Ittiam and ARM are the first to efficiently bring Google’s VP9 to mobile devices

This blog post was written in conjunction with Ittiam Systems, a technology company singularly focused on embedded media centric systems. For more information concerning the technology below, please contact Mukund Srinivasan, Ittiam System's General Manager of Consumer and Mobility Business at mukundsrinivasan or rmijat, ARM's Visual Computing Marketing Manager. Ittiam Systems' solutions will be showcased at several partner booths at CES this week, including ARM's and Samsung System LSI's.

UPDATE: Since publishing, has complimented Ittiam's VP9 Decoder: "It's exciting to see the progress that ARM and Ittiam have made optimizing VP9 to maximize the compute capabilities of ARM's Mali GPU platforms. By leveraging the GPU on mobile devices, connected TVs and other embedded platforms, manufacturers will be able to quickly offer high-resolution, power-efficient VP9 video with software-based solutions" - Matt Frost, Senior Business Product Manager, WebM Project, Google.

YouTube is the prominent global-scale video creation and consumption platform and is home to mind-blowing statistics: 1B+ monthly users, 4B+ video views per day, 6B+ hours watched each month, 72+ hours of video uploaded each minute. High Definition uploads have now started to overtake the number of Standard Definition uploads. The importance of storage cost savings and the requirement of lower bandwidth consumption for the same or better quality of video delivery, online and in a connected world, has never been so important. With H.265 and VP9 staking claims to significant bandwidth savings over H.264 and VP8 respectively, the call for incorporating these new-age standards has grown stronger and louder from the entire market, from silicon vendors catering to the set top box market, all the way to application processors embedded within smartphones. With all the advantages touted, it is only a matter of time before we see the Online Video Services Ecosystem widely adopt these cutting-edge standards as the codecs of choice for user-generated content consumption via platforms like YouTube. The other big opportunity that a highly compression-efficient standard harbours is the advantage of having VP9 as a medium of storage and delivery, on the cloud, with the decode happening at the last mile on the client device, thereby lending significant cost savings to operators and online video service providers alike.

These paradigm shifts open a unique window of opportunity for focused, media-related Intellectual Property providers like Ittiam Systems®. The main hurdle to cross comes in the form of how to manage the enhanced compute demands of a standard like VP9 on mobile devices, since it bears significantly more complex coding tools as compared to VP8 or H.264. However, collaborating with a longstanding partner and a technology pioneer like ARM® enabled us to generate original solutions to the complex problems posed in the design and implementation of consumer electronic systems. These problems could include how to balance features and performance without severely denting the energy-performance curve (battery-life) of the mobile device, or lowering the entry barrier by bringing these newer codec standards to the swiftly-growing lower-end of the mobile market. Thanks to some outstanding support from various quarters across ARM: be it the marketing team, technical liaison and, last but definitely not least, the tremendous leadership backing, Ittiam Systems have been able to deliver a truly innovative solution which lowers the entry barrier for VP9-capable performance on smartphone devices and futuristic platforms.

The Ittiam VP9 Decoder, built in collaboration with ARM and Google, focuses on power, scale and portability with equal importance given to each. It runs at 1080p 30fps leveraging the ARM Mali™-T604 GPU on an Arndale board powered by Samsung’s Exynos 5 Dual SoC. In order to reduce the bandwidth cost of VP9 on mobile devices, the Decoder offloads compute intensive tasks to the ARM Mali-T604 GPU using standard GPU Compute APIs, with significant leverage of the GPU to achieve an overall lower power profile. With intelligent partitioning of the algorithm and by identifying unique, compute-intensive functions that are well suited for GPU processing we are able to significantly lower the load imposed on the CPU by the VP9 codec, leading to advantages on multiple fronts. These advantages include freeing the CPU for other system or user tasks which results in better responsiveness and performance; lowering CPU clock demands; or, most importantly, offering significantly longer battery-life thanks to the energy efficiencies gained by this GPU Compute solution. The implementation helps tremendously in achieving class-leading levels of performance, with wide coverage of support across a variety of ARM Mali T6xx GPU generations, enabling higher performance with use of the on-board GPU.

The Ittiam VP9 Decoder in action

Finally, this solution helps deliver a strategic advantage to customers at multiple levels: be it reducing time-to-market, receiving an integrated solution from Ittiam, leveraging the wide suite of complementary multimedia IP on the ARM platform, or getting unparalleled support for integration and future interoperability.

Graphics & Multimedia blog