Garrett-Glaser’s technical analysis of VP8

Scouring the web last night I came upon more information (that if true) that doesn’t exactly bode well for the format.


  • VP8, as a spec, should be a bit better than H.264 Baseline Profile and VC-1. It’s not even close to competitive with H.264 Main or High Profile. (This may be okay because Baseline is meant for web or mobile applications, Main targeted at standard definition television, and High applies to high definition such as Blu-Ray.)
  • VP8, as an encoder, is somewhere between Xvid and Microsoft’s VC-1 in terms of visual quality. This can definitely be improved a lot, but not via conventional means.
  • VP8, as a decoder, decodes even slower than ffmpeg’s H.264. This probably can’t be improved that much.
  • VP8 copies way too much from H.264 for anyone sane to be comfortable with it, no matter whose word is behind the claim of being patent-free.
  • VP8 is not ready for prime-time; the spec is a pile of copy-pasted C code and the encoder’s interface is lacking in features and buggy. They aren’t even ready to finalize the bitstream format, let alone switch the world over to VP8.

So it seems that if Google is able to improve upon the VP8 codebase and specs and can push chip manufacturers to support the new codec, Apple may eventually support it in their offerings. If partners can be indemnified from patent attacks, that would go a long way in getting companies on board as well.

Interesting times these are. H.264 may be kinda closed at the moment but it is a standard and a very capable one at that. Looking at the standard for H.264 I’ve seen a ton of profiles (for non-scalable 2D video, scalable in bold, multi-view in green):

  • Constrained Baseline Profile
  • Baseline Profile
  • Main Profile
  • Extended Profile
  • High Profile
  • High 10 Profile
  • High 4:2:2 Profile
  • High 4:4:4 Predictive Profile
  • High 10 Intra Profile
  • High 4:2:2 Intra Profile
  • High 4:4:4 Intra Profile
  • CAVLC 4:4:4 Profile
  • Scalable Baseline Profile
  • Scalable High Profile
  • Scalable High Intra Profile
  • Stereo High Profile
  • Multiview High Profile

One thought on “Garrett-Glaser’s technical analysis of VP8

  1. Very interesting post. This reminds me that I should devote some serious attention to actually understanding the video formats I use.

    I’ve been preaching the virtues of VP8 and the inevitability of google open-sourcing it for weeks without knowing how it stacks up against H.264 at television/hi-def sizes.

    Glaser’s last bullet point is what surprises me the most. On2 has been in this game for a while, and their formats have been around almost as long as flash video has been popular. I’d think that in the time that this stuff has been stewing for, somebody would think to polish the code base.

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