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Video Acceleration in Fedora 28 and the Rotting of MPEG Due to Software Patents

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  • Fedora 28 Planning For VA-API 1.0 Support

    The latest work by Fedora developers on feature work for Fedora 28 is shipping with VA-API 1.0 support for updated capabilities around the Video Acceleration API.

    The VA-API 1.0.0 API/ABI is provided by the libva 2.0 video acceleration library. Libva 2.0 was released last October with H.264 FEI support in its API, deprecating older parts of the API, fixing a race condition with the Wayland support, renaming some parts of the API, improving the logging capabilities, and various other changes. Libva 2.0 broke API/ABI compatibility with older versions of this Intel-developed Video Acceleration API.

  • A crisis, the causes and a solution [Ed: LWN says "this blog posting from Leonardo Chiariglione, the founder and chair of MPEG, on how (in his view) the group is being destroyed by free codecs and patent trolls."]

    Because there are rumours spreading about a presumed “MPEG-Video collapse” and Brownian motion-like initiatives trying to remedy – in some cases by the very people who have contributed to creating the “crisis”.

    [...]

    In its 30 years of operation MPEG has created digital media standards that have enabled the birth and continue promoting the growth of digital media products, services and applications. Here are a few, out of close to 180 standards: MP3 for digital music (1992), MPEG-2 for digital television (1994), MPEG-4 Visual for video on internet (1998), MP4 file format for mobile handsets (2001), AVC for reduced bitrate video (2003), DASH for internet streaming (2013), MMT for IP broadcasting (2013) and more. In other words, MPEG standards have had and keep on having an impact on the lives of billions of people.

    [...]

    In 2013 MPEG approved the HEVC standard which provides the same quality as AVC at half the bitrate. The licensing situation is depicted by the picture below (courtesy of Jonathan Samuelsson of Divideon): there are 3 patent pools, one of which has not published their licence and a significant number of patent holders that have not joined any pool (and not published their licences either).

     I saw the threat coming and one year ago I tried to bring the matter to the attention of the higher layers in ISO. My attempts were thwarted by a handful of NPEs.

    Alliance for Open Media (AOM) has occupied the void created by MPEG’s outdated video compression standard (AVC), absence of competitive Options 1 standards (IVC) and unusable modern standard (HEVC). AOM’s AV1 codec, due to be released soon, is claimed to perform better than HEVC and will be offered royalty free.

    [...]

    The work of patent pools would be greatly simplified because they could define profiles with technologies that are “available” because they would know who owns which tools. Users could switch on tools once they become usable, e.g. because the relevant owner has joined a patent pool.

    These are just examples of how the MPEG standard development process can be adapted to better match the needs of entities developing licences and without becoming part – God forbid – of a licence definition process.

    [...]

    Companies will slash their video compression technology investments, thousands of jobs will go and millions of USD of funding to universities will be cut. A successful “access technology at no cost” model will spread to other fields.

    So don’t expect that in the future you will see the progress in video compression technology that we have seen in the past 30 years.