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Breaking Open the Video Frontier, Despite MPEG-LA

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the starting-point dept.

Media 66

JimLynch writes "Did you know that nearly every video produced for Web viewing has been, at one point or another, in MPEG format no matter in what format the video is ultimately saved? According to Chris 'Monty' Montgomery, nearly every consumer device outputs video in MPEG format. Which means that every software video decoder has to have MPEG-licensed technology in order to process/edit video." An interesting snippet: "But there's hope on the horizon. Besides the codecs and formats from the Xiph.Org Foundation, the new WebM format announced by Google in May will ideally provide consumers and developers with another alternative. Montgomery has thrown Xiph.Org support behind WebM, because Google's financial muscle (not to mention their free license) will have a real chance to break the hold MPEG-LA has on the market."

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66 comments

Not nearly every... (4, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009206)

"Nearly every consumer device outputs video in MPEG format" - not really, since there's a LOT of devices outputting in MJPEG. At least "still" - since this way of saving video seems to be, for some time now, on its way out in newer ones.

Not saying that the situation isn't suboptimal anyway, of course. And TBH I'm not sure if WebM can change much - Microsoft (yes, them out of all companies...) VC-1 codec was probably also meant to bypass MPEG-LA; didn't really work well.

Re:Not nearly every... (2, Informative)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009344)

MJPEG is insanely ineffective. It's no different from just a series of JPEG stills, without taking any advantage of frames being similar to each other.

This means, you have a really huge bitrate for lousy quality.

Re:Not nearly every... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009428)

Of course it has worse compression...but "a really huge bitrate for lousy quality" goes too far. DV is, in its essence, very similar to MJPEG (the latter probably slightly better usually) - is DV really "lousy quality"? And with a "really huge bitrate" MJPEG might be really fine for most stuff.

That's beside the point of curse how it is on its way out; perhaps except in Nikon cameras, so far.

Re:Not nearly every... (4, Interesting)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009568)

Of course it has worse compression...but "a really huge bitrate for lousy quality" goes too far. DV is, in its essence, very similar to MJPEG (the latter probably slightly better usually) - is DV really "lousy quality"? And with a "really huge bitrate" MJPEG might be really fine for most stuff.

That's beside the point of curse how it is on its way out; perhaps except in Nikon cameras, so far.

Don't get me wrong - there's a time and a place for MJPEG. But, DV is on of the trivially easy examples for showing how much better modern technologies perform, considering that HDV works in exactly the same bitrate and tape format, and squashes a *lot* more pixels into the image. HDV isn't even particularly modern technology -- just more modern than DV. When you eliminate tape's need for a constant bitrate and move to a modern file based workflow, many of the AVCHD devices pathologically conpress full 1080p HD into a much lower bitrate than DV while looking just fine for most uses. Seriously, if the AVCHD devices used a bitrate as high as DV, the quality of the output would start to compete with the more expensive professional gear.

Though, the real future is in something like RedcodeRaw. A codec that focuses on being very good at storing sample data from the sensor is one thing that apparently hasn't been much explored in open standards, but it would offer the best performance. When somebody comes out with a DSLR that shoots video in a high bitrate, well-documented sensor-oriented format, they'll own a lot of production overnight.

Re:Not nearly every... (2, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009442)

DV is basically a slightly altered MJPEG, and it's a pretty popular acquisition format. It's not the best quality, but I'd hardly call it lousy.

Re:Not nearly every... (1)

ejasons (205408) | more than 3 years ago | (#33036644)

DV is basically a slightly altered MJPEG, and it's a pretty popular acquisition format. It's not the best quality, but I'd hardly call it lousy.

25 megabit for standard definition video is insanely high (most DVDs are 4-6 megabit), which is why it has good quality (and why it is almost never a "final" format, though it is great for editing, simply because it doesn't have inter-frame compression).

Just use the right tool for the right job (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010086)

MJPEG is insanely ineffective.

Motion JPEG is a good format when storing/transmitting the raw video data is beyond the hardware's capabilities (=often), but you want to do as little as possible post-processing. For example when shooting 30 second clips with a digital camera. Writing that to a memory card might be more power-efficient than including the electronics for an advanced video codec. Also that 'semi-raw' data is better material for post-processing (on PC for example) than video that's stronger compressed at the beginning.

So basically: suited as intermediate storage format. If ordinary consumers don't bother to post-process their videos, that's their business/problem.

Re:Not nearly every... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010710)

Ineffective for what purpose?

For maximum compression, it is ineffective. For a device getting the images stored as you shoot and not paying MPEG-LA through the nose it's plenty effective. If you intend to use something other than MPEG as the final compression of the video MJPEG may be a superior intermediate format. For editing, MJPEG is certainly superior to MPEG.

Re:Not nearly every... (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 3 years ago | (#33011432)

This means, you have a really huge bitrate for lousy quality.

