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MPEG-4 is here! But not yet.

By 90X Double Side in Technology
Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:40:37 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

Today, during Phil Schiller's QuickTime Live keynote, Apple announced the completion of QuickTime 6, QuickTime Streaming Server/Darwin Open Source Streaming Sever 4, and QuickTime Broadcaster, all supporting MPEG-4, and offering the promise of finally bringing mass adoption of the new MPEG streaming standard. But the release has been delayed indefinitely.

If you haven't already heard of it, the new MPEG technology promises to be a standard for streaming video over the internet, ending the war between incompatible Windows Media, RealMedia, and QuickTime formats. Its inclusion in QuickTime 6 would not only make it easy for content creators to encode in the format using existing software (there was a demo of a scene from the recent NIN DVD being converted to MPEG-4 from within Final Cut Pro 3), but it would also put MPEG-4 support into thousands of products supporting QuickTime. “Think about it, you'll be able to watch an MPEG-4 in Microsoft Word,” Schiller noted.

So what's the holdup? The current licensing agreement proposed by the MPEG patent holders requires not only a license fee for every encoder and decoder, but per-hour royalties from everyone who broadcasts using the format. While Apple is wiling to pay the codec royalties (which are $0.25 per encoder and $0.25 per decoder, with caps of $1,000,000 per year, meaning Apple would pay $2,000,000 per year), they refuse to ship a product requiring a broadcast tax.

You would never need any more dramatic example of patent disputes holding up technology than seeing Schiller hold up a CD containing the QuickTime 6 software as he explained the licensing problems. Schiller prompted everyone in the audience to write constructive notes to licensing@mpegla.com, and I will certainly do the same. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in the latest version of QuickTime, all ’net users have a vested interest in standards, and MPEG-4 will never succeed with such ridiculous licensing costs.


Voxel dot net
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o VoxCAST Content Delivery
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Will you be downloading QuickTime 6
o Yes, I want it now! 32%
o Maybe, if i need it to watch the next Lord of the Rings trailer 23%
o No, I like my mid-'90s streaming codecs 13%
o No, but I will use another MPEG-4 product 30%

Votes: 68
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o QuickTime 6
o QuickTime Streaming Server
o Darwin Open Source Streaming Sever
o QuickTime Broadcaster
o MPEG patent holders
o licensing@ mpegla.com
o Also by 90X Double Side

Display: Sort:
MPEG-4 is here! But not yet. | 36 comments (33 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Wait for Ogg Tarkin (3.50 / 6) (#1)
by Delirium on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 11:09:23 PM EST


ogg.* (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by strepsil on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:46:13 AM EST

I waited patiently for Ogg Vorbis a while back. It arrived, and none of the software or hardware I use to play my music supports it.

It's great to have these open standards, but if groups like Apple and Microsoft ignore them, what's the point? I'd love to cut over to using Vorbis files, I really would, but I just can't use them. Right now I can dump a folder full of mp3 files onto a CD, and play them on any computer nearby, or my portable CD player or likely any other digital audio device I may pick up.

Maybe Vorbis will get there one day, and I hope it will, but saying "wait for Tarkin" is just another way of saying "pretend digital video doesn't exist" right now.

[ Parent ]
Vorbis has support (4.80 / 5) (#12)
by Delirium on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:03:35 AM EST

I'd say Vorbis is essentially already there, except for the portable support, which is coming very soon now. It's already trivial to play Vorbis files on any computer - there's official plugins for all the major players, and many play it by default (the Winamp plugin is official but not yet included with the default install; it's being reviewed by AOL's patent lawyers and should be cleared "soon"). Portable support will be mainstream shortly due to the patent-free (and thus royalty-free) nature of the Ogg format and the Vorbis codecs (it costs essentially nothing to support). There will be a firmwall upgrade for the RioVolt shortly to support Ogg playback (supposedly it's already done and being tested).

But yeah, Tarkin will take a while, especially as aren't very many developer resources being put into it (Xiphophorus is focusing almost entirely on Vorbis until the 1.0 release). It's not entirely necessary to wait for Tarkin though, as the DivX codec is freely available and the Ogg format does not require that the video streams be Tarkin-compressed. Using Ogg in this method (as a video container format) is gaining rapidly - things are still being worked out, but the current favored method is to encapsulate a Vorbis audio stream and a DivX video stream in an Ogg file. If the Ogg DirectShow fileter is installed, these files are played back flawlessly in Windows Media Player. Advantages of this Ogg(Vorbis/DivX) encapsulation over the traditional AVI(mp3/DivX) method are VBR audio without sync problems (VBR audio generally is higher-quality than CBR, but encapsulating VBR mp3 audio in an AVI causes sync problems); support of up to 255 streams, which in practical terms means you can extract 5.1 (or even 6.1 or 7.1) DVD audio without collapsing it to two channels; streamable, since Ogg is designed as a streaming format (but is more flexible and all-around better than ASF).

