AMD Touts Advance in AV1 Encoding for Streaming Services

AMD is introducing a new encoder chip designed for energy efficient and economical AV1 video streaming. The AV1 codec is increasingly popular as streamers seek to meet massive bandwidth needs. AMD’s new card, the Alveo MA35D, delivers what promises to be a massive leap in throughput and compression over its predecessor. Compression performance is critical in today’s streaming market, where the model has changed from a one-to-many central server model to a cloud-based distributed many-to-many format as entertainment is vying for bandwidth with video conferences, massively multiplayer online games and social media streaming.

Augmented reality and virtual reality streams seem poised to join the mix. Advanced codecs are essential for streaming high-quality video via the Internet. Live streaming is also driving demand, AMD says noting that more than 70 percent of the global video market is currently “dominated by live content,” creating additional low latency, high-volume interactive streaming applications like watch parties, live shopping and online auctions.

The AMD Alveo MA35D media accelerator features two 5nm ASIC-based video processing units (VPUs) for AV1 compression, “purpose-built to power a new era of live interactive streaming services at scale,” AMD said in its product announcement.

The MA35D “delivers a massive leap in throughput and compression” over the Alveo U30 card that was its predecessor, thanks to AV1, writes Forbes. AMD happened onto video encoding through an acquisition called Xilinx, which had a video accelerator that provided “high-quality live streams at low bit rates” to clients including Amazon’s Twitch, a business that “turned out to be a significant opportunity.”

An evolution of that technology, the MA35D was developed by AMD’s Adaptive and Embedded Computing Group (AECG). It does so using a VPU to accelerate the entire video pipeline. “By performing all video processing functions on the VPU, data movement between the CPU and accelerator is minimized, reducing overall latency and maximizing channel density with up to 32x 1080p60, 8x 4Kp60, or 4x 8Kp30 streams per card,” using only 1W per channel, according to AMD.

The platform also provides ultra-low latency support for the mainstream H.264 and H.265 codecs as well as VP9, which was developed by Google and like AV1 is open source. The AV1 transcoder delivers up to a 52 percent reduction in bitrate versus a comparable software implementation, AMD says.

“Each chip has four encoders — two high performance AV1 encoders and two multi standard encoders” that support H.264, H.265, VP9 and AV1,” writes Forbes, noting the chip also utilizes AI “to identify critical parts of a scene to apply extra image precision while applying lower bitrate techniques to less critical areas,” among other things.

Built for video streaming providers, OEMs, and content delivery networks, the Alveo MA35D is sampling to partners now, writes AnandTech, adding that AMD “expects to begin production shipments in the third quarter of the year, with a suggested retail price of $1,595.”

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