I thought so too ("why not use MPEG for editing? they stupid fools!") , until I read an article many years ago. It said:

All the video codecs ever existed can be divided into two groups:

  • for editing
  • for distributing

After 10 years of video-taping and producing VCDs/DVDs as a hobby, I'm still amazed at this simple statement.

Re:Not nearly every... (2, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33012124)

MJPEG is insanely ineffective. It's no different from just a series of JPEG stills, without taking any advantage of frames being similar to each other.

Which makes it an ideal format for video editing. Yes, they give huge files, but then, today disk space is cheap, and it's not the form you distribute anyway. There's no problem if your currently edited film needs 100 GB. On the other hand, the less compression losses/artifacts you get in the intermediate steps, the better.

This means, you have a really huge bitrate for lousy quality.

Nonsense. It means huge bitrate for better quality, because you get less compression losses/artifacts.

Re:Not nearly every... (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 3 years ago | (#33014402)

Uhm, no. Unlike many other formats which give you better quality at the cost of bandwidth, MJPEG is simply wasteful. For the same bandwidth, it will produce a lot more compression artifacts.

RTA dude. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33009636)

Paragraph three, right at the top:

"Very old cams (SD) usually used MJPEG, which is OK. Everything newer is MPEG2 or AVCHD [which is MPEG4]."

Re:RTA dude. (1)

PybusJ (30549) | more than 3 years ago | (#33012104)

But the TFA is not necessarily correct (in this case your quote from Monty). Some of the newer DSLRs (certainly Olympus and I think Nikon) are recording HD video in MJPEG.

Re:RTA dude. (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33013294)

Which makes it just as incorrect - many current models still record in MJPEG. Many not "very old" ones at all also do - an there are tons of them still in use.

Jesus, WAKE UP SLASHDOT EDITORS! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33009398)

More bullshit linkbait blog articles from JimLynch. He's been banned from posting in the message bases on a couple other websites (ArsTechnica, Endgadget) due to repeatedly posting links to his poorly written, copy-and-paste blog articles to drive ad impressions. So how long will it take Slashdot to stop taking submissions from this leech?

Or I suppose if I buy a $9.95 "BE AN INTERWEBS MARKETING WIZARD" book at Borders, I can submit whatever crap I want on slashdot too?

Here's the scoop (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33009504)

First of all, the "editor" in question is Timothy "Suck My Cock For A Front Page Story". One seriously wonders what kind of dirty ass sex goes on between KDawson and Timmy. I suspect they encode their filthy sex videos in a free but slow codec and forward them to RMS for approval. Some say horses are involved, but I have not seen the videos, so can not vouch for that. With RMS as the ultimate user of these videos, I suspect nasty things involving insects are the subject of many of them. Look, Timmy and KDawson, you're both in California, right? Just get "married" and post your videos to some pay-walled S and M site. The thought of a naked KDawson all strapped up in leather harnesses ass fucking little Timmy is quite a visual.

Re:Jesus, WAKE UP SLASHDOT EDITORS! (2, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009572)

Please select ONE of the following:



(x) You must me new here.

(x) Your ideas intrigue me, I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.

(x) Hot grits. (x) Cowboy Neil approves of this story, so what's YOUR problem? (x) In Soviet Russia, JimLynch is a GOD.

(x) I've got a slice of pizza and a Mt. Dew. Go away.

(x) Fill in the blank:____________________________________

(x) I SAID SELECT ONE.

WebM is not the solution (4, Insightful)

Endymion (12816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009474)

Many people in the Free Software press seem to be putting a lot of faith behind WebM. There seems to be this belief that Google can come in and magically make the entire video codec situation go away. WebM might be able to find a home in a few niche markets, but the hopes that it will displace H.264? It's laughable.

I love Free Software, and generally strive to run as near to 100% Free as I can on my own systems. Yet even I can recognize that the video codec war is not one that will be winnable by fiat and propaganda. The critical-mass of users are those that are buying cameras that output H.264 today, and possibly various managers, that are going to be arguing "nobody got fired for using MPEG".

The video codec war is not winnable right now, but the container and codec implementation wars might be. Striving to replace Flash with x264/ffmpeg implementations in the browser is a huge win, and one that can be realistically accomplished. Sure, it'd be great if people used a free codec like Theora/WebM (make it a prominent option! advertise it!), but not supporting H.264 at all will have one effect, and it's not the one we Free Software advocates will like: people will see the player as broken, and move to alternatives that are "not broken". Your parents, boss, and other non-technical people don't care about the alphabet soup of codecs; they just care about "software that works".

So dodge the problem and make codecs an external, OS-level issue like they always have been, and win the battles that actually can be won.

Oh, and if you really want to make a political stand, here's an idea: instead of fighting stupid technical issues about what falls under the various MPEG patents with things that may or may not be infringing (WebM), fight the patent system itself. This whole stupid issue only exists because we stupidly allow software patents. That fight is way more important, and applies to a wide variety of topics, not just video.