[ Parent ]

Software (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by salsaman on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 10:41:34 AM EST

You say none of the software you use supports ogg vorbis ? What are you using ? Winamp and xmms both support .ogg files.

[ Parent ]
The much missed link (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by Pac on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:45:21 PM EST

If you can (ie, have the knowledge to) and want to help, Ogg Tarkin needs you.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

[ Parent ]
Not a chance in hell... (2.33 / 6) (#3)
by ucblockhead on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 11:29:41 PM EST

With Quicktime, Real Media and Windows Media all widespread and with powerful corporate sponsership, and DivX getting the Open Source people, Mpeg4 has no chance. So who cares?
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
question (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by regeya on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:09:14 AM EST

I don't remember, and I don't mess with DivX ;-) but I was under the impression that DivX;-) was basically MPEG4 (though sometimes the audio stream is MPEG 1 Layer III.)

Am I incorrect? And if so, aren't you just trolling anyway?


[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

mpeg4 != mpeg4 (none / 0) (#10)
by Cironian on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:05:19 AM EST

Seeing how its Apple, they are probably talking about MPEG4 inside some QuickTime container, which would conveniently (for Apple) be incompatible to MPEG4 within an AVI container (DivX et al).

Naive users, such as you and me, might wonder why people dont just agree on a single wrapper format but that of course wouldnt help companies X and Y to both sell the basically same software to you twice.

[ Parent ]

MPEG is a file format (5.00 / 2) (#15)
by 90X Double Side on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:39:45 AM EST

In case you weren't aware, you don't wrap MPEG files in any wrapper (unless you want to defeat the purpose of having a standard), they are .mpeg files, or .mp4 files in this case. Apple didn't have iTunes make some bastardized kind of MP3 files (although a certain larger software company did that with their multimedia product) and if you had dug deeper into the Apple announcements, they promise MPEG-4's from QT will play on any MPEG-4 player, and vice-versa (they showed one playing on a cell phone at QT Live). Now it's not like this isn't political; Apple knows that they can create MPEG-4 files that will play anywhere because MS will adopt the standard only very reluctantly.

“Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity”
—Alvy Ray Smith
[ Parent ]
Not quite (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by fluffy grue on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:15:50 PM EST

MPEG is a CODEC format. It just happens to also specify the container for the CODEC format (which makes things nice and modular and upgradable and so on). MPEG-4 is specifically just a streaming format. As others have pointed out, MPEG-4's blessed file format is Quicktime.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Yes (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by 90X Double Side on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:37:51 PM EST

You are completely right; I oversimplified it, because from the user's standpoint MPEG appears to be the file format since it is a standardized wrapper and players will be able to read MPEG-4 streams that will not be able to view other streams in the QuickTime wrapper. In any event the parent post was wrong.

“Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity”
—Alvy Ray Smith
[ Parent ]
True, with a caveat (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by fluffy grue on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:22:43 PM EST

Not all MPEG streams have always been wrapped in a standardized wrapper. For example, the original Fraunhofer mp3enc program wrapped the MP3 stream up in a RIFF (aka .wav, even though technically RIFF can store pretty much anything in it) file, and most of the MPEG-4 video streams out there are wrapped up in .avi files, with quite a few wrapped up in .asf. So just because the MPEG standard specifies a "standard" fileformat (which, BTW, until now has just been the raw stream anyway; there hasn't been a difference between an MPEG stream and an MPEG file) doesn't mean that the various ISVs have actually stuck to that.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Single wrapper format (none / 0) (#16)
by mech9t8 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:42:05 AM EST

QuickTime was chosen as the standard MPEG-4 file format.

From the article:

QuickTime was chosen by the International Organization for Standards (ISO) as the file format for MPEG-4, providing the software with a deep level of compatibility with the standard.
So this QuickTime-based file format is supposed to be the MPEG-4 equivalent of, say, MPEG-1 .mpg or .mp3 files.

