YouTube Is Also Getting in the 4K Ultra HD Game

/ Jan 3, 2014


4K (otherwise known as Ultra HD) might be the future of video quality on television, but it’s also something that online video content providers are paying attention to. Netflix and Amazon have already announced plans to make their originals available for streaming in 4K Ultra HD, which offers four times the resolution of current HD content.

YouTube, the largest provider of online video content, is also getting in the 4K game. The company will demonstrate its capabilities in 4K video at CES in Las Vegas next week. However, YouTube won’t be using the H.265 codec, the current standard for 4K. Instead, YouTube will show of its own open-source codec, VP9, a follow-up to the failed VP8 video codec, which parent company Google introduced in 2010.

This time around, Google’s VP9 codec has a better shot at surviving as the company has inked partnerships with 19 hardware partners who plan to support the product, including chipmakers like ARM, Intel, and Broadcom, as well as manufacturers like Samsung, Sharp, and Toshiba.

Right now, there are very few 4K-capable TVs out in the market. So really, the initial goal for YouTube’s 4K technology is to minimize the bandwidth required to stream standard HD, and pretty much eliminate the spinning buffer wheel. As Francisco Varela, global director of platform partnerships at YouTube, tells GigaOm, “By 2015, you’ll be surprised every time you see that spinning wheel.”

VP9 support will initially roll out on PCs and smartphones, before moving to smart TVs in 2015.

Varela also cautioned that YouTube is not trying to eliminate the H.265 standard, adding that if there is enough demand for it, the site will look to support it in the future.

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