Re:WebM is not the solution (1)

Redlazer (786403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009588)

Oh, and if you really want to make a political stand, here's an idea: instead of fighting stupid technical issues about what falls under the various MPEG patents with things that may or may not be infringing (WebM), fight the patent system itself. This whole stupid issue only exists because we stupidly allow software patents. That fight is way more important, and applies to a wide variety of topics, not just video.

Speaking of hopeless fights that are not winnable, how about that patent reform?

Re:WebM is not the solution (1)

Endymion (12816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009612)

Yes, pragmatically speaking, patent reform is likely also a hopeless fight. But if you are going to fight an unlikely battle, you might as well fight the one that will pay off more in the long run.

Re:WebM is not the solution (2, Insightful)

Redlazer (786403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009662)

I agree, but I'd rather we fight on both fronts, rather than just the one.

Re:WebM is not the solution (0, Flamebait)

Endymion (12816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009744)

Normally, yes, that's a great idea. But in this case, fighting H.264 is going to drive normal, non-technical people away and into the waiting arms of non-free software.

Fighting for an open codec isn't worth it, if it destroys the market share of Firefox in the meantime.

Re:WebM is not the solution (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33014492)

Flamebait? Moderators should learn the difference between "Flamebait" and "I do not agree!"

I'm actually undecided in this case. An important fact is that there are possibilities for Firefox to support H.264 without getting the license, by just delegating it to the OS (Windows will most probably have the codec installed; Linux users are usually aware of the problem and can decide themselves whether to install the codec). What they can't do is to support it directly in the browser. But I don't think users would actually notice the difference. Therefore it's not a question of necessity, but one of policy.

Sometimes supporting non-free things from free software is important. For example, GNU software generally also runs on non-free operating systems (and if there's one person you cannot accuse of not caring enough about free, it's Stallman). It's generally extra work to support those operating systems, so it's clearly a deliberate decision. On the other hand, sometimes it can make sense to not support something, by principle.

The question here is what's more dangerous: Firefox supporting H.264 through the operating system increases the danger of getting stuck with a proprietary (patent encumbered) video codec. Firefox not supporting H.264 increases the danger of one of the most prominent and successful OSS product declining in usage, and may harm the general impression and thus adoption of open source software.

Between a rock and a hard place (4, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009818)

The magic time we had when we could possibly have gotten patent reform is past. 10 years ago, this would have been something being done for a non-profit community. Today it would be a grant to Billion-dollar Red Hat and multi-Millionare Mark Shuttleworth, at the expense of inventors. It's going to be really hard to get that to fly politically.

The problem is that Open Source distributions can't license the patents and remain Open Source. So, this is going to be a real killer for Open Source if we let it happen.

The fact is, anyone can install a plugin to play any format they like, and most browser users will, so this is not a matter of whether Open Source browsers support it or not. But browser developers and Open Source projects should continue to lobby for Open codecs, simply to protect themselves from being written out of the market by IP restrictions.

Re:Between a rock and a hard place (1)

Endymion (12816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010604)

Removing patents would only benefit RedHat? What about smart investors that want to compete in the future against cheap knockoffs from China, that totally ignore patents? This myth that patents are necessary (or even relevant) reeks of a limited, USA-centric point of view.

The problem is that Open Source distributions can't license the patents and remain Open Source.

Of course. Which is why the problem should be side-stepped, by leaving things to the OS. We successfully distribute MP3 support from international /contrib branches in many distributions, and video should be no different. Forcing such software to be included in Firefox or other user-visible software is asking for trouble.

That doesn't change the fact that people are buying cameras that output H.264 now, and non-tech people won't understand why "firefox won't play my video - it must be broken".

The fact is, anyone can install a plugin to play any format they like, and most browser users will

Hilarious!

Nobody installs extra plugins. The only reason flash became popular, was that it was distributed with the browser itself. And even more important, managers will make the same decision they always make: targeting the non-plugin, popular solution, which usually maps to "Microsoft/IE". The fact that mozilla (the org) is actively fighting against allowing such plugins makes this irrelevant in any case.

Note, I'm not arguing against lobbying for Open codecs. That's the ideal solution, of course. But the pragmatist in me says that normal people don't even notice patent issues, and will trend towards the software that "just works" with their fancy new camera. Free Software can adapt to that use-case, or be seen as irrelevant.

It's worth mentioning: this has happened before, and the solution was to adapt. I install linux for family/friends, and things like "how do I play my [commercial] DVD?" come up. Discussions of how it's technically illegal to play such a video file with Free Software just cause them to tune out, often moving back to Windows to avoid the issue. Fortunately, many distributions now work around the problem, fetching some DeCSS equivalent from international souces on first use.

Re:Between a rock and a hard place (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010644)

What browser came with flash? I'm just curious, because as far back as I can remember, it was a plugin that had to be downloaded... and certainly seems to be on any vanilla install of a modern browser...