"To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the s
[ Parent ]
Yeah! MPEG-4 will solve all my problems! (4.40 / 5) (#4)
by binaryalchemy on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 11:50:45 PM EST

Now instead of choosing between Real, Microsoft, and Apple I can pick from Real, Microsoft, and Apple! Why? It's an open standard you say? Well it's not a free standard, or even a cheap one. From the looks of this they would never allow a free player. Meaning there will never be one for my OS of choice (Linux). So now, instead of competing streaming formats, we can have one, unified, patent encumbered, overpriced streaming format.
(And yes, I know MPEG-4 isn't a video format!)
Defending the GPL from a commercial perspective is like defending the Microsft EULA from a moral perspective. - quartz
There is an open source MPEG4 for linux (none / 0) (#7)
by scanman on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:48:23 AM EST

It's not exactly legal, but oh well.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

codecs (none / 0) (#27)
by jacoplane on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:04:41 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Re: Yeah! MPEG-4 will solve all my problems! (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by alfredo on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:45:03 PM EST

It isn't Apple that is stopping it, it is Sorensen. Apple wants marketshare, but they don't own all the codec, so they cannot release it without Sorensen's blessings.

[ Parent ]
Ummmm (none / 0) (#34)
by binaryalchemy on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 04:06:13 PM EST

This is MPEG-4 we're talking about right? Sorensen has nothing to do with it.

Sorensen owns the Sorensen 3 codec. Which has nothing to do with MPEG-4 or MPEG-4 licensing.

Also, Apple has a exclusive license to the Sorensen 3 codec. Sorensen has stated that they would be happy to license the codec out with apples blessing, and Apple has stated that they will never give their blessing. Because Sorensen 3 is a really nice codec and it gives Quicktime the only real market power it has left vs. Microsoft and asf.
Defending the GPL from a commercial perspective is like defending the Microsft EULA from a moral perspective. - quartz
[ Parent ]

I feel so torn. (4.33 / 6) (#6)
by regeya on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:13:03 AM EST

On the one hand, using patents competitively like this is, IMHO, bad.

On the other hand, it's Apple who wants me to protest, and Apple isn't the friendliest company in the world, and quite frankly, I'd just be helping their bottom line.

Not to mention my annoyance that they completely ignore Ogg.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

Press-talk, reality and 1984 (none / 0) (#18)
by Pac on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:41:35 PM EST

"competitively" is hardly the word here. They are plainly abusing the patent grace period to cash beyond their due reward, and abusing it in a way that may well prevent the technology to benefit the would-be users.

My point is that using this kind of "press neutral, libel free" words when describing obnoxious practices serves only to blur reality. 1984's doubletalk may well dominate the main press, but we should not fall prey to it only because they are the "usual" words.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

[ Parent ]
GPL'ed MPEG4 video codec (5.00 / 3) (#13)
by hstink on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:05:05 AM EST

There's a GPL'ed MPEG4 video codec under development over at XviD which is currently faster than DivX4 and DivX 3.11, is fully spec-compliant, and creates more compact bitstreams for the same quality output than any other MPEG4 codec freely available.

The core has been developed by 3 people, which is an astonishing feat given the time it's taken. More hands are always welcome.


How will this compete with existing MPEG4 stuff? (none / 0) (#32)
by groove10 on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 02:29:55 AM EST

If the MPEG4 stuff is patented, how can they create a GPL'd version of the codec and get away without requiring the same licencing scheme? Did they deconstruct (DMCA anyone?) the MPEG4 standard? Isn't this pretty much the same thing that ProjectMayo [projectmayo.com] is doing?
Do you like D&D? How bout text-based MMORPGs? You need to try Everwars. It's better than shooting smack!
[ Parent ]
Think LAME, FAAC/FAAD, etc. (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by hstink on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 04:08:32 AM EST

The XviD project is distributing source code, not binaries, so licensing does not apply. If you choose to download it and compile, you're on your own ;)

Project Mayo is finished. Just before being closed, Sparky committed his "Encore2" work to the CVS, which was a half-decent MPEG-4 encoding engine. Shortly thereafter, DivXNetworks pulled the plug on Project Mayo (when was the last CVS commit?), and went on to use Encore2 in DivX 4.x. Since Encore2 was released under the OpenDivX license, Michael (Isibaar) uploaded it to www.xvid.org and the rewriting began.

There are perhaps a few hundred lines of non-GPL code remaining in XviD. These will be gone soon enough.

It will "compete" with the other MPEG-4 implementations in the same way that LAME competed with existing MP3 implementations, i.e. giving people the opportunity to work on their own codec, being freely contributed to. Just as LAME has surpassed Fraunhofer encoders for MP3 quality, XviD is already on par or better than Microsoft's MP42, MP43, WMV7 and WMV8, as well as DivXNetwork's DivX 4.x and On2's VP3.

I don't personally commit to the codec core (only a frontend man at the moment), but Isibaar, gruel and suxen_drol are great coders, and have many ideas for future development (it's still only using parts of MPEG4 simple profile video, there's lots of fun ahead).


