|Initial release||December 13, 2012|
|Type of format||Compressed video|
|Contained by||WebM, IVF|
VP9 is the successor to VP8 and competes mainly with MPEG's High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC/H.265). At first, VP9 was mainly used on Google's video platform YouTube. The emergence of the Alliance for Open Media, and its support for the ongoing development of the successor AV1, led to growing interest in the format.
In contrast to HEVC, VP9 support is common among web browsers (see HTML5 video § Browser support). The combination of VP9 video and Opus audio in the WebM container, as served by YouTube, is supported by roughly 4⁄5 of the browser market (mobile included) as of June 2018. The two holdouts among major browsers are the discontinued Internet Explorer (unlike its successor Edge) and Safari (both desktop and mobile versions). Android has supported VP9 since version 4.4 KitKat.
Parts of the format are covered by patents held by Google. The company grants free usage of its own related patents based on reciprocity, i.e. as long as the user does not engage in patent litigations.
- 1 Features
- 2 Technology
- 3 Adoption
- 4 History
- 5 Successor: from VP10 to AV1
- 6 References
- 7 External links
An early comparison that took varying encoding speed into account showed x265 to narrowly beat libvpx at the very highest quality (slowest encoding) whereas libvpx was superior at any other encoding speed, by SSIM.
In a subjective quality comparison conducted in 2014 featuring the reference encoders for HEVC (HM 15.0), MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (JM 18.6), and VP9 (libvpx 1.2.0 with preliminary VP9 support), VP9, like H.264, required about two times the bitrate to reach video quality comparable to HEVC, while with synthetic imagery VP9 was close to HEVC. By contrast, another subjective comparison from 2014 concluded that at higher quality settings HEVC and VP9 were tied at a 40 to 45% bitrate advantage over H.264.
Netflix, after a large test in August 2016, concluded that libvpx was 20% less efficient than x265, but by October the same year also found that tweaking encoding parameters could "reduce or even reverse gap between VP9 and HEVC". At NAB 2017, Netflix shared that they had switched to the EVE encoder, which according to their studies offered better two-pass rate control and was 8% more efficient than libvpx.
An offline encoder comparison between libvpx, two HEVC encoders and x264 in May 2017 by Jan Ozer of Streaming Media Magazine, with encoding parameters supplied or reviewed by each encoder vendor (Google, MulticoreWare and MainConcept respectively), and using Netflix's VMAF objective metric, concluded that "VP9 and both HEVC codecs produce very similar performance" and "Particularly at lower bitrates, both HEVC codecs and VP9 deliver substantially better performance than H.264".
An encoding speed versus efficiency comparison of the reference implementation in libvpx, x264 and x265 was made by an FFmpeg developer in September 2015: By SSIM index, libvpx was mostly superior to x264 across the range of comparable encoding speeds, but the main benefit was at the slower end of x264@veryslow (reaching a sweet spot of 30–40% bitrate improvement within twice as slow as this), whereas x265 only became competitive with libvpx around 10 times as slow as x264@veryslow. It was concluded that libvpx and x265 were both capable of the claimed 50% bitrate improvement over H.264, but only at 10–20 times the encoding time of x264. Judged by the objective quality metric VQM in early 2015, the VP9 reference encoder delivered video quality on par with the best HEVC implementations.
A decoder comparison by the same developer showed 10% faster decoding for ffvp9 than ffh264 for same-quality video, or "identical" at same bitrate. It also showed that the implementation can make a difference, concluding that "ffvp9 beats libvpx consistently by 25–50%".
Another decoder comparison indicated 10–40 percent higher CPU load than H.264 (but does not say whether this was with ffvp9 or libvpx), and that on mobile, the Ittiam demo player was about 40 percent faster than the Chrome browser at playing VP9.
There are several variants of the VP9 format, the so-called coding profiles, that successively allow more features, starting from the basic version, the profile 0 (minimum for hardware implementations), up to profile 3:
- profile 0
- color depth: 8 bit/sample, chroma subsampling: 4:2:0
- profile 1
- color depth: 8 bit, chroma subsampling: 4:2:0, 4:2:2, 4:4:4
- profile 2
- color depth: 10–12 bit, chroma subsampling: 4:2:0
- profile 3
- color depth: 10–12 bit, chroma subsampling: 4:2:0, 4:2:2, 4:4:4
VP9 offers the following 14 levels:
||Luma Samples/s||Luma Picture Size||Max Bitrate (kbit/s)||Max CPB Size for Visual Layer (kbits)||Min Compression Ratio||Max Tiles||Min Alt-Ref Distance||Max Reference Frames||Examples for resolution @ frame rate|
VP9 has many design improvements compared to VP8. Its biggest improvement is support for the use of coding units of 64×64 pixels. This is especially useful with high-resolution video. Also the prediction of motion vectors was improved. In addition to VP8's four modes (average/"DC", "true motion", horizontal, vertical), VP9 supports six oblique directions for linear extrapolation of pixels in intra-frame prediction.
