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I've not posted many entries in the past year-- practically none at all in fact. There's something entirely different about coding and writing prose that makes it difficult to shift between one and the other. Nor have I been particularly good (or even acceptably bad) about responding to questions and replies, especially those asking where Daala is, or where Daala is going in the era of AOM.

In the meantime, though, Jean-Marc has written another demo-style post that revisits many of the techniques we've tried out in Daala while applying the benefit of hindsight. I've got a number of my own comments I want to make about what he's written, but in the meantime it's an excellent technical summary.

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Johann Koenig just posted that the long awaited libvpx 1.4.0 is officially released.

"Much like the Indian Runner Duck, the theme of this release is less bugs, less bloat and more speed...."

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Oh. Oh my. After a decade of the MPEG LA saying they were coming to destroy the FOSS codec movement, with none other than the late Steve Jobs himself chiming in, today the Licensing Authority announced what we already knew.

They got nothing. There will be no Theora patent pool. There will be no VP8 patent pool. There will be no VPnext patent pool.

We knew that of course, we always did. It's just that I never, in a million years, expected them to put it in writing and walk away. The wording suggests Google paid some money to grease this along, and the agreement wording is interesting [and instructive] but make no mistake: Google won. Full stop.

This is not an unconditional win for FOSS, of course, the LA narrowed the scope of the agreement as much as they could in return for agreeing to stop being a pissy, anti-competetive brat. But this is still huge. We can work with this.

For at least the immediate future, I shall have to think some uncharacteristically nice things about the MPEG LA.*

And now... Discuss!

*Apologies to Rep. Barney Frank

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In case folks have missed it (or worse, read about about it on Ars Technica)...

The WebM folks have finally finished up their work on the WebM Community Cross-License project and announced the license launch. This is a FOSS defensive license/pool similar to what a couple other groups are trying out (and similar to the defensive patent license that Xiph is already using for our parts of Opus within the IETF).

The basic idea of the cross-license is:

"Everyone is free to use any known or unknown WebM patents. Unless you sue over patents related to WebM. In that case, we all agree to yank your license."

In short, it's sort of a NATO for FOSS patents; a free license with an agreed-upon mutual defense clause that tries to enforce everyone playing nice. This strategy is not a new idea, but it's interesting that several different FOSS groups, Xiph and WebM included, are finally trying the idea for real in practice.

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FFmpeg's built-in Vorbis encoder produces low enough quality output to be considered broken. This encoder is used by default in the majority of FFmpeg builds, and will produce .ogv and WebM videos with low to unusably poor audio quality.

This alert is intended for all users of FFmpeg (via the command line or GUI wrappers) and all application developers that make use of the FFmpeg command line tool. Application developers that use the FFmpeg libraries should also take care that the libavcodec built-in Vorbis encoder library is not used by accident.


All past and present builds of FFmpeg and libavcodec up to but not including the upcoming 0.6 release. Default builds of the upcoming FFmpeg 0.6 release will not use the built-in encoder by default, but it will still be possible to accidentally use or restore the built-in encoder to default status during the FFmpeg build. It should be assumed that any build of FFmpeg and any application using FFmpeg could be producing videos with substandard Vorbis audio unless the FFmpeg build and usage is verified to be using system Vorbis libraries, such as those provided by Xiph.Org or aoTuV.

Workaround / Fix:

FFmpeg can be forced to use the external/system libVorbis library by passing:

-acodec libvorbis

as part of the FFmpeg command line.

Note that passing '-acodec vorbis' is incorrect and requests the low-quality built-in FFmpeg-internal Vorbis encoder. Also, FFmpeg may be built without libvorbis support, meaning that many FFmpeg builds only have the internal encoder available. In this case, requesting '-acodec libvorbis' will fail with the error 'Unknown encoder 'libvorbis''.

FFmpeg can be built with working libvorbis support and the internal Vorbis encoder disabled as follows:

./configure --disable-encoder=vorbis --enable-libvorbis; make; make install

Such a build completely removes the internal Vorbis encoder from libavcodec, eliminating the possibility of accidental use on the command line or in libavcodec-based applications.


