Sorenson Media announces MPEG-4 support for Squeeze 3

Sorenson Media, best known as the company behind QuickTime’s Sorenson Video, has announced that the next major release of Squeeze will support ISMA-compliant MPEG-4 encoding.

Squeeze is available in single-format versions for $199. Their “Compression Suite” version is $199, and supports Flash, MPEG-4 and QuickTime output. Caution: The Windows version also supports RealSystem and Windows Media, so Sorenson has apparently started down the slippery slope of offering Mac content creators less functionality for the same price. | Sorenson Media press release

MPEG LA releases MPEG-4 Visual Patent Portfolio License

MPEG LA has announced that the MPEG-4 Visual Patent Portfolio License is now available. (The world says, “Great!”. And then, under its breath, “It’s about f#$%!@g time.”)

The terms of the license are the same as those announced in July — no royalty payments up to 50,000 subscribers, $0.25/subscriber or $0.02/hour above that, with an annual royalty cap of $1 million. The royalties for makers of software encoders/decoders are similar — no royalties for up to 50,000 encoders/decoders, $0.25 for each above that, with an annual royalty cap of $1 million.

It’s wonderful that MPEG-4 has hit a major milestone, but let’s be honest — the tax on content developers with lots of subscribers puts mainstream MPEG-4 adoption back by several years. Because of it, content developers who have (or believe they will have) over 50,000 subscribers will (of course!) stick with proprietary platforms, and that impedes everybody’s abilility to make money within the MPEG-4 ecosystem. Duh. | MPEG LA press release | News.com story | InfoWorld story | atNewYork story

An unintentionally amusing article with 3ivx's CEO

In another My First MPEG-4 Article, the German site 99mac interviews 3ivx about their “miracle” 3ivx codec. The interviewer (conducting the interview via email, apparently) quotes Happy Machines’ CEO, Jan Devos, verbatim.

Happy Machines is a company that was formed in July 2000 as the official entity for developing and marketing the 3ivx codec, the goal being, using multi-dimensional mathematical compression algorithms combined with educated predictions and subjective post-processing filters relating to the way the human eye perceives and responds to movement, the development of a complex but efficient cross platform natural video encoder/decoder.

Sounds fancy. I’ll translate: “We have an MPEG-4 Video codec.”

Then there’s the problem of Mr. Devos not having any idea what the competition is going. The CEO takes a dig at DivX for being a “hacked” (it was more of a repackaging, really) version of MS MPEG-4, but that hasn’t been true for a couple of years. He says that Happy Machine’s goal was to exceed DivX in all important areas, apparently not realizing that DivX has a very good MPEG-4 Video codec that 3ivx probably can’t match.

He also doesn’t seem to understand that QuickTime 6 has an MPEG-4 Video codec of its own — they actually submitted the current 3ivx release for QuickTime’s component auto-download feature. It was rejected (of course!), but he promises to “try again” with the next release.

Performance (speed). Image quality. Interoperability. Portability. The uniqueness of the 3ivx Delta technology is that excellent results are achieved in all of these areas, without sacrificing one area for another.

Riiight. This is not a man who’s done software development, then.

Oh, and they’re not quite at the point where they make MPEG-4 files. But they could if they wanted to, the CEO assures us. | 99mac interview

Could AACplus make MPEG-4 the best streaming format for audio?

AACplus is the next evolution of AAC. It’s being used today in XM satellite radio, and it’s on its way to becoming a core audio format for MPEG-4. This is extremely good news for MPEG-4, as a source imtimate with its quality reports:

It is spectaculary better than all proprietary schemes.

AACplus uses Spectral Band Replication (SBR) technology developed by Coding Technologies, and initially deployed for MP3Pro. Although MP3Pro is dead in the water — MP3 is too hampered by its own ubiquity — MPEG-4 was built to be able to absorb new technolgoies like AACPlus. Between AVC and AACplus, 2003 is shaping up to be the year of MPEG-4. | Coding Technologies

"Where is MP4?"

Another day, another My First MPEG-4 story. It’s interesting that the author’s frame of reference is MP3 — the only thing he knows, probably — when something like QuickTime would be a far better starting point for helping readers understand what MPEG-4 is today and will be in the future.

Although the author says silly things like, “The MPEG-4 standard is the direct successor to MPEG-2” (their only similarity is in name), and “QuickTime… [is] “probably the most popular software media player” (it’s not, therefore Apple’s wholesale move to MPEG-4), there are a couple good quotes from my friends at the M4IF. | NewsFactor

RealNetworks' new (MPEG-4!) product

RealNetworks’ new encoding tool, Mobile Producer, creates content for 3GPP-compliant devices. Envivio — the France Telecom subsidiary whose software RealNetworks used to support MPEG-4 in their platform — is creating the new product in partnership with RealNetworks.

