Netflix Discusses AV1 Rollout with Limited Hardware Support

What have been some of the biggest challenges for Netflix with its AV1 rollout, considering its persistent hardware issues, and how might this impact the use of AV1 encoders for OTT platforms, mobile phones, smart TVs, live TV, and more? Jan Ozer, Principal, Streaming Learning Center, Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, discusses these issues with Andrey Norkin, Senior Research Scientist - Video Algorithms, Netflix, in this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2023.

“I think everybody would agree that AV1 hardware support, particularly on mobile, has taken a lot longer than was expected. How has this impacted your decision to support AV1 and rollout?” Ozer asks Norkin.

Overall, Norkin emphasizes that there is increasing hardware support for AV1, and he outlines Netflix’s current technical approach. “We anticipated that there would be adverse support going on,” he says. “Typically, with [new] products, you don't have a wide hardware encoder support from the start. There is a period when you start getting more and more hardware decoders and basically what we decided is to go ahead with software decoding, and the reason was because we have a chicken and egg problem, right? So basically, you need hardware support…but also the vendors, they would like to see that an encoder is used for streaming and probably they also would like to be able to test their implementation against some streaming services.”

Norkin highlights that Netflix’s initial solution was to use software decoders. “I would say that it worked pretty well because of course, we had to make sure that this decoder was efficient. So, for example, we financed some optimizations in dav1d decoders from videoLAN that we later used, and in principle, I should say that software decoders…I think they looked okay from the decoding point of view. You can of course get dropped frames every now and then compared to hardware decoders, but in general, this works.”

Norkin further discusses the specifics of hardware decoders regarding mobile versus smart TVs. “The biggest difference with the hardware decoders is probably on mobile because you can get more battery drain if you use software deploy,” he says. “But currently, I would say we see going ahead with more and more hardware decoders for AV1 coming to the market. So you can see this in mobile phones…they often support AV1, at least on the higher end. Also [with] TVs AV1 is supported in many of them. So I would say that currently, we are seeing the hardware decoding ramping up.”

(Read more about AV1 and its status as the first codec release by the Alliance for Open Media)

Learn more about AV1, encoders, and decoders at Streaming Media East 2023.

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