New coding tools also include:
- eighth-pixel precision for motion vectors,
- three different switchable 8-tap subpixel interpolation filters,
- improved selection of reference motion vectors,
- improved coding of offsets of motion vectors to their reference,
- improved entropy coding,
- improved and adapted (to new block sizes) loop filtering,
- the asymmetric discrete sine transform (ADST),
- larger discrete cosine transforms (DCT, 16×16 and 32×32), and
- improved segmentation of frames into areas with specific similarities (e.g. fore-/background)
In order to enable some parallel processing of frames, video frames can be split along coding unit boundaries into up to four rows of 256 to 4096 pixels wide evenly spaced tiles with each tile column coded independently. This is mandatory for video resolutions in excess of 4096 pixels. A tile header contains the tile size in bytes so decoders can skip ahead and decode each tile row in a separate thread. The image is then divided into coding units called superblocks of 64×64 pixels which are adaptively subpartitioned in a quadtree coding structure. They can be subdivided either horizontally or vertically or both; square (sub)units can be subdivided recursively down to 4×4 pixel blocks. Subunits are coded in raster scan order: left to right, top to bottom.
Starting from each key frame, decoders keep 8 frames buffered to be used as reference frames or to be shown later. Transmitted frames signal which buffer to overwrite and can optionally be decoded into one of the buffers without being shown. The encoder can send a minimal frame that just triggers one of the buffers to be displayed ("skip frame"). Each inter frame can reference up to three of the buffered frames for temporal prediction. Up to two of those reference frames can be used in each coding block to calculate a sample data prediction, using spatially displaced (motion compensation) content from a reference frame or an average of content from two reference frames ("compound prediction mode"). The (ideally small) remaining difference (delta encoding) from the computed prediction to the actual image content is transformed using a DCT or ADST (for edge blocks) and quantized.
Something like a b-frame can be coded while preserving the original frame order in the bitstream using a structure named superframes. Hidden alternate reference frames can be packed together with an ordinary inter frame and a skip frame that triggers display of previous hidden altref content from its reference frame buffer right after the accompanying p-frame.
In container formats VP9 streams are marked with the FourCC
VP90 (or in the future possibly
VP91, ...) or
VP09. In order to be seekable, raw VP9 bitstreams have to be encapsulated in a container format, for example the Matroska-derived WebM format (.webm) or the older minimalistic Indeo video file (IVF) format which is traditionally supported by libvpx. 
Adobe Flash, which traditionally used VPx formats up to VP7, was never upgraded to VP8 or VP9, but instead to H.264. Therefore, VP9 often penetrated corresponding web applications only with the gradual shift from Flash to HTML5 technology, which was still somewhat immature when VP9 was introduced. Trends towards UHD resolutions, higher color depth and wider gamuts are driving a shift towards new, specialized video formats. With the clear development perspective and support from the industry demonstrated by the founding of the Alliance for Open Media, as well as the pricey and complex licensing situation of HEVC it is expected that users of the hitherto leading MPEG formats will often switch to the royalty-free alternative formats of the VPx/AVx series instead of upgrading to HEVC.
Another early adopter is Wikipedia (specifically Wikimedia Commons, which hosts multimedia files across Wikipedia's subpages and languages). Wikipedia endorses open and royalty-free multimedia formats. As of 2016, the 3 accepted video formats are VP9, VP8 and Theora.
As of December 2016, Netflix is working to add VP9 encoding to their catalog, alongside AVC High, for bitrates aimed at mobile users.
VP9 is implemented in these web browsers:
- Chromium and Google Chrome (usable by default since version 29 from May and August 2013, respectively),
- Opera (since version 15 from July 2013),
- Mozilla Firefox (since version 28 from March 2014),
- Microsoft Edge (as of summer 2016).
Internet Explorer and Apple Safari are missing VP9 support completely. In March 2016 an estimated 65 to 75% of browsers in use on desktop and notebook systems were able to play VP9 videos in HTML5 webpages, based on data from StatCounter.
Media player software support
Hardware device support
Android has had VP9 software decoding since version 4.4 "KitKat". For a list of consumer electronics with hardware support, including TVs, smartphones, set top boxes and game consoles, see webmproject.org's list.
The following chips, architectures, CPUs, GPUs and SoCs provide hardware acceleration of VP9. Some of these are known to have fixed function hardware, but this list also incorporates GPU or DSP based implementations – software implementations on non-CPU hardware. The latter category also serve the purpose of offloading the CPU, but power efficiency is not as good as the fixed function hardware (more comparable to well optimized SIMD aware software).
