YouTube rolls out AV1 beta launch playlist to test performance

YouTube recently uploaded 14 videos that it transcoded using the new AV1 format that was introduced just a few months ago. The videos are being made available on the AV1 Beta Launch Playlist it published in order to test the performance of the format.
YouTube videosViewing the videos on YouTube requires a browser that supports AV1, such as the Google Chrome 70 and Firefox 63 builds that went live a few weeks ago. Currently the AV1 versions of the videos are only available in 480p (SD) resolutions, and higher HD resolutions will default back to the VP9 codec that YouTube normally uses.

To watch one of the videos in AV1, users will first need to set the media.av1.enabled pref on their browsers, and the ‘Prefer AV1 for SD’ option must be selected on YouTube’s TestTube experiment’s list. After that any one of the videos can be loaded in SD from the AV1 Beta Launch Playlist.

The selection of 14 videos itself was chosen from a slice of the different types of YouTube videos that users frequently watch. It includes several action videos to provide a better idea of how the encoder and decoder operates under stress. Overall it is expected to provide developers working on browsers, encoders, decoders, and other related projects a better gauge of AV1’s performance, power consumption, and stability.

In related news Netflix has also unveiled an AV1 beta test of their own, but for just one video. Unlike the YouTube test, Netflix is offering just a single video but in a range of resolutions from 432p all the way up to 1080p and in 8 or 10 bit color depth.

Considering both Netflix and Google are part of the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) consortium that developed AV1, their early adoption of the format is not surprising. It is designed to provide smoother HD-quality streaming while at the same time improving video compression by up to 30 percent compared to the current VP9 and HEVC formats.

Since its release, AV1 has slowly emerged as a legitimate contender to HEVC (i.e. H.265). Unlike HEVC it is open-source and royalty-free, which is why giant streaming platforms such as YouTube and Netflix could save a considerable sum by utilizing it.

Due to the fact that it was developed by the AOMedia consortium, AV1 has the backing of numerous large tech corporations. Aside from Google and Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Mozilla, and many others are members and will all be playing a part in its adoption.

Based on its adoption timeline, it is expected by 2019 the reach of AV1 would have expanded to content. Over the course of the next year it is also expected that hardware support will start to be integrated into newer devices and by 2020 it will be available on all modern silicon.

Somewhere in between that timeframe most video editors and converters may start to support AV1, including Movavi Video Editor. So far the rollout seems to be proceeding on schedule, and the test being carried out by YouTube (as well as the one by Netflix) is another big step forward for the format.

Neither YouTube nor Netflix have committed to a date when they’ll transcode the rest of their videos to AV1, and it will likely be based on the outcome of the initial test they’re carrying out now.

Yadawanka Pala