Re:Between a rock and a hard place (1)

Endymion (12816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010662)

IE and Netscape came bundled with the flash plugin in various versions.

Re:Between a rock and a hard place (1)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33016376)

That's a bit different from this:

Nobody installs extra plugins. The only reason flash became popular, was that it was distributed with the browser itself.

I seem to recall that Netscape and Internet Explorer generally just offered to install flashplayer via their respective plugin-finders upon first visiting a page with flash content.

The only time I've personally seen flash present on a fresh install is when an OEM has put it there; such arrangements are independent of Microsoft, I'm sure you understand.

Re:Between a rock and a hard place (1)

Bungie (192858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33018010)

I'm pretty sure either the IE 5 or 6 (or both) installers included Flash Player as one of the installable options which was visible under custom setup and enabled as part of the default IE install. Flash Player also does ship with non-OEM versions of Windows, I think XP ships with the Flash Player 8 ActiveX (check the "%WinDir%\Downloaded Program Files" directory). There are even Microsoft updates packages [microsoft.com] which update the Flash Player and are available on Windows Update. You might have seen the ActiveX notification to install the updated Flash Player ActiveX control, but could probably still view the Flash content if you don't install the update.

Microsoft has nothing against Flash Player. Before Silverlight, they had no competing product other than Liquid Motion (which was killed off a long time ago). Flash is a very popular format and IE looks better to the end user if they don't have to install it. They probably also have some kind of deal with Adobe.

Re:Between a rock and a hard place (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#33024348)

Which is why the problem should be side-stepped, by leaving things to the OS.

How does sidestepping an illegality make it no longer illegal?

Re:WebM is not the solution (1)

jmv (93421) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009964)

Every software field is full of patents. Either you do you what you can and hope for the best, or else you quit writing software. Most people choose the former. This is not specific to video. There may be a few more patents there, but nothing that makes the field fundamentall different from others. Sure trying to get rid of patents entirely is nice, but if that the only strategy, we'd all be using 100% proprietary software today.

Re:WebM is not the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33009976)

Many people in the Free Software press seem to be putting a lot of faith behind WebM. There seems to be this belief that Google can come in and magically make the entire video codec situation go away. WebM might be able to find a home in a few niche markets, but the hopes that it will displace H.264? It's laughable.

It's displaced H.264 for web video on my system. I've uninstalled Flash and just watch YouTube video in WebM these days. Yes, there are still many videos unavailable in WebM but more WebM video becomes available every day. Google wants one video codec for the biggest video site in the world and for the Web that means open, royalty-free video. WebM is it. Once there are stable releases of Firefox, Opera (already out in 10.60), Chrome, and Flash with WebM support there just aren't many compelling reasons for H.264 on YouTube anymore. At that point all you're really talking about is supporting iPhone and iPad users, who are themselves just a software update away from WebM support. See Google's blog post on this and other topics:

http://apiblog.youtube.com/2010/06/flash-and-html5-tag.html [youtube.com]

So dodge the problem and make codecs an external, OS-level issue like they always have been, and win the battles that actually can be won.

Since when have codecs ever been an OS-level issue? The best video tools have always bundled their own codec implementations.

Re:WebM is not the solution (4, Interesting)

unix1 (1667411) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010074)

You are looking at it too short-term. If the "fight" was being called today and everyone's flash plugin was to magically disappear, you may be right (what about IE users?); but this is a more long-term affair.

In fact, I don't see a one-sided game at all, if Google play their cards right. And, Google does hold some major cards - YouTube, Android, OHA partners, Firefox (Opera and Chrome are not major), and WebM. MS will allow WebM with an optional codec install for IE which can be handled on youtube.com - "user, to play youtube videos we recommend you install this codec", or "to get most out of youtube ... blah blah blah" - I don't know I'm not a marketing expert.

On the other side you'll have Safari (on iOS and OS X) and IE (partially, see above) who will support H.264. This is not exactly a clear-cut battle.

You'll also have recording devices like video cameras, cell phone cameras, etc., but as long as there's the Web in between those and significant part of the consumption of content most of the battle will be fought online, and relatively smaller portion offline.

But first, before any major moves, Google has to make WebM workable - i.e. fully optimized encoders, decoders, quality, etc.; then start making major moves towards its adoption. It seems to me like they are trying to make sure Flash (for video) hangs around long enough for them to accomplish this step. That's why, on the flip side, Apple would want to take out Flash as soon as possible.

Re:WebM is not the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33010602)

The numerous factual errors in your post discount - further than discount, they make ridiculous - all your other presumptions.

Re:WebM is not the solution (1)

Endymion (12816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010650)

On the other side you'll have Safari (on iOS and OS X) and IE (partially, see above) who will support H.264. This is not exactly a clear-cut battle.

Chrome also supports H.264. Including the partial IE support, it's really only firefox that's left out.

You'll also have recording devices like video cameras, cell phone cameras,

And these all support H.264, often with specialized DSP support. This is also the fastest growing market for the web, and likely to be increasingly important in the near future. Ignore mobile support at your own peril.

