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Theora 1.0 Released, Supported By Firefox 310

YA_Python_dev writes "The Xiph.Org Foundation announced Monday the release of Theora 1.0. Theora is a free/open source video codec with a small CPU footprint that offers easy portability and requires no patent royalties. Upcoming versions of Firefox and Opera will play natively Ogg/Theora videos with the new HTML5 element <video src="file.ogv"></video>, and ffmpeg2theora offers an easy way to create content. Theora developers are already working on a 1.1 encoder that offers better quality/bitrate ratio, while producing streams backward-compatible with the current decoder." Adds reader logfish: "Since its bit-stream freeze in June of 2004 there have been numerous speed-ups and bug-fixes. Although Nokia claimed it to be proprietary almost a year ago, nothing has been proven. So now it's time to help it take over the internet, and finally push for video sites filled with Theora encoded vlogs, blurts and idle nonsense."
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Theora 1.0 Released, Supported By Firefox

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  • Containers... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GenP ( 686381 )
    How does ogv compare to say, mkv?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Just like MKV hardly anything will play it, but unlike MKV it doesn't actually add anything useful.

      Mod me troll if you like, but I speak the truth.
      • Compared to avi it adds usefulness, though that's not saying much. I think it adds over wmv, but that again wouldn't be saying much.

        I do agree that mkv currently has richer featureset implemented.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        On Linux, you have a hard time finding a player who doesn't support the Matroska format. On windows, VLC, which supports the MKV format, is a very popular video player, even for normal users.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 )
          And anyone who watches anime in quality higher than "youtube" already knows about CCPC []. Among those groups, MKV is incredibly popular due to its smooth handling of styled subtitles and multiple audio tracks.
      • Re:Containers... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:31AM (#25625397) Journal
        Just like MKV hardly anything will play it, but unlike MKV it doesn't actually add anything useful.

        You've obviously never negotiated costs with MPEG-LA, or you wouldn't say that.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rsmith-mac ( 639075 )
          Matroska isn't an MPEG standard. It's patent and royalty free, and the standard itself is open for FOSS to implement (as many have).
          • That's the point. Theora adds one useful thing: Freedom from licensing costs.
            • Re:Containers... (Score:5, Informative)

              by BrentH ( 1154987 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:18AM (#25626279)
              Many posters here are confusing two things here: codecs and containers. Theora is the videocodec, OGG the container (which has the extension .ogv). OGG (as per .ogv) is also the standard container for Theora, which Firefox supports. But, MKV being really a superior container on pretty much all fronts, could contain Theora equally well as any containerformat (actually, better IMHO). Just making sure everyone is talking about the same thing.
          • Re:Containers... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:08AM (#25626013)
            Thats parents point. H264 etc are patent encumbered so Theora does add something very dam useful to the community just like MKV does. MPEG-LA is the group that runs the patent pool on mpeg/h264 etc while the OP was suggesting that Theora is without merit.

            If we want h264/mpeg4 support in FF you going need about $3M+ donated per year for the license fees.

            If you have ever needed to care about the licensing of things like codecs you would know the value of Theora and Dirac.
    • ogv (aka ogg) and mkv (can be named mka for audio-only too) are containers. Theora is a codec. Like H.264 aka MPEG 4 AVC. Except that H.264 is an actual standard which compresses much better. (Theora is more "last generation".)
      Unfortunately, H.264 ist patented, so for some applications it's out of question.

      Oh, and in terms of containers, mkv kicks the shit out of ogg. ;)
      I love the concept of EMBL, binary markup, behind it. It's like XML, but without the verbosity.
      With a DTD you could perfecly convert betwee

  • by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:10AM (#25625157)

    I really want to like Theora, but it's really, really hard to get around the quality issues. VP3, which Theora is based on, just isn't competitive these days. It was subpar back in 2001 when it was donated to Xiph, and the contrast has only gotten worse over time. H.264, VC-1/WMV9, MPEG-4 ASP, even Adobe Flash 8 (which added VP6) are clearly capable of outperforming it.

    If nothing else, free is good (both in terms of speech and beer) and a royalty free standard for video would be great, but it's too hard to ignore just how inferior this standard is. I'm a pragmatic person, I can't think of any reason why I'd want to use this over a better codec; free isn't all that enticing if the video quality sucks.

