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After pushing AV1 codec, Google goes after Dolby with HDR and audio standards

Enlarge / Logo of the Alliance for Open Media.

Open Media Alliance

Basically, Google can do whatever it wants with regards to web and video standards. YouTube is the most popular video site in the world. Chrome is the most popular browser in the world. Android is the most popular operating system in the world. Anything Google wants to implement can immediately have a sizable user base of clients, servers, and content. From there, it’s just a matter of getting some partners to tag along. This is how Google’s next-generation AV1 video codec is being implemented, and next, Google is setting its sights on HDR and 3D audio standards.

Janko Roettgers of the protocol has a report on “Project Caviar,” Google’s plan to take on Dolby and create free alternatives to its HDR standard (Dolby Vision) and 3D audio standard (Dolby Atmos). Dolby’s legacy media business model is based on royalties from hardware manufacturers and support from content creators. The company’s technology is deeply embedded in more modern movie theaters, Blu-rays and streaming companies like Apple. big sponsors of Dolby technology. All of that costs money, though, and Protocol’s report says that $50 streaming devices end up taking about $2 of that price for Dolby.

Surround sound has been a feature of movies forever with various numbers of front, rear and side speakers, but Dolby Atmos adds height in the equation. If you take a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup — that is, three front speakers, two rear speakers, a subwoofer, and for 7.1, two side speakers — Dolby Atmos adds four top speakers to the mix, allowing sound to pass over the top. of the viewer. Atmos is supported by Apple, NetflixHBOMax and Disney+.

Google is approaching Dolby through the “Alliance for Open Media” standards group, which counts Amazon, Apple, Arm, Google, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Nvidia and Samsung in its “founding member” group. This is the same group behind the AV1 standard, which grew out of Google’s purchase of On2 and open sourced its video codec.

Neither Dolby Vision nor Atmos competitors require the development of a new codec. Google’s strategy is mostly about standardizing a way to send audio and video data that doesn’t involve paying for Dolby and branding it well enough to compete. For starters, the group already has specifications for a “Immersive Audio Containerspublished on the web, which describes itself as a “codec-independent audio bitstream format for delivering three-dimensional sound fields that can be used for multi-channel sound reproduction.” by Samsung but lacks content.

It is not yet known which consumer-facing brand these standards will be for. That’s a big deal, as the “Dolby” name still has a lot of clout among home theater enthusiasts, and that means streaming apps can market the Dolby brand as a premium add-on, creating demand for the standards. Few companies have enough influence over the media space to push for a new standard, but Google is one of them. As we’ve already seen with AV1, pushing support on YouTube, Android, Chrome, and any hardware manufacturer looking for YouTube access licenses is a powerful stick.

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