Intel Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, Apollo Lake and Gemini Lake CPU families, AMD Raven Ridge APU family, and Nvidia Maxwell GM206, Pascal & Volta GPU families have full fixed function VP9 hardware decoding for highest decoding performance and power efficiency. AMD Vega uses "a hybrid approach where the video and shader engines collaborate to offload work from the CPU".
|Bristol Ridge||FX 9800P/A12-9700P||N|
|Vega||RX Vega 64/RX Vega 56||N|
|ARM||Mali-V61 ("Egil") VPU|
|Imagination||PowerVR Series6||Apple iPhone 6/6s||N|
|Intel||Bay Trail||Celeron J1750||N|
|Kaby Lake||Core i7-7700|
|Coffee Lake||Core i7-8700|
|Nvidia||Maxwell GM206||GTX 950/960/750v2||N|
|Pascal||GTX 1080/1070/1060/1050, GT 1030||N|
|Volta||Nvidia Titan V||N|
|Tegra X1||Nvidia Shield Android TV,||N|
|Qualcomm||Snapdragon 820/821||OnePlus 3, Samsung Galaxy S7,||N|
|Snapdragon 835||Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S8,|
|Snapdragon 845||Galaxy S9, Asus Zenfone 5z|
|Samsung||Exynos 7 Octa 7420||Samsung Galaxy S6,||N|
|Exynos 8 Octa 8890||Samsung Galaxy S7|
|Exynos 9 Octa 8895||Samsung Galaxy S8,|
|Exynos 9 Octa 9810||Samsung Galaxy S9|
The reference implementation from Google is found in the free software programming library
libvpx. It has a single-pass and a two-pass encoding mode, but the single-pass mode is considered broken and does not offer effective control over the target bitrate.
FFmpeg's VP9 decoder takes advantage of a corpus of SIMD optimizations shared with other codecs to make it fast. A comparison made by an FFmpeg developer indicated that this was faster than libvpx, and compared to FFmpeg's h.264 decoder, "identical" performance for same-bitrate video, or about 10% faster for same-quality video.
VP9 is the last official iteration of the TrueMotion series of video formats that Google bought in 2010 for $134 million together with the company On2 Technologies that created it. The development of VP9 started in the second half of 2011 under the development names of Next Gen Open Video (NGOV) and VP-Next. The design goals for VP9 included reducing the bit rate by 50% compared to VP8 while maintaining the same video quality, and aiming for better compression efficiency than the MPEG High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard. In June 2013 the "profile 0" of VP9 was finalized, and two months later Google's Chrome browser was released with support for VP9 video playback. In October of that year a native VP9 decoder was added to FFmpeg, and to Libav six weeks later. Mozilla added VP9 support to Firefox in March 2014. In 2014 Google added two high bit depth profiles: profile 2 and profile 3.
In 2013 an updated version of the WebM format was published, featuring support for VP9 together with Opus audio.
In March 2013, the MPEG Licensing Administration dropped an announced assertion of disputed patent claims against VP8 and its successors after the United States Department of Justice started to investigate whether it was acting to unfairly stifle competition.
Throughout, Google has worked with hardware vendors to get VP9 support into silicon. In January 2014, Ittiam, in collaboration with ARM and Google, demonstrated its VP9 decoder for ARM Cortex devices. Using GPGPU techniques, the decoder was capable of 1080p at 30fps on an Arndale Board. In early 2015 Nvidia announced VP9 support in its Tegra X1 SoC, and VeriSilicon announced VP9 Profile 2 support in its Hantro G2v2 decoder IP.
In April 2015 Google released a significant update to its libvpx library, with version 1.4.0 adding support for 10-bit and 12-bit bit depth, 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 chroma subsampling, and VP9 multithreaded decoding/encoding.
In March 2017, Ittiam announced the completion of a project to enhance the encoding speed of libvpx. The speed improvement was said to be 50-70%, and the code "publicly available as part of libvpx".
Successor: from VP10 to AV1
On September 12, 2014, Google announced that development on VP10 had begun and that after the release of VP10 they plan to have an 18-month gap between releases of video formats. In August 2015, Google began to publish code for VP10.
However, Google decided to incorporate VP10 into AOMedia Video 1 (AV1). The AV1 codec will use elements of VP10, Daala (Xiph/Mozilla) and Thor (Cisco). Accordingly, Google has stated that they will not deploy VP10 internally nor officially release it, making VP9 the last of the VPx-based codecs to be released by Google.