Use of a good Vorbis encoder in .ogg, .oga, .ogv and WebM files may be verified as follows. This test will work on any Ogg or WebM file to verify the encoder that produced the audio. Note that 'Vorbis' is case-sensitive:

strings file_to_be_checked | grep Vorbis

A file that was encoded using a good encoder will output a line containing 'Xiph.Org libVorbis' or 'AoTuV', such as:

boatanchor$ strings test2.ogg |grep Vorbis
Xiph.Org libVorbis I 20100325 (Everywhere)


boatanchor$ strings test3.ogg |grep Vorbis
AO; aoTuV b5d [20090301] (based on Xiph.Org's libVorbis)

A file encoded by FFmpeg's internal Vorbis encoder will produce no grep output as it does not set a vendor string.

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Hooray! The press release:

Xiph.Org announces support for the WebM open media project

The Xiph.Org Foundation is pleased to announce its support of the WebM open media project as a project launch partner. As announced earlier today at the Google I/O Developer Conference, the WebM format combines the VP8 video codec, the Matroska container, and the Vorbis audio codec developed by Xiph into a high-quality, open, unencumbered format for video delivery on the Web. Xiph will continue to contribute to WebM as a whole and collaborate in its further development and deployment.

Success within the Open Source community is vital to the larger success of WebM. Community adoption of a newly opened source base, such as VP8, is traditionally fraught with peril. Xiph was the primary organization to develop and promote the earlier VP3 codec when open sourced by On2, and we know that substantial work lies ahead of us to make WebM a success. Toward that goal, we look forward to working with the established community projects also contributing to WebM including Matroska, ffmpeg, GStreamer, and Mozilla, as well as open-source oriented business leaders such as Google, Opera, Red Hat and others.

Kudos to all for the progress we've made, now we've got to get back to work.


The Xiph.Org Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to open, unencumbered multimedia technology. Xiph's formats and software levels the playing field for digital media so that all producers and artists can distribute their work for minimal cost, without restriction, regardless of affiliation. May contain traces of nuts or poorly contained awesome.

xiphmont: (Default)

The title is mostly due to having seen three or four other blog posts simultaneously making this joke. It had popped into my mind too :-)

In case folks hadn't seen yet, Google (as everyone had expected with bated breath) announced the open sourcing of VP8 today as part of the WebM project. WebM combines a Vorbis audio stream and a VP8 video stream into a Matroska container for use in web video. Then there are a whole lot of other tiny project details like garnering industry support.

Yes, we've actually known for a little while this would be happening. Google is moving quite fast after having their On2 purchase plans delayed several months. We'll have a press release up soon expressing support in drier language, though it's mostly an exercise in formality since everyone already knows our position.

Now that I'm actually allowed to talk about it, the important bits to take away are:

  • Of *course* we (Xiph) support WebM. This is great news for open source, open media, and our own plans at Xiph count on WebM succeeding. How good the WebM news turns out to be depends on what we make it.

  • Vorbis is part of WebM and will probably see a new uptick in active development. WebM doesn't immediately affect Theora (development of Theora continues along with VP8), but that's vaguely irrelevant. The good of unencumbered media is the point, not Theora or Vorbis or Ogg or any specific piece of software. We're after a fundamental change to the business and social environment. Software and software advocacy happens to be the tool Xiph uses to effect change.

  • Open media is obviously philosophically 'clean' and good for the public and good for social transparency. It's even better for business. Business makes good money on the Web using Open technologies. In fact, these are the only technologies that have seen sustained success online. We fully expect that pattern to hold.

  • Xiph has been locked in a political battle with a large monopoly power for years now, and a political fight is not what Xiph.Org is good at or built for. We're built to research and develop media software. This announcement gives us breathing room to get back our primary long term goal: leapfrogging the proprietary competition. We don't want to be as good, we always want to be better.

...so there's some officialness for you all :-)

P.S. I put the Xiph logo first because it's my blog and all.


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