According to Phoronix, (opens in new tab) Google has released a new AOM-AV1 update - version 3.5, that drastically improves encode times when streaming, rendering, or recording from the CPU. At its best, the update can improve encoding times by up to 34%.
It is a fantastic addition to AV1's capabilities, with the encoder becoming very popular among powerful video platforms such as YouTube. In addition, we are also seeing significant support for AV1 hardware acceleration on modern discrete GPUs now, such as Intel's Arc Alchemist GPUs and, most importantly - Nvidia's RTX 40-series GPUs.
Depending on the resolution, encoding times with the new update have improved by 20% to 30%. For example, at 1080P, encode times featuring 16 threads of processing are reduced by 18% to 34%. At 4K, render times improved by 18% to 20% with 32 threads. Google could do this by adding Frame Parallel Encoding to heavily multi-threaded configurations. Google has also added several other improvements contributing to AV1's performance uplifts in other areas - specifically in real-time encoding.
In other words, CPU utilization in programs such as OBS has been reduced, primarily for systems packing 16 CPU threads. As a result, they are allowing users to use those CPU resources for other tasks or increase video quality even higher without any additional performance cost. If you are video editing and are rendering out a video in AV1, processing times will be vastly reduced if you have a CPU with 16 threads or more.
AV1's Performance Improvements Come At The Perfect Time
AV1's speed improvements couldn't have come at a better time. The video industry is aggressively moving to AV1 more than ever this year, thanks to the introduction of AV1 hardware acceleration engines and allowing content creators to use discrete GPUs to record and stream content with the AV1 codec.
AV1 came on the scene in 2018 as a newer potential alternative to the H.264 video codec. It has become a mainstream item due to its very attractive feature set; for one, it is entirely open-source, allowing anyone to use it for free. It provides up to 50% higher compression ratios than H.264. In addition, it is drastically reducing AV1 video file sizes.
This year we saw our first AV1 hardware acceleration engine in the Intel Arc A-series GPUs, providing drastic video quality improvements over its competitors, including Nvidia's legendary NVENC H.264 encoder. But now, Nvidia has finally entered the game with its RTX 40-series GPUs supporting AV1 encoding for the first time - thanks to the brand-new 8th generation NVENC engine.
It sets up the stage for AV1 to become a complete replacement for H.264, now that we have AV1 encoding present in both discrete GPUs and via software encoding on the CPU, which will make AV1 encoding very accessible to the public. The new AV1 performance update is just the cherry on top and will provide greater flexibility for users running the AV1 codec on live streams and within video editors.