YouTube and Netflix Start Live Tests of AV1 Codec

Both YouTube and Netflix recently uploaded videos encoded using the AV1 codec that was released a bit earlier in the year. The videos are being used as a live test to give Google and Netflix a better understanding of the codec and its performance levels.

YouTube’s test can be found at the AV1 Beta Launch playlist that it released. The playlist consists of 14 videos with SD definition versions encoded using the AV1 codec. To view the AV1 versions of the videos users need to be using builds of Chrome 70 or Firefox 63 or newer with the media.av1.enabled pref set. The ‘Prefer AV1 for SD’ setting needs to be enabled on YouTube’s TestTube as well.

In contrast to YouTube’s approach, Netflix has transcoded a single video to AV1 but is serving it up in numerous versions ranging from 432p all the way up to 1080p in resolution, and with 8 or 10 bit color depth. Its test may be a better comparison for how AV1 performs at different resolutions, but that may be premature.

Although the AV1 adoption has been proceeding at a very quick pace, it is still unsupported by most hardware. That is only expected to begin in 2019 and it won’t be till 2020 when most new devices have hardware support built-in.

Due to the lack of hardware support, AV1 videos that are decoded will need to be handled by the CPU alone. That makes it far from optimized, and is the reason why reading too much into these initial tests may be inadvisable.

The main benefit of both YouTube and Netflix’s tests however is that it will provide both parties as well as other developers with a better idea of AV1’s performance, power consumption, and stability. Considering both YouTube and Netflix have already announced their intention to migrate to the format once it becomes viable, this is a solid first step in that direction.

If everything proceeds as outlined by the AV1 adoption roadmap that AOMedia released, support for the format should start to increase next year, especially from software. As of right now converters such as Movavi Video Converter have yet to indicate when they’ll support AV1 but the steps to convert it should be no different than

As much as it is still early days for AV1 as a format, the fact that it is loyalty-free and open source while at the same time providing better compression rates than HEVC make it likely to become widely-used in the not too distant future. The fact that it was developed by the AOMedia consortium that includes numerous tech giants such as Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Mozilla, and many others provides it with a solid foundation to grow on.