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BBC developing its own video codec

Written by Petteri Pyyny (Google+) @ 06 Oct 2004 15:53 User comments (4)

BBC developing its own video codec The "Big Mommah" of all public broadcasting companies in the world, British BBC, announced today that it is developing its own video codec and plans to release a beta version of it in 2005. Corporation claims that the codec, dubbed as Dirac (named after physicist Paul Dirac), delivers the same video quality that MPEG-2 does but using using half of its bitrate.
Most interesting part of the announcement was about its licensing model; BBC plans to launch the whole project under Mozilla license, which doesn't mean that it has anything to do with the web browser, but it means that all code developed in the project will be free to everybody, forever. BBC also stated that they have gone the extra mile investigating prior art and making sure that there will be no surprise patents from third party companies distrupting the development and licensing the codec. Corporation has also patented several parts of the codec and has given these patents to the project, meaning that those patents can't be used, as per licensing terms state, against anyone using the code, ever.

BBC is also involved with other multimedia projects, including a new a/v wrapper dubbed as material exchange format (or MXF) and BBC's plan is to use MXF as the wrapper for Dirac-encoded videos in future.

BBC hasn't made a decision yet whether it will roll out the codec as an open source project, but it is committed to release it under a 100 percent free-for-all license. It is good to remind ourselves every now and then that a closed source project can be totally, absolutely free and open source project can be vry clamped with patenting restrictions. Such is the case with all MPEG-4 -based codecs, such as XviD -- making, say, a stand-alone video player that plays XviD videos means that the manufacturer has to pay MPEG-4 licensing fees for each player, but making a Dirac -capable player would be free of such licensing fees.

More information:

The Register
BBC's Dirac homepage

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4 user comments

17.10.