    • by Grey_14 ( 570901 )

      I think that in theory, the "free" part could be extremely enticing, after all, Opera, Safari, and IE could all just integrate this, no questions asked, and in this magical wonderland we could have cross platform video embedded in websites that "just works". Realistically though, that'll never happen. IE will support WMV and Safari will support Quicktime, and both will support theora through 3rd party plugins which will only be installed by people who know well enough to use firefox anyways.

      • by 404 Clue Not Found ( 763556 ) * on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:25AM (#25625331)

        Meh. It ain't 1999 anymore. Forgetting Youtube? Flash IS that "magical wonderland", and it DOES just work for the majority of the population.

        The question is, can free-as-in-beer, inferior open source compete against free-as-in-beer, superior closed source?

        • by Grey_14 ( 570901 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:39AM (#25625477) Homepage

          Don't forget, lots of nightmarish IE specific stuff also "Just Works" for "The Majority", And ask any 64bit linux user exactly how much they love adobe for their support. (I think they have it now, after something like 4 years of waiting or running in emulation, or running a 32bit OS on their 64bit machines)

          The magical wonderland I think of is one where anyone on any system can easily watch video online, not just the majority.

        • by Godji ( 957148 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:40AM (#25625485) Homepage
          Flash doesn't just work. It requires a proprietary plugin that crashes my browser all the time, and is not 64-bit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
          It doesn't work for all those people who bought iPhones. They're an important demographic in most cases (i.e. people with lots of spare money), and they don't have flash. YouTube works because Google wrote a special client for it. Other sites that use flash video, however, won't. If it gets <video> tag support, it will be trivial to support.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by comm2k ( 961394 )

          The question is, can free-as-in-beer, inferior open source compete against free-as-in-beer, superior closed source?

          x264 is open source and gives way better quality than Theora - but it is also a patent minefield and you will need to get in contact with MPEG-LA if you plan on doing commercial stuff etc.

    • by stevek ( 25276 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:20AM (#25625277) Homepage

      There's certainly better quality codecs out there, compared to 1.0. Take a look at the work happening now on 1.1, though, it gets very competitive: []

      • by doti ( 966971 )

        The result on those sample frames are great. The new version at 240kbps compares to the old one at 580kbps.

        This should be more exposed, to reduce the impact of the first impression on this quality gap of the 1.0 and the competition.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        it gets very competitive

        That might be true, but it isn't demonstrated by posting a link that compares Theora and Theora.

        I'd like to post a clip that compares Theora to the formats and codecs it tries to compete against. I don't have elephants dream available at the moment, and I don't want to get slashdotted, but someone could reencode the high-resolution version of it and post links.

        Then we can compare Theora to its competitors, to see exactly how competitive it is.

      • by BrentH ( 1154987 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:32PM (#25627915)
        Here's a link that compares last years Theora with xvid and divx:
        Note that this is before the major changes made this summer and the major changes still coming (in the encoder). The VP3 technology actually puts it between MPEG-4 ASP (xvid/divx) and H264 in theoretically achievable quality, it's just that the encoder has been extremely badly tuned up until this summer, because of lack of interest. If Theora can catch up to MPEG-4 ASP codecs and perhaps even close in on H264, it would make for an excellent patentfree codec.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      But, those are issues that can be addressed, and with more attention like this it will get more help from "joe the programmer". I'm glad to see something like this. I'm tired of the "format wars" going on by a few companies. The consumer wants something that works well. If there is a free and equally good alternative the world would open up to it. To me quality optimizations can come after they something that works well and is open.
      • by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:33AM (#25625413)

        But, those are issues that can be addressed, and with more attention like this it will get more help from "joe the programmer"

        Can it though? Certainly part of the issue is definitely the encoder, but you're still constrained by the inherent limitations of the codec (and more to the point, the decoder). Theora can't be overhauled without breaking the decoder, and even if it was overhauled as Theora 2.0, it couldn't implement any of a multitude of patented video compression technologies already used in MPEG or other standards. And unless someone wants to hire a team of engineers for Xiph, the odds of someone inventing a revolutionary, non-patent-infrining video codec on their own is pretty slim.

