FFmpeg Goes WebM, Enabling VP8 for Boxee & Co.

FFmpeg published release 0.6 of its set of multimedia tools and libraries this week. The release is code-named “Works with HTML5” since it incorporates support for Google’s WebM open source video codec, as well as improved decoding for H.264 and Ogg Theora. FFmpeg is used by more than a hundred video players, transcoding applications and home theater solutions to support a wide range of video codecs, with VLC, Boxee, MythTV, Handbrake and MPLayer being some of the more popular projects utilizing FFmpeg.

WebM was open sourced by Google (s GOOG) at its developer conference in May and is based on On2’s VP8 video codec. It is meant to offer an open source alternative to the H.264 video codec, which is controlled by the MPEG LA licensing body — a fact that has stopped the makers of Firefox from supporting H.264 for Flash-free HTML5 video playback. Firefox and Chrome support the playback of Webm video content via preview-releases instead, and Adobe (s ADBE) has announced that it will also bake WebM support into Flash.

FFmpeg’s 0.6 release could help make the codec even more widely supported by adding it to projects like XBMC, which is the basis for Boxee’s software. Boxee’s vice president of marketing Andrew Kippen told us that integrating support for WebM and VP8 is on the company’s road map. He said that there isn’t a specific due date yet, but that the implementation will be influenced by the availability of content on the new format. “If it’s what users want, we’ll give it to them,” Kippen said. Doing so should be much easier now that FFmpeg supports WebM.

Open source video player VLC released a version supporting playback of WebM video content three weeks ago. VLC 1.1.0 Release Candidate 1 also features support for hardware-based decoding of H.264-encoded video on some platforms — a feature that is not yet available for WebM content and that could become crucial to support HD playback on set-top boxes and other connected devices.

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