3GPP is the Third-Generation Partnership Project, an organization that brings together several telecommunications standards bodies to define standards for 3G mobile devices. 3GPP has standardized on MPEG-4 for 3GPP-compliant devices. Link

MPEG LA extends AVC "essential patents" submission deadline

MPEG LA has extended the deadline for companies to submit patents neccessary to support AVC, from October 11, 2002 to January 31, 2003. That makes sense, since AVC hasn’t quite reached FDIS (Final Draft International Standard) status, and “essentiality” — whether a patent is essential to AVC — can only be determined against the final text.

MPEG LA licenses “patent portfolios” for technologies like MPEG-2, FireWire, DVB-T and (soon) MPEG-4. In other words, they’re the one-stop licensing shop that companies will go to when they want to use MPEG-4 Visual or MPEG-4 Systems patents.

AVC (a.k.a. H.264, JVT, etc.) is the forthcoming MPEG-4 video codec, which MPEG intends to finalize in December. MPEG-4’s current video codec offers very good quality, but not enough to match the quality of proprietary codecs even with all of its quality-enhancing “tools” enabled. The perception of MPEG-4’s current video quality is not helped by implementations such as Apple’s, which offers quality levels significantly below what today’s MPEG-4 Video codec is capable of.

Qualcomm's new 3G chipset supports MPEG-4

Qualcomm has announced that they’re shipping an important new mobile chipset for 3G (CDMA 2000 1X) devices, and it includes their “Qtv” MPEG-4 decoder.

This is a significant bellwether for MPEG-4. It says that Qualcomm’s customers are demanding MPEG-4 — and as significantly, not Windows Media or RealSystem — in the DNA of their mobile wireless devices. Link

New MPEG-4 video codec to be ratified by year's end

Great news for MPEG-4 — Rob Koenen, President of the M4IF (MPEG-4 Industry Forum) and Chairman of the MPEG Requirements Group, is reporting that AVC will be ratified by year’s end.

MPEG-4’s current video codec (MPEG-4 Video) is roughly a generation behind proprietary, non-interoperable solutions. AVC (MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding) codecs will make MPEG-4’s video quality competitive with the latest proprietary offerings from Microsoft, Real Networks, and Sorenson Media. AVC (also known as “H.264”) was created by the group’s Joint Video Team, which represents a partnership between MPEG and International Telecommunications Union.

In a CNET News.com’s story, Microsoft’s Jonathan Usher (a product manager in their Digital Media Division) claims that Windows Media Video 9 is twice as efficient as MPEG-4 Video. However, he’s comparing WMV9 to QuickTime 6’s Simple Profile implementation, which is the lowest common denominator of MPEG-4 video and offers relatively poor quality compared to other vendors’ Advanced Simple Profile codecs.

Jonathan goes on to say that it’s AVC’s increased processing demands could make it less competitive in certain applications. Of course the same is true of Windows Media Video 9, and of course AVC doesn’t replace MPEG-4’s original video codec (which will remain useful for low-complexity applications). Coincidentally, Microsoft is the only notable MPEG-4 holdout. Link

MPEG LA, the main licensing clearinghouse for MPEG-4 standards, has given companies a deadline of Friday to sumbit any patents they believe cover AVC. Hopefully this agressive deadline will prevent a repeat of the disasterous MPEG-4 Video licensing debacle, where licensing was finalized long after the standard was ratified. Link

Apple's 3-day MPEG-4/QuickTime Streaming course

Apple has announced the release of its 3-day, hands-on MPEG-4/QuickTime Streaming course. I talked to Victor Alexander, Apple’s QuickTime Curriculum Developer, and here’s how he described it:

The QuickTime Streaming course takes an in-depth look at QuickTime Streaming Server and Darwin Streaming Server by teaching system administrators and media authors the details behind real-time streaming. Students learn the theory as well as the practical steps involved in streaming QuickTime, MPEG-4, and MP3 files to the world. Students also learn performance, security, and troubleshooting techniques in order to successfully maintain the servers running QuickTime Streaming Server and Darwin Streaming Server. Apple’s streaming server is set to become the Apache of the MPEG-4 streaming world. Learn to master it through this course.

(Hey, he stole my line about Darwin Streaming Server being the Apache of the MPEG-4 streaming world!)

The class is currently offered in Silicon Valley, New York, and Los Angeles. The cost is $1,575 (well worth it, from what I hear), and students receive a hefty 250 page student guide and QuickTime 6 Pro keys for Windows and Macintosh (a $59.98 value! Yesss!). Upcoming classes are 10/28 in Cupertino and 11/18 in New York. Link