        From what I've seen with the work on 1.1, improving the encoder just isn't enough to nullify the deficiencies in the codec itself. It's like trying to improve Mac OS Classic when really you need to make a clean break and invent Mac OS X.

        • by bigmammoth ( 526309 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @12:10PM (#25627425) Homepage

          The fact that the quality improvements for theora 1.1 put it on par with a base mpeg4 implementation while not on par with the most recent h264 encoders is not really relevant in the larger sense.

          Once a free codec becomes widely adopted the chance of some proprietary codec coming along afterwards is near zero. Its just like today we can't imagine someone coming out with a proprietary image format and expecting people to adopt it.

          Its relatively easy to add in support for Dirac or some future free codec once there is support for a free codec ecosystem. No one will pay h264 licensing costs when quality free alternatives are vibrant. The entrenched proprietary systems are being pushed aside for free alternatives. This 1.0 release is a step towards that direction, not as big of a step once firefox 3.1 ships but an important step ;)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 )

            ``Once a free codec becomes widely adopted the chance of some proprietary codec coming along afterwards is near zero.''

            You mean like WMA, MP3Pro, AAC, and Talad knows what else coming along after Ogg Vorbis?

            ``No one will pay h264 licensing costs when quality free alternatives are vibrant.''

            You mean like people _paying_ to be allowed to add support for MP3, WMA (and PlaysForSure) and AAC (and FairPlay) to their players, but not supporting the free Ogg Vorbis?

            I am sorry to say it, but I think history contradi

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by shaitand ( 626655 )

            'Its just like today we can't imagine someone coming out with a proprietary image format and expecting people to adopt it. ' ... you do realize that the most popular image formats are proprietary right?

    • by toots5446 ( 1400109 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:29AM (#25625385)
      With the billions of crappy flv video being used all over the web, are you claiming that cutting edge video technology is the key for broad acceptance ??
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ilgaz ( 86384 )

        Flash is a single click install (if not already came with OS). Nothing adds to startup, not a single case of spyware, no OS performance loss and a comical disk space required. Lets not forget that it is true multiplatform. Even Symbian high end phones displays it.

        I keep saying that is the key to success of FLV container.

        No nags, no technical knowledge required, easy (runs!). The genius is in its simplicity.

        For the quality of videos: Their source is junk, they are transcoded from already compressed source,

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:34AM (#25625431) Journal
      Think of Theora as a successor to MPEG-1 on the web. It works everywhere, is easy to support, and doesn't need much CPU to play back (so you can use it for mobile sites), and the quality is 'good enough' but not great. At the other end there's Dirac (which also went 1.0 recently), which provides amazing quality but at the cost of much higher CPU loads. If you're streaming films or HDTV episodes, you'd want to consider something like Dirac. If you're just showing little clips and you want them to just work, you'd use Theora (well, at the moment you'd use MPEG-1, but hopefully in the future you can use Theora).
    • Theora is not VP3. The format is *much* more flexible and the 1.0 decoder supports all of it. Which means that in the next years we will see many improvements in the quality, with the same bitrate and 100 backward binary compatibility, just enhancing the encoders.

      See: [] []

      And this is only the start. Just look at what the Lame encoder was able to do with the MP3 format in quality.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:46AM (#25625541)

      Theora quality is good enough. You may be able to see a difference under a microscope but not to the human eye.

      To get a good quality video, from A to Z must be quality, not just one step.

      Many convert a MPEG video into Theora and say Theora video is not good quality. MPEG means video is already compressed and data is dropped as part of the encoding process. You don't take a such a video and convert the format to Theora and drop data again as part of the Theora encoding process. Its of course not good quality then, because data is dropped twice.

      To get real quality video in Theora, you should get a raw video and convert to Theora. I have converted a raw video footage shot by a RED camera ( into Theora, I don't see any quality issue. Its crisp clear.

      In digital camcoders this is what is done inside, ie. it first shot in raw and then convert to MPEG. I have not come across a video camera that convert to Theora natively inside the camera. If it does, there should not be any quality difference compared to MPEG.


      • Starting from a decent bitrate MPEG-2 video (say, 2 GB/hour), there should be no problem creating good Theora encodes from them despite already being lossy. And if Theora can't do that without looking like crap, then it fails next to codecs like H.264 that can.
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Look at youtube. Quality is hardy all that big in a lot of peoples minds, if they notice at all that is.

