Video streaming giant Netflix has released an update to a new image file format called AVIF, or AV1 Image File Format, which it says can advantageously replace the specificity of JPEG.
Netflix has shared the AVIF format in open source so that others can evaluate it against existing image codecs and study its performance and compression efficiency.
Although Netflix is dedicated to streaming video content, the company has many images to compress in its content menus on smart TVs, phones, tablets, laptops, and streaming gadgets connected to televisions.
JPEG comes from the Joint Photographic Experts Group, which is developing a new JPEG specification called JPEG XL. However, according to CNET, for the past two years, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Mozilla, the maker of Firefox and others have developed AVIF as part of the Alliance for Open Media.
Among the other image coding formats with which AVIF competes, we can cite the WebP format developed by Google, which is supported by Android, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and of course Google Chrome. The WebP format is the result of Google’s work on the VP8 video format.
Netflix engineers note that WebP does not have the flexibility of the JPEG 2000 format, although the lossy format is more efficient than PNG in some cases.
There is also HVEC or High-Efficiency Video Coding, the successor to H.264 or Advanced Video Coding, which is supported by Apple iOS and macOS devices.
Still early stage of development
Like the HVEC, AVIF “allows to encode coded content in AVI intra-frame thus benefiting from the excellent compression gains obtained by AVI compared to its predecessors” according to Netflix engineers.
Netflix has released some screenshot comparisons showing the superiority of AVIF over JPEG and other formats in a range of image types that Netflix should consider when displaying images of its video content .
Although Netflix claims that AVIF can provide superior compression efficiency, the effort towards AVIF is still at an early stage of development. However, the Alliance for Open Media is currently developing the open source libavif library for encoding and decoding AVIF images.
This library should help drive adoption and support, which is already happening in Google Chrome.
“It is conceivable that we will soon test AVIF images on Android, in the wake of our efforts to adopt AV1 video recently announced on Android,” noted engineers at Netflix.