But first, before any major moves, Google has to make WebM workable - i.e. fully optimized encoders, decoders, quality, etc.; then start making major moves towards its adoption.

This is not even remotely relevant. It's important to us geeks, but we basically don't count. Managers don't make decisions based on quality or decoder speed. They offer their web pages in what they believe to be the popular, common choice.

This puts WebM, as a newcomer, at the very bottom of the list.

Re:WebM is not the solution (1)

unix1 (1667411) | more than 3 years ago | (#33031858)

Chrome also supports H.264.

Sure, but Chrome and Opera are not major players - I specifically said so in my previous post.

Ignore mobile support at your own peril.

I didn't say "ignore" - I said as long as there's the Web between production and consumption, bigger part of the battle will be fought there, not offline.

This is not even remotely relevant. It's important to us geeks ...

It's relevant to the point where Google can't start marketing and "arm-twisting" if the technology is not ready for production; i.e. it is comparable (features, performance, etc.) with the closest competing products on the market.

This puts WebM, as a newcomer, at the very bottom of the list.

Sure it does - today - the "battle" will go on for the next few years.

Half-baked solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33010318)

> ...fight the patent system itself. This whole stupid issue only exists because we stupidly allow software patents. That fight is way more important, and applies to a wide variety of topics, not just video.

First, I agree 100% that software patents are nonsense (curiously, English has not the word I wanted: contrasense). I suppose there could be a way for a private standards proposer to get some revenue on licensing a needed standard (e.g., copyright).

But what I mean here is: someone long ago devised patents to give inventors some assurance about the marketability of their inventions (e.g., by forbidding others to enter an artificial monopoly).

But this is half-baked, because one forgot to regulate how much the inventor could make, which gave rise to the current situation of big corps buying patent rights and profitting obscene amounts, exactly because software is a kind of cornucopia. So much money can be obtained from it that it can be converted to imense amounts of power (through e.g. lobbies) -- power which then can be used to enslave the masses (by gradually removing their rights and threatening them with harsh punishments).

Re:WebM is not the solution (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33011376)

Let me put it this way: if making WebM the defacto video standard worldwide is like sending a man to Mars, then tearing down software patents in the US is like sending a man to Alpha Centauri.

For someone that argues so behemently about choosing your battles carefully, I don't think you've considered the alternatives well enough.

Re:WebM is not the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33011682)

And your counter argument is...

Re:WebM is not the solution (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33012936)

The problem is that we need a lot of money to fight software patents. We'd need to out-lobby the BSA and all of its members or somehow get key players like Microsoft or IBM to decide to destroy half their patent portfolios.

Maybe we could do it by building a massive patent troll and suing the entire industry at once but I'd still expect that to require a couple dozen million Dollars at least.

until (1)

teknosapien (1012209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009608)

some asshat goes to Texas and files a © infringement case

Another Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33009798)

This may "provide consumers and developers with another alternative" but what makes them think consumers want another alternative. I think most consumers would rather have everything in a format that all of their existing hardware and software already supports. I certainty don't want to be downloading extra codecs or plug-ins to play a video in a lower quality than what I already enjoy.

The Snowball's Chance In Hell. (1, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33009914)

Montgomery has thrown Xiph.Org support behind WebM, because Google's financial muscle (not to mention their free license) will have a real chance to break the hold MPEG-LA has on the market.

H.264 licensees include the manufacturers of damn near every piece of video hardware sold on this planet.

The full spectrum of product from theatrical production, cable, satellite and broadcast distribution. Security and Industrial video. Military applications. Home video. The video card. The video game console.

The web is only one small piece of the puzzle.

We are talking companies the size of Mitsubishi.

Philips. Samsung. Fuji. Hitachi. NTT. Panasonic. Pioneer. Sony. Sanyo. Thomson. Toshiba. Yamaha.

If I have focused on the Asian here - there is a reason: Of the 857 AVC/H.264 licenses most are Asian - with a domestic market in the billions - and export markets on the same scale.

They are - collectively - far bigger than Google and no strangers to flexing their own muscles.

The enterprise cap for H.264 licensing is $5 million a year.

Given WebM's resemblance to H.264, the sensible thing to do - from the mega-corp's point of view, at least - would be to throw WebM into the H.264 pool and let it sink or swim as best it can.

 

Re:The Snowball's Chance In Hell. (3, Interesting)

arose (644256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010022)

H.264 licensees include the manufacturers of damn near every piece of video hardware sold on this planet.

Just don't expect that whatever license they have covers the user... Giving people the ability to use their videos commercially without paying off the MPEG-LA yet another time just might be a competitive advantage.

Re:The Snowball's Chance In Hell. (0)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010252)

Giving people the ability to use their videos commercially without paying off the MPEG-LA yet another time just might be a competitive advantage.

H.264 licensing is dirt cheap.

Shorts 12 minutes and under are free.