- Janko Roettgers (Gigaom), January 2, 2014: YouTube goes 4K, Google signs up long list of hardware partners for VP9 support
- Alex Converse (Google), 19 September 2015: New video compression techniques under consideration for VP10 – presentation at the VideoLAN Dev Days 2015 in Paris
- Anja Schmoll-Trautmann (CNET), April 8, 2015: Youtube: Kompression mit Codec VP9 gestartet (german)
- "caniuse.com: WebM". 16 November 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
- "YouTube Stops H.264 4K Encoding; Will Apple Get on Board?". 25 January 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- VP8 Bitstream Specification License
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x265/libvpx are ~50% better than x264, as claimed. But, they are also 10–20x slower.
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So how does VP9 decoding performance compare to that of other codecs? There's basically two ways to measure this: same-bitrate, or same-quality (…) We did same-quality measurements, and found: ffvp9 tends to beat ffh264 by a tiny bit (10%) (…) we did some same-bitrate comparisons, and found that x264 and ffvp9 are essentially identical in that scenario
- Jan Ozer, Juni 2016: VP9 Finally Comes of Age, But Is it Right for Everyone?
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- Romain Bouqueau, July 12, 2016: A view on VP9 and AV1 part 1: specifications
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We submitted this WHT plus a few variants to Google for use in VP9's lossless coding mode; they chose one of the alternate versions of the WHT illustrated above.
- Kilroy Hughes, David Ronca, 2015: Draft: VP Codec ISO Media File Format Binding
- Jan Ozer, 12. April 2016: A Progress Report: The Alliance for Open Media and the AV1 Codec
- "Commons:Video". Retrieved 2016-09-19.
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In this blog post, we summarize our recent work on generating more efficient video encodes, especially targeted towards low-bandwidth connections. We refer to these new bitstreams as our mobile encodes. (…) The VP9-Mobile streams show more gains and can deliver an average of 36% bitrate savings according to PSNR and VMAF. (…) Last month, we started re-encoding our catalog to generate the new mobile bitstreams and the effort is ongoing.
- "[Updated – It will soon]NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Does Not Support Google's 4K Content". 2016-12-09. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
NVIDIA has now confirmed to us that the SHIELD Android TV will be updated in due course to support encrypted VP9 and Google Play Movies & TV 4K content.
- "Widevine Quarterly Partner Update Q3 2016". 2016-10-11. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
The new Chromecast Ultra has support for (…) VP9 profile 0 and 2
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new VP9 video decoding implemented
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- "Release Notes – 0.28". 11 April 2016. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
- "android supported media formats". Retrieved 9 September 2015.
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Vega can also decode the VP9 format at resolutions up to 3840x2160 using a hybrid approach where the video and shader engines collaborate to offload work from the CPU.
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- "Imagination makes efficient VP9 video decode a reality for all mainstream devices". Imagination Blog. Retrieved 2016-09-28.
- "Compatible chipsets". kodi.wiki. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
- "Hi3798C V200 Brief Data Sheet" (PDF). 2015-08-07. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
- "Advanced VP9 decoder now available for Imagination's PowerVR Series6 GPUs". Imagination Blog. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
- "New Intel IGP drivers add H.265, VP9 hardware decode support". The Tech Report. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
- "intel-hybrid-driver". github.com. Retrieved 2016-04-19.
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- "Experience the Amazing Exynos by Visiting Samsung Exynos Website". www.samsung.com. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
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- "Exynos 9 Series 9810 Processor". Retrieved 2018-03-13.
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- "Ittiam's VP9 product page". Retrieved 28 May 2016.
- BoF meeting on the IETF85 conference in Atlanta, USA with a presentation on VP-Next. Audio recording (MP3, ~60 MiB), Präsentationsfolien (PDF, ~233 kiB)
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H.265, VP9 4K 60 fps Video
- Joshua Ho, Ryan Smith (AnandTech), January 5, 2015: NVIDIA Tegra X1 Preview & Architecture Analysis
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- "The Alliance for Open Media Welcomes New Members and Announces Availability of Open Source Video Codec Project". Alliance for Open Media. 2016-04-05. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- Jan Ozer (2016-04-12). "A Progress Report: The Alliance for Open Media and the AV1 Codec". StreamingMedia.com. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
[...] code from VP10, by far the most mature of the three, will dominate.
- Zimmerman, Steven (15 May 2017). "Google's Royalty-Free Answer to HEVC: A Look at AV1 and the Future of Video Codecs". XDA Developers. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
- Jan Ozer (2016-05-15). "What is VP9". StreamingMedia.com. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to VP9.|
- Official website
- "WebM and the New VP9 Open Video Codec", I/O (YouTube) (video), Google, 2013.
- Bitstream Overview
- Jan Ozer (Streaming Media Magazine), June 2016: VP9 Finally Comes of Age, But Is it Right for Everyone?
- Ronald Bultje: Overview of the VP9 video codec, 13 December 2016