The world of video codecs can be a confusing one. Popular codecs including HEVC (H.265) and AVC (H.264) are widely supported and will be familiar to streaming. But there is another codec that has gained momentum and industry support. AV1.
A variety of hardware supports AV1 decoding, including current generation Nvidia and AMD GPUs (but not the RX 6500 XT). However, hardware encoding support is more limited. Intel’s upcoming Arc series GPUs will include encoding support. This is sure to appeal to creators and streamers who prefer the AV1 codec.
in the most recent Arc display (pass through digital trends), Intel claims that AV1 hardware encoding on Arc GPUs is 50 times faster than software-only encoding. It goes on to state that AV1 encoding is 20% more efficient than HEVC and 50% more efficient than H.264 at the same bit rate.
While AV1 encoding may be a niche feature for many users, there are certainly users who use AV1 content, and Intel wants to carve out parts of the market.
In addition to offering greater efficiency at the same bit rate, AV1 is also known to be royalty-free. It is backed by major companies including Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Netflix.
This means that AV1 can be used in a variety of open source and free software, including web browsers that would otherwise have to pay a license fee to include HEVC support. Just recently, Samsung found itself sued by MPEG LA, a licensing body that holds patents on the HEVC codec in German courts.
Arc will now include full AV1 encoding support, and next-generation AMD and Nvidia graphics cards will likely support it as well. Interestingly, Twitch is currently testing the feature, which will increase pressure on the company to add encoding support.