Retail sales by title - disk or download - is the lessor of 2% of sales or 2 cents each. They don't give a damn about your hometown wedding videos. What they want to see is a check for $20 grand.

Subscription sales - you owe nothing unless your cable channel or DVD of the month has 100,000 subscribers. It doesn't matter whether they are paying $15 for an hour of Penthouse or 5 cents a week for Miniature Golf.

Re:The Snowball's Chance In Hell. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33010474)

At the moment H.264 licensing is dirt cheap.

Shorts 12 minutes and under are free for now.

Retail sales by title - disk or download - is the lessor of 2% of sales or 2 cents each. They currently don't give a damn about your hometown wedding videos. What they want to see is a check for $20 grand.

Subscription sales - you owe nothing unless your cable channel or DVD of the month has 100,000 subscribers (for now). It doesn't matter whether they are paying $15 for an hour of Penthouse or 5 cents a week for Miniature Golf until they decide to charge a percentage of what you make on the video.

Fixed those for you.

It doesn't work that way. (2, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33011166)

Fixed those for you.

Thanks for the sour persimmons, Buster.

The first term of the License runs through 2010, but the License will be renewable for successive five-year periods for the life of any Portfolio patent on reasonable terms and conditions...but for the protection of licensees, royalty rates applicable to specific license grants or specific licensed products will not increase by more than ten percent (10%) at each renewal. SUMMARY OF AVC/H.264 LICENSE TERMS [mpegla.com]

The H.264 licensors fall into three basic categories: R&D [Fraunhofer,] Operating Systems [Apple and Microsoft,] and Manufacturing [Mitsubishi, Philips, Samsung and all the rest]. These companies - among the largest and richest in the world - make their living by providing the infrastructure on which others will build.

There is no intelligible reason for the manufacturer of 3D television technologies to up the cost of 3D production and distribution. The pennies he makes on licensing isn't worth the dollars he loses on sales.

Re:It doesn't work that way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33012374)

If its not about the money then why charge anything at all?

Its only cheap because the media cartel wants to prevent open source/alternatives from gaining acceptance while they can still
pretend to be 'fair'.

You're forgetting the main motivation for these companies... greed.

They'll charge more eventually because they can and only when they all but destroy the alternatives.

Re:The Snowball's Chance In Hell. (1)

arose (644256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33011560)

And all for the low, low price of messing with lawyers and an uncertain feature. Good you cleared up the myth that MPEG-LA was created to collect royalties, it's quite clear thet it only exists to make licensees feel good about the codecs they apparently never pay anything for. In fact camera manufacturers hide small print in the manuals about your lack of license for your own good...

jesus fucking christ (0)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010008)

when will you moronic editors stop posting this dribble. it's been done to death, mpeg won this fight years ago, no one wants your stupid formats that output shitty video at 1/2 the speed.

"Break" the hold? (4, Interesting)

starseeker (141897) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010438)

If the chilling effect of the MGEG-LA patents can be broken, a) I'll be VERY surprised and b) some lawyers didn't do their job right. The only thing that would break them is a judge in a court saying that WebM (or something else) doesn't infringe, and that judgment being upheld through appeal after appeal. By the time a fight of that magnitude was fought to a finish and open source programs were judged "free and clear", the patents would probably be approaching expiration date anyhow. There is a GARGANTUAN financial incentive for these MPEG-LA folks to ensure that no possible video encoding scheme can be regarded as "in the clear". Even a lawsuit without merit is a chilling threat to a small project, and while Google is not small how many resources are they willing to commit to a fight to the finish?

Remember the debate on video in browsers? A lot of the commercial players wouldn't consider any codec that claimed to be patent-free. Was that because they didn't want the risk of an unknown patent appearing and causing trouble? Maybe, but why wouldn't that risk apply for the MPEG-LA codecs as well? They don't claim to cover EVERY relevant patent, just the ones in their portfolio. Do they think the patent-free claims are wrong? Much more likely, but if that's the case why not burst the bubble by identifying the specific infringements (and then insisting people pay up)? Did they want to ensure that they controlled the keys to online video in order to make money with the patent licenses? The cynical side of me tends to think this is the case, in which case no patent-free solution (however legitimate or undoubted) would have stood a chance.

There are of course technical arguments (h264 is very very good) but why not allow something basic as a "baseline" that everyone could have and target? Basic (ancient) MPEG should either be free or close to it, so why not give it the go-ahead as a baseline with h264 as the better option for browsers that support it? If a website doesn't want the bandwidth hit of supporting patent-free formats, fine - but at least the option to target ALL browsers would be there with basic MPEG if the site wanted to incur the costs.

The MERIT of the video format is almost irrelevant if we're talking about a fully free baseline standard. I view performance comparisons as pretty much moot, as long as we're not talking about something absurdly bad - modern bandwidth and computers can do a lot of decent video using only basic MPEG. Who cares if it is twice or three times the size of h264 for the same quality if EVERYONE can view it? Any free standard would break the hold, which is why I don't expect to ever see one accepted universally.

