TUTORIAL: Playback videos with AV1 codec on Android and Windows

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The AV1 video encoding format is undoubtedly imposed as the compression system for all kind of video content in the future and today we want to see in a simple way how we can play it in Android, Windows or Linux. This format is still present in a very small percentage of content on the network, but companies like Netflix are already distributing some of their titles on AV1 in their Android app for basic SD qualities. In the future YouTube will jump to this format with what will become the most used globally directly.



BASIC CONCEPTS AND SPECIFICATIONS OF AV1

AV1 Alliance

The AV1 codec is managed for the Alliance For Open Media organization that groups all kinds of signatures of the highest level in the development of this compression system. A codec that has been developed thinking of being totally free and flexible, an alliance where hardware, apps, services and software developers such as Google, Intel, AMD, Apple, Microsoft, Amlogic, Realtek, NVidia, Samsung, ARM, Cisco, Sigma, Broadcom and distributors as important as YouTube, Amazon or Netflix.

General specifications

The AV1 codec is already fully defined but there are still several aspects to be specified and the year 2020 is key to the launch of this format where all its facets will be defined. The key points of this codec are as follows.

  • 30% compression improvement in 4K or higher resolutions.
  • Optimized for streaming distribution, video conferencing and browsers.
  • Low hardware demanding and scalable specifications for any bandwidth.
  • Open and without usage fees.

COMPATIBILITY IN ANDROID SYSTEMS AND AV1 PC

Supported operating systems

For now, the AV1 codec is implementing in different environments and operating systems, where we have more compatibility at the software level is in Windows and Linux, followed by Android, other environments such as Apple still have to offer an implementation plan.

  • Windows 10 and Linux will find it encapsulated in MP4, MKV and webm formats.
  • Android is already supported from Android 10 although the encapsulation format is not defined.
  • Apple as they are macOS and iOS we do not have support information yet.

Differences between AV1 formats

Within the specifications of AV1 we have different profiles and levels, the levels indicate us up to what maximum resolution/fps we can reach at that level and the profiles indicate which environments the compression is intended for. The Main profile will be used in most contents, the High profile for 4:4:4 compatible environments and with HDR needs, the Professional profile covers all possible work environments. Check our Guide for tuning the Image Quality to learn more about it.

HARDWARE WITH ACCELERATION FOR AV1

The hardware with support for AV1 is already very close and we may soon see user-level hardware with graphic acceleration to decode this new codec. To view content efficiently with AV1 we need our a VPU graphics chip with hardware acceleration to decode it natively or else we will have to playback it by brute force at software level and that will cause jerks during playback or other synchronization problems.

  • Intel: The new Gen11 GPUs are not supported but are expected to start supporting it in Gen12 in 2020.
  • NVIDIA: Possibly in the 3000 series let’s see decoding support.
  • AMD: No information on its implementation.
  • Apple: No information about its implementation.
  • Amlogic: It will feature decoding support on S905X4 4K@120 / S908X 4K@60 / S805X2 1080p
  • Rockchip: The future SoC RK3588 seems to support 4K@60fps.
  • Allwinner: No information on its implementation.
  • MediaTek: The new Dimensity 1000 SoC will support 4K@60fps.
  • Realtek: With support in SoC RTD1311 up to 4K and in RTD2893 up to 8K.
  • Hisilicon: No information about its implementation.
  • Qualcomm: It does not appear directly on AV1 support but will depend on the integrated ARM Mali GPU / VPU.
  • Samsung: It does not appear directly on AV1 support but will depend on the integrated ARM Mali GPU / VPU.

HOW TO PLAY AV1 CONTENTS

Android Playback

For the Android system for now we do not have acceleration in decoding at the hardware level, to reproduce these formats there are not many options today. When the SoC manufacturers make the leap we will undoubtedly have alternatives, they will offer us in the native support players.

  • Android 10 is required at least to be able to playback the AV1 format.
  • Players: VLC and KODI in future versions will support it, versions with ffmpeg support are already being compiled.
  • Browsers: Chrome and Mozilla already announced support.
  • Apps: Netflix already use in its Android AV1 app in SD quality. Youtube has videos available on AV1.

Windows or Linux playback

From Windows or Linux it is possible to play content in AV1 but the performance without even having hardware acceleration for decoding is quite limited. As we can see our APU AMD Ryzen 5 3400G the CPU reproducing reaches peaks of 64% use when playing samples in 4K, we reach 34% use in 1080p content, today it is inefficient.

The most popular players for these systems are adapting to the new codec quite quickly.

Install AV1 codec for Windows Player

We can install a codec in Windows to support the AV1 format in the “Movies and TV” default player for free, we just have to install the codec and without having to create an account in the microsoft store.

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