      The performance at youtube bitrates is quite comparable to current youtube quality. But I won't argue that H264 is a winner here, if you don't have to pay for it that is.
  • ogg/theora porn?
  • ... if you release the torpedo before the target leaves the shipyard?
  • Dirac (Score:3, Informative)

    by ast_rufio ( 1325413 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:27AM (#25625367)
    Dirac (see []) probably has much more potential to become the next generation open video codec. From what I understand it is more cutting edge and than Theora due to e.g. the use of wavelets.
    • Xiph had their own wavelet-based codec called Tarkin. Development on it stopped a few years back so that the team could concentrate on getting Theora out, but this has evidentally turned out to be a mistake.
    • Re:Dirac (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:56AM (#25625737) Journal

      They're aimed at different markets. Dirac is a very high-quality CODEC, but it is incredibly CPU intensive. Remember what MPEG-4 was like when it was introduced? A couple of days to encode a film, and you could only just decode it in realtime on a fast computer? Dirac is like that. It will be a few years before you start getting Dirac support in something like an iPhone. If you want to stream HD content, Dirac is a good choice.

      In contrast, Theora is very cheap in terms of CPU power. You can run it on very low-power devices. This makes it a good choice for Internet video, where the viewer might be using a massive desktop computer, a mobile phone, or anything in between. You wouldn't want to use Dirac here, because even fast laptops would struggle not to drop frames, and handhelds would just fail.

      That said, my mobile phone now has about as much CPU power as the PC I had when I first got an MPEG-4 video, so eventually it will be feasible to run Dirac in low-power devices (sooner if they have dedicated ICs), but in the short term it's not ideal.

  • vlogs, blurts and idle nonsense

    What the hell is a "blurt"?

  • Does anyone know the rationale of not using <object> for including video? It would have been perfect for that usage, and completely standard...

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:00AM (#25625813) Journal
      The object tag is not a great way of doing anything. It requires too much knowledge of the plugin that will be used to render it to be at all nice to work with. The big difference between the audio and video tags in HTML 5 and the object tag in HTML 4 is that they have a set of well-defined parameters. If you want to use an object tag for video, you need a set of param tags inside it giving parameters to the player. Each player (WMV, Quicktime, VLC, etc.) understands a slightly different set, and the set a generic plugin for video should understand is not defined by the standard.
      • Why does it need knowledge of the plugin? Why not just:

        <object data="file.ogv">Alt text goes here</object>

        The browser/toolkit/OS is responsible for then loading any appropriate player based on the content-type of whatever file.ogv is. What else is needed?

  • I'm clueless on the topic... so I will just ask the question. What royalties are their for file formats? Does this basically mean that Microsoft pays for the different codecs that are included in Windows Media Player and that Adobe pays for the different formats that it can export to?

    • What royalties are their for file formats?

      It has nothing to do with the file format and everything to do with the codec used to encode/decode the contents of said file. Specifically, the various MPEG-based codecs are all subject to patents and thus require license fees be paid to the MPEG-LA in order to legally distribute encoders (and I believe decoders, though don't quote me on that, I don't recall the precise fee structure).

      Theora, like Vorbis, has the advantage of being unencumbered by patents, and thi

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )

      Oh, and to answer this question:

      Does this basically mean that Microsoft pays for the different codecs that are included in Windows Media Player and that Adobe pays for the different formats that it can export to?

      The answer is, yes, depending on the codec in question (for example, Microsoft would pay the MPEG-LA to distribute an MPEG2 video decoder). But keep in mind, a file format, in and of itself, isn't subject to patent. It's the methods used to create the file format that are the problem. So exportin

      • Isn't it funny... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gbutler69 ( 910166 )
        ...but, according to the constitution, mathematical algorithms are not supposed to be patentable. I say that everyone needs to completely ignore these patents and force suits en masse to be brought to the supreme court. If a court orders you pay, refuse on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. If everyone did this, they couldn't put everyone in jail.
    • I'm clueless on the topic... so I will just ask the question. What royalties are their for file formats? Does this basically mean that Microsoft pays for the different codecs that are included in Windows Media Player and that Adobe pays for the different formats that it can export to?