Re:"Break" the hold? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33012160)

Any free standard would break the hold, which is why I don't expect to ever see one accepted universally.

Exactly, this already happened with JPEG.
There were two entropy coding schemes defined in the standard : (patent free) static Huffman and (patent based) Arithmetic Compression. In order to implement Arithmetic Compression, you simply had to ***ask IBM for permission***. Nobody ever implemented arithmetic compression in JPEG, although the resulting files were about 10% smaller than when using Huffman. As long as the difference is not HUGE, everybody will stick with the free version...

Re:"Break" the hold? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33016196)

Even a lawsuit without merit is a chilling threat to a small project, and while Google is not small how many resources are they willing to commit to a fight to the finish?

Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire and open this codec, do you really think they are not willing to spend a significant chunk of that again to defend it against legal challenges? If they did otherwise their investment so far would be wasted.

This is the biggest patent problem (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010588)

File formats and compatibility are the biggest problem created by software patnets.

Patent trolls and silly patents get most media attention, but that's because they cause problems for mega corporations. Those same mega corporations are the ones using patents to impede free software and new companies. So there's lots of money being invested in redirecting public dissatisfaction away from the compatibility issue toward the trolls and silly patents issues.

WWot Fp. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33010600)

current core wer3 people p7aying can

MPEG-LA is not affiliated with MPEG (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 3 years ago | (#33010652)

The summary uses MPEG-LA and MPEG interchangeably, this is not correct.

MPEG-LA is not affiliated with MPEG, and so if every file were in "MPEG format" as the summary says, it wouldn't be much of an issue (especially to the MPEG-LA!). The concern is that at any given time nearly every video has once been in a format that is covered by the MPEG-LA patent pools.

As another note, has it not escaped slashdot that it is the same person saying this every time? It'd be great to see a notation "another article from the same person who tried to get you excited about the ubiquity of H.264 last time" on these posts.

Re:MPEG-LA is not affiliated with MPEG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33011046)

Also something else many seem to 'skip' is this patent pool itself. 20 years. DVD quality MPEG2 is almost 15 years old, probably older. Eventually (and in short order) these patents will be running out if they havent already. Ever wonder why the new h.2xx types are pushed so hard? Thats why. It is better I give it that. But MPEG2 is pretty good too. Come 2016 I wouldnt even worry about mpeg-la unless you want one of the h.2xx formats. People dont worry to much about it. It is only at most 4-6 years away.

You think DVD is cheap today wait 5 years.

This is a repeat (2, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#33011268)

This is a repeat.

Note that there is an interesting history here concerning the H.264 baseline. According to the JVT [itu.int] that created this baseline there was consensus to have this be "patent free" (or, more exactly, royalty free) :

Regarding Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for the JVT codec, JVT has agreed to the following basic
principles:

  The JVT codec should have a simple royalty free “baseline” profile (both on the encoder and
decoder) in order to promote the wide implementation and use of the JVT codec. All implementations
should have such a common baseline profile core, in order to allow minimal interoperability among all
JVT codecs. The above requirement means that all technology applied in the baseline profile shall
have no IPR, expired IPR, or valid but royalty-fee-free IPR (according to Box 2.1 or 2.2.1 of the JVT
Patent Disclosure form, as shown below).

  Special, more advanced profiles of the JVT standard may contain patents per Box 2.2 of the JVT
Patent Disclosure form (reasonable terms and conditions).

So, how (besides chutzpah) does MPEG-LA assert licensing rights for the H.264 baseline ? I don't know, but I have heard rumors that the San Diego Qualcomm case [broadcom.com] had something to do with it :

Qualcomm's Patents Rendered Unenforceable and Qualcomm Ordered to Pay Broadcom's Attorneys Fees, Expenses and Costs

IRVINE, Calif., Aug 07, 2007 -- Broadcom Corporation (Nasdaq: BRCM), a global leader in semiconductors for wired and wireless communications, today announced that a San Diego federal court ruled yesterday that Qualcomm Incorporated (Nasdaq: QCOM) engaged in aggravated litigation misconduct and standards abuse with respect to two Qualcomm patents that relate to digital video technology. The court ruled that Qualcomm has thereby waived its rights to enforce all claims of the two patents and any continuations, continuations-in-part, divisions, reissues, or any other derivatives of those patents. The court also ordered Qualcomm to pay all of Broadcom's reasonable attorneys' fees, court costs, expert witness fees, travel expenses and any other litigation costs reasonably incurred by Broadcom in defending the patent infringement case that led to the rulings.