[ Parent ]

Where is this license fee going? (4.33 / 3) (#14)
by BetterEmail on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:33:13 AM EST

Take a look at the holders of the mpeg patents. I know that I personally don't feel the need to give these corporations any more money.

well cheapo (none / 0) (#17)
by darthaya on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:47:47 AM EST

Maybe you can invest your time and effort yourself and invent MPEG-5! In that way, you won't be forced to pay anybody.

[ Parent ]
What irks me... (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by SvnLyrBrto on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:16:45 PM EST

Is that, in more than a few cases, those companies that are the licenseors, demanding to get paid...

... are the SAME companies that will end up as licensees, paying (for players, encoders, or streams) fees if the mpeg coalition gets its way.

So basiclly, they're holding up a new technology so that the legal and accounting divisions can squabble over over which division of the corperation owes how much money to another division of the SAME damn corperstion.

It's a pretty annoying, stupid shell game. As big as corperations are these days, how long until they actually wind up SUEING themselves?


Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

your sig (ot) (none / 0) (#25)
by rebelcool on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:20:07 PM EST

its fake. try looking it up on google.. you'll find a number of those rumor-busting sites with it.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

er, where? (still ot) (none / 0) (#28)
by mech9t8 on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:10:16 AM EST

I tried looking it up on Google 'cause I was wondering where I originally saw it, and it seems to just be in a million sigs and quote pages. You have a link for one of the "it's fake" pages, or know where it came from?

"To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the s
[ Parent ]
I know. (still OT) (none / 0) (#31)
by SvnLyrBrto on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 01:23:23 AM EST

As I said when I changed it, I KNOW that it is most unlikely that a Kristian Wilson even worked at Nintendo of America, much less was quoted as such. But when this story got posted, I just couldn't resist.


Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

No, this is good (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by Gorgon5 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:26:07 PM EST

Regardless of Apple's motives, which are probably just as corporately selfish as anyone else's would be, there is an important thing to keep in mind:

What they are doing seems to be a good thing.

They are using considerable clout to refuse to release a very popular product that would help mpeg-4 to be adopted because the licensing terms of mpeg-4 are stupid.

Imagine if Dell decided not to sell WinXP until that ridiculous product-activation were dropped, or Warner Brothers stopped making DVDs until that regional copy-protection thing was killed.

These would be good things, even if they come out of no more noble a motive than big CEOs fighting each other.

I'm not saying that Apple are fantastic and that we should love them, but the fact that they are complaining and encouraging people to complain about a really bad licensing system is an act that should be applauded.

What irks Apple... (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by bodrius on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:10:33 AM EST

I think the only reason Apple is doing this is because after spending so much money and research trying to position themselves as the providers of the "home multimedia factory", and convincing their customers their future depends on making digital movies to burn on their DVDs to share with their families, MPEG-4 now wants a license fee that could kill the digital video hype.

In Apple's vision the average grandma's iMac receives streaming audio and video MPEG4 contents from her granddaughter's webpage, courtesy of iMovies, iTunes, iWhateverApplies, records songs on the iPod, and plugs her iCameraThingie to post her own MPEG4 videos on her blog.

Now they face a vision where anyone who wants to broadcast anything has to worry about licenses, where only businesses can broadcast video with the tranquility of mind their MPEG4 taxes pay for (underground MPEG trading would not fit Apple's expected demographics).

Even if non-profit use is free, is grandma's use non-profit? What if she has banner ads on her page? What if it's on Geocities: is Geocities' ads profits the decision element? What if she has a garage sale and posts a video of the stuff?

Apple is not doing it from the kindness of their heart (nor should they). It's acting because imposing this on their customers kills their plans for the market.

Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
bleh (1.75 / 4) (#30)
by berdwin on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 01:06:46 AM EST

DivX has had mpeg-4 for a while.. why so excited? idiots!!
Playa buys suit, gets haircut, sells out (none / 0) (#36)
by Sanityman on Wed Mar 13, 2002 at 07:28:45 AM EST

DivX^H^H^HDivXNetworks Inc's Playa has grown up in more ways than one. The new version festures DRM (See bottom of linked page), in an apparent move towards Pay per view. A sample quote from the linked daily Yomiyuri article:

More interesting is the idea that the security keys used to decrypt and play the content will only be made available to the player long enough for the device to play the video. The keys instead reside on a central server and are not available locally on the device.
Oh, and it's dropped the 'a' at the end to become the Player. The old moniker was obviously too immature.


If you don't see the fnords, they can't eat you.
"You can't spray cheese whiz™ on the body of Christ!"

MPEG-4 is here! But not yet. | 36 comments (33 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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