The world of video codecs can be confusing. Popular codecs including HEVC (H.265) and AVC (H.264) are widely supported and will be familiar to streamers. But there is another codec that is gaining traction and industry support. AV1.
AV1 decoding is supported by a wide range of hardware, including current generation Nvidia and AMD GPUs (but not RX 6500XT). However, hardware encoding support is more limited. close to intel Arc series of GPUs are configured to include encoding support. This will definitely appeal to creators and streamers who prefer the AV1 codec.
During a recent bow presentation (by Digital Trends), Intel claimed that hardware encoding AV1 on an Arc GPU is up to 50 times faster than software-only encoding. He goes on to claim that AV1 encoding is 20% more efficient than HEVC at the same bit rate and 50% more efficient than H.264.
While AV1 encoding might be a niche feature for many users, there are definitely users out there who work with AV1 content and Intel hopes to take some of that market away.
In addition to offering greater efficiency at the same bitrate, the AV1 is notable for being royalty-free. It has the support of major companies including Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix.
This means AV1 is available on a wide range of free and open source software, including web browsers that would otherwise have to pay a licensing fee to include HEVC support. Recently, Samsung was sued by MPEG LAa licensing body that holds the patents for the HEVC codec in a German court.
Now that Arc is set to include full AV1 encoding support, it’s likely next-gen AMD and Nvidia graphics cards will too. Interestingly, Twitch is currently testing the feature that will add more pressure on companies to add encoding support.