This test wasn't intended to be a critical bake-off between formats. Thats something for a third party to do anyways. I feel somewhat dirty for having a part in something being spun this way.

A big concern for Theora is performing well enough that no one feels the need to regret using a freely licensed format. Being as good/better than some particular encumbered encoder would be great, but really it is just important to be in the ballpark. The videophiles are going to use whatever feels sexiest today (read: best marketed) regardless of licensing, CPU consumption, or even real quality.

While completely real this testing was not *at all rigorous*, you can think of the x264 example as something provided to give the graph scale and not something you can use to say that Theora is superior, only that its not laughably worse. I think this does show that some of the claims that "theora sucks" are over-hyped.

I initially created these graphs because someone published a paper with highly flawed and unreasonable results showing Theora doing >30dB worse than x264. So a lot of the testing parameters came from trying to mimic his particular test rig so I could understand his mistake. -- It just so happens that the graph makes a nice statement about Theora's improvement over time, so Monty made use of it in his latest report to his employer on Theora's progress.

No one involved with Theora is saying that this test says that Theora is generally better. It's only "Look, you can stop fretting about quality-- we're basically in the right ballpark now. It's time to get other issues like adoption, software support, etc fixed while the final polish is being put on the new encoder".

--Greg Maxwell
I've also commented on this reddit thread: http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/8iphn/theora_encoder_improvments_comparable_to_h264/

spotty support for theora (1)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 4 years ago | (#27871059)

I like the concept of theora, but to be perfectly frank, it just isn't well supported enough to be useful for me. If I use mp4, I can use the same files on my Winders box, my linux box, and my recently purchased DVD player. With theora, it is a bit of a struggle to get anywhere close to that level of interoperability (not aware of any common DVD players that support it at all).

Sure, I might be able to pull it off if I was extremely anal about my purchases, but who has the time for that?

Best,

YUO FAIL IT?! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871215)

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Objectively better.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27871433)

subjectively...it looks like a giant blob!

ack!

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