      Yes. Each codec that is licensed and due royalties require payments to the owner. So MPEG, MP3, Quicktime, DiVX etc. all require a payment or the creator of the product runs the risk of ending up in court and having their product withdrawn. The open formats do not.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      What royalties are their for file formats?

      Some common containers, such as ASF (used in .wmv files) [], are patented. Otherwise, Microsoft couldn't have threatened the VirtualDub maintainer [] in the 1.3 series.

  • Uh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:39AM (#25625481)

    "Although Nokia claimed it to be proprietary almost a year ago, nothing has been proven. So now it's time to help it take over the internet"

    I admit I don't know what the situation with Theora's licensing history is but this comment strikes me as rather worrying. We're being told to use it because no one's proven it's not likely to end you up with licensing troubles later on. Personally I'd rather before something "takes over the internet" that the burden of proof was on it to demonstrate that it is completely open. This should be as easy as showing use of a relevant open license no?

    From what I can see it's under a BSD license and so should really be open. Is this the case? The way the article summary is written just really doesn't instil confidence in their intentions.

    Giving this codec the benefit of the doubt I think the summary is just a case of carried away fanboyism having an adverse effect towards the neutral observers view of the situation much as seeing a forum war between a PS3 and a 360 fanboy might put someone off the idea of online console gaming.

    Can someone a bit more grounded give us a better view of the concerns and realities of Theora licensing and it's suitability as a codec to "take over the internet"?

    • Re:Uh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:57AM (#25625761)

      Xiph had the Software Freedom Law Center help establish that Nokia's claims were untrue. Mozilla sought counseling from lawyers before supporting Theora. Is that enough?

    • Re:Uh? (Score:4, Informative)

      by steveha ( 103154 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @02:49PM (#25630535) Homepage

      That "nothing has been proven" comment is pretty clearly tongue-in-cheek, just like the "take over the Internet" part.

      The video encoding field is crowded with patents, so it's probably impossible to do something like Theora without needing a patent license. But Theora is based on some patented technology (VP3) whose patents have been donated for free use, irrevocably forever. And Theora is free, open source software with a BSD license. If you use the Ogg container format, Theora video, and Vorbis audio, you have a completely free media format. []

      So, you can use Theora for any purpose, without needing to pay royalties, without needing to get permission. That's why it's so funny that Nokia claimed Theora is "proprietary"... I do not think that word means what they think it does.


  • Use Gstreamer as-installed on your existing system. Put this in a simple bash script and have-at:

    gst-launch-0.10 filesrc location="$1" ! decodebin name=decoder { oggmux name=muxer ! filesink location="$2" } { decoder. ! ffmpegcolorspace ! theoraenc ! queue ! muxer. } { decoder. ! queue ! audioconvert ! queue ! muxer. }

    Add the Fluendo codecs, and you have a properly patent-licensed, legal way to transcode most popular media to no-patent-royalties media types.

  • Now, if there are decent (freeware?) applications that can encode the format that would be great. You have to pay for Flash video encoding, and even if you can pay, asking about a Flash video encoder [] for Linux.. who cares about Linux. If you use MPEG4, some players are picky on the type of MPEG4 codecs you used to encode a video when you play it back. . Microsoft video format is just a pain in the backside.

    A video format without the security problems of Flash, bring it on.

    • by smoker2 ( 750216 )
      What's wrong with ffmpeg and ffserver ? I encode swf video on the fly from a mjpeg stream originating from an IP camera. It's currently quite choppy as I can't get much more than 6 fps to stream consistently over an ADSL connection without using all the available upstream bandwidth. That is not an issue for a local source file.
      This demo [] is only available for the next hour !
  • Check it out. [] Right now they don't host video.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      So, it's not really like YouTube. Who's going to self-host their own videos? That is the whole point of YouTube!
  • by Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (45ttam.yrrep)> on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @11:20AM (#25626317)

    and ffmpeg2theora offers an easy way to create content.

    Only for certain definitions of easy. Let me know when you have a point and click version that my non technical friends can use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by skeeto ( 1138903 )
      Easy. On Windows, create a shortcut to it on the Desktop, or just have the executable on the Desktop. User can just drag a video file onto it, a Window pops up telling them the time left, and when it's done an Ogg Theora video file is dropped in the same directory as the original video, and with the same name (but with .ogv). No need to break out the command line.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.