Microsoft VC-1 Codec Now a Standard

The VC-1 video codec proposed and developed by Microsoft was officially released by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers on Monday, paving the way for the technology to be used by next-generation DVDs. Microsoft submitted the Windows Media Video 9-based codec for standardization in September 2003.

Microsoft's rationale for embracing standards was to provide the industry with better access to high-quality video compression. This move would for allow easier adoption of Windows Media, as companies would no longer be forced to contact Microsoft directly. Devices such as home video cameras or set top boxes can natively support VC-1, without Redmond's direct approval.

Licensing fees will still be required through the SMPTE, and Microsoft will receive royalties for the use of its patents.

A number of companies have already implemented VC-1, including MovieBeam and Modeo, a live TV streaming service for cell phones and other portable devices. VC-1 has also been selected for inclusion in both HD DVD and Blu-ray. Warner Bros. Studio already announced its intention to encode movies in the VC-1 format.

Still, the over two-year process to standardize WMV9 as VC-1 was not easy, explained Peter Symes, SMPTE Engineering Vice President. "The work was contentious at times, and initially some people thought that SMPTE would just 'rubber stamp' the Microsoft document. In fact, many individuals and organizations contributed to the final documents over the two-year development period," he said.

Over 120 individuals representing over 75 media and entertainment companies took part in the process. Microsoft contributed encoder and decoder source code to SMPTE, along with other documentation and resources.

"The SMPTE VC-1 standard went through a very rigorous and formal open due process procedure involving committee members from all segments of the Media, Entertainment and Computer industries” added Mike Dolan of Television Broadcast Technology (TBT), who chaired the main ad hoc committee. "This process has resulted in a clear, comprehensive and completely open standard for development of compressed video bitstreams."

Microsoft's WMV9 format now becomes an implementation of the VC-1 standard.

Redmond competitors RealNetworks and Apple have beaten down the path of standardization as well. Apple is pushing for MPEG-4, which forms the basis of its own QuickTime format, to dominate as the next generation multimedia standard. MPEG-4 will also be a supported format on both HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.

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