Citing the misconduct of Qualcomm's employees, witnesses, and counsel before, during and after trial, the court found that "Broadcom proved this to be an exceptional case by clear and convincing evidence based on (1) Qualcomm's bad faith participation in the H.264 standard-setting body, the Joint Video Team (JVT); and (2) the litigation misconduct of Qualcomm through its employees, hired outside witnesses, and trial counsel during discovery, motions practice, trial and post-trial proceedings." According to the court, "Qualcomm closely monitored and participated in the development of the H.264 standard, all the while concealing the existence of at least two patents it believed were likely to be essential to the practice of the standard, until after the development was completed and the standard was published internationally. Then, without any prior letter, email, telephone call, or even a smoke signal, let alone attempt to license Broadcom, Qualcomm filed the instant lawsuit against Broadcom for infringement of the '104 and '767 patents."

This experience seems to have left a bad taste in the mouth of the video standards industry concerning royalty free patents. This is shear speculation, but I also have to wonder if this has something to do with MPEG-LA's reluctance to date to charge royalties for the H.264 baseline.

Re:This is a repeat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33019570)

H.264 baseline profile has no b-frames (among other significant limitations), and thus sucks for compression.

CODEC vs. Container (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33011688)

I do know that x264 looks better to me than other codec's at a given bitrate, but I've only compared a few. I would love for an open codec to match (or improve) on x264...

Another, potentially more important aspect is the container format. From my experience the MKV container seems to be the best (most flexible; introduces the fewest limitations). I was shocked to learn that a standard MP4 container does not support any multichannel audio other than basic stereo. But after thinking about that, I realized it was left out very purposefully...

Re:CODEC vs. Container (1)

Cid Highwind (9258) | more than 3 years ago | (#33037536)

WebM is a container format, it's a subset of MKV (hence the name: WebM = Matroska for the web).

Dirac? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33012356)

What about Dirac? Might that have a chance of being the in-camera format? Good compression, open standard, and there are already hardware implementations...

That's the whole idea with open standards (3, Insightful)

gig (78408) | more than 3 years ago | (#33012664)

> Did you know that nearly every video produced for Web viewing has been, at one point or another, in MPEG format no matter in what format the video is ultimately saved?

That's the whole idea with open standards. Did you know nearly every photograph has been, at one point or another, in JPEG format? Duh. All the camcorders make MPEG-4, which is a standardized QuickTime container. All the editors edit MPEG-4. All the players play MPEG-4. That is the whole idea with MPEG-4. That is why Apple gave the container away. Before MPEG-4, it was the QuickTime container that was universal in that same way. It was standardized not just to make it vendor neutral, but also because it was practical and possible to update media and tools and players that used QuickTime containers to use MPEG-4 containers. It's not practical to switch to another container. That would be like trying to replace Unix on the Internet. No, we cannot even switch to WebM. That would be a bigger project than the Great Wall of China. WebM is not even standardized.

The codecs are a separate issue from the container. There are licensing fees for some commercial use of H.264. In theory, H.264 could be displaced as the consumer codec by something like Google VC-8. However, in practice, the patents on H.264 will expire before that could happen, and VC-8 is vulnerable to submarine patents which are much worse than H.264's patent pool.

Professional content producers are going to continue to make H.264 because that's what is in all the tools, and consumers are going to continue to make H.264 because that's in all their still and video cameras, and they're going to upload it directly and share it directly from the devices without transcoding, and they're going to watch it on their smartphones and media players and tablets and set-top boxes which all have hardware H.264 decoding and which cannot support software codecs. And they're going to watch it on their PC's, which even though they can support software codecs, also have hardware H.264 decoding in their GPU's and so get 10 times the battery life playing H.264 as any other codec. All of the activity I just mentioned is totally 100% royalty-free. Even the professional creatives and producers pay no royalties at all. It's only the sellers of video like Apple with iTunes and the sellers of video encoders like Apple with QuickTime Pro that pay royalties, and the royalties are very small and cannot go up more than 10% every 5 years, and they do not go to patent trolls, they go directly to the people at many different organizations who created and standardized the codec.

So in short, no matter what your politics, you are I and everyone else is stuck with MPEG-4 containers, that is all that has existed since the dawn of digital video. They just used to be called QuickTime containers. They are not going away any more than Unix is going away. And no matter what your politics, we are all stuck with H.264, because that is what was deployed as the consumer standard for video codecs 10 years ago, and it has universal deployment and it's how most Web video is displayed today and for some years now, even if you view it in FlashPlayer. It's all of YouTube and iTunes, it's Netflix and Hulu. It's Canon SLR's and Flip camcorders and iPods and Droid phones. It's WebKit and IE9. It's Mac, Windows, and Ubuntu. The small costs associated with some commercial use of MPEG-4 H.264 (selling video, selling encoders) are well worth what we get for it.

Yet another reason (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#33013192)

To ignore copyright for the better good.

Re:Yet another reason (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33014080)

This is completely unrelated to copyright.

You can have a copyrighted work with quite strict license conditions encoded in a free video format, or you can have some public domain stuff encoded in a heavily patent-encumbered video format. Also, if you write a video codec for a free video format, you still have the copyright on that code, and can impose arbitrary license conditions.

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