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IBC2008: On2 Touts New Codec for Web Video

Compression supplier On2 Technologies released at IBC2008 the eighth generation of its Web-video codec, On2 VP8, which it said can deliver the same video quality in one-half the bandwidth of existing implementations of H.264 advanced video compression.

Clifton Park, N.Y.-based On2 -- which gained a significant foothold in Web video when its On2 VP6 codec was integrated into Adobe’s wildly popular Flash Player in 2005 -- said the VP8 was designed to deliver high video quality for popular TV content using mainstream computer processors.

Since the VP8 bit stream requires fewer processing cycles to decode, On2 chief technology officer Paul Wilkins said, consumers don’t need superpowered laptops or PCs to watch HD video on the Web.

One of the Web-video players that will adopt the new On2 codec is Move Networks, which provides a sophisticated client-server-based compression solution for high-quality Web video to major programmers like Disney, ESPN, Fox and The CW.

Move CTO Greg Smith, who spoke at On2’s IBC2008 press event, noted that while definitions of what constitutes HD video on the Web may vary, there’s no question that Web video is starting to become competitive with what’s delivered to the living-room TV screen.

For example, Smith said, the 480-line progressive-scan (480p) video Move delivers at around 700 kilobits per second “blows away” the standard-definition 480-line interlace pictures being provided today by cable and satellite operators through MPEG-2 compression.

And while Smith doesn’t think the HD video Move delivers at between 1.8-2.4 megabits per second matches the quality of HD broadcast and cable programs delivered at 15 mbps and higher, he said using the Web to deliver content to living-room TVs through “over-the-top providers” and media-extender devices is becoming a definite possibility, largely due to compression advancements.

“There are real business models being built for Internet television, and that’s what’s got us fired up,” he added.

To that end, both Smith and Wilkens said delivering 1080-line-progressive (1080p) video through the Web on a regular basis is feasible, although it probably won’t take off until laptops and PC monitors can actually display full 1080p resolution.

Smith noted that Internet video isn’t constrained by technology standards like digital-TV broadcasters, so companies like Move may experiment with delivering 1080p video to a handful of consumers who have very high-speed broadband service (10 mbps or higher).

Wilkins agreed, saying, “The tables may turn, and you may see 1080p content on IPTV [Internet-protocol-TV] services first, before the broadcasters adopt it.”