Open codec pioneer leaves Red Hat, joins Mozilla to work on next-generation video codec

monty

Xiph.org founder Monty Montgomery is leaving Red Hat to join Mozilla next week. Montgomery announced the change on Google+ Tuesday, writing: “This is not a reflection on Red Hat, but rather jumping at an opportunity offered by Mozilla.”

Montgomery is currently working on Daala, a next-generation video codec that aims to provide better results than H.265, also known as HEVC, without requiring any kind of commercial license agreements. Much of the work on Daala has already been done by people working for Mozilla, which acts as the primary sponsor for the project.

Montgomery has been active in the development of open codecs for years. His Xiph.org foundation first introduced the open audio codec Ogg Vorbis in 2000, and followed up with the open video codec Ogg Theora in 2008. Ogg Theora has since largely been replaced by Google’s open VP8 video codec, but Ogg Vorbis is still in use in many applications, and for example powers parts of Spotify’s music streaming service.

Next-generation codecs like H.265 and its competitors are set to play a big role as video providers are starting to embrace 4K video. Google has been working on its own VP9 video codec to compete with H.265, and recently added playback support for VP9 to its Chrome browser. However, Daala is trying to take things one step further. From a recent introduction to Daala:

“The next-generation VP9 and HEVC codecs are the latest incremental refinements of a basic codec design that dates back 25 years to h.261. This conservative, linear development strategy evolving a proven design has yielded reliable improvement with relatively low risk, but the law of diminishing returns is setting in. Recent performance increases are coming at exponentially increasing computational cost. Daala tries for a larger leap forward— by first leaping sideways— to a new codec design and numerous novel coding techniques.”

Montgomery told me that the advantage of using completely novel research also is that there are fewer suspicions that an open codec violates someone else’s intellectual property. He added that the progress on Daala is solid, and that the current time line is to have the codec at a state where it could be used in commercial products by the end of 2015.

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