A test conducted by the social media giant Facebook shows that the AV1 codec performs better than x264 and libvpx-vp9 codecs in most common real-world scenarios. The AV1 codec is a royalty-free and open video format that was recently released by the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia). This format is designed to be compatible with 4K videos, and AOMedia claims that the codec reduces the data consumed by 4K video streaming by as much as 40-percent. However, the social media giant wanted to test the performance of the video format in real-world production environments that deal primarily with Standard Definition and High Definition videos, which are the most popular formats on the social networking site.
Rather than utilizing uncompressed video sequences for testing, researchers from Facebook decided to use 400 public videos obtained from a variety of Facebook pages. Video clips used in this research are among the most viewed videos on the social media platform. Most of the videos used in the test were recorded on smartphones and these clips are either in SD or in HD formats. Moreover, these clips were already compressed on the devices of the users before they were posted on Facebook. The video clips were decompressed and then re-compressed using three video codecs, which are AV1, x264, and libvpx-vp9. Based on the results of the test, AV1 required longer encoding times compared to other video formats, although the codec offered significantly better compression. For example, the AV1 format offered 34-percent better compression compared to the libvpx-vp9 codec. On the other hand, the AV1 codec achieved 50.3-percent and 46.2-percent better performance compared to x264 main profile and x264 high profile formats respectively. These numbers mean that the AV1 format allows the social media platform to offer better quality videos at the same bit rate, or reduce video buffering at the same video quality.
Facebook also noted in its blog post that it will adopt the AV1 format in the company's production systems, and it plans to start serving AV1 videos once popular browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox implement support for the new video format. Previous reports have already mentioned that the two browsers will start supporting the codec in 2019, while smartphones will likely begin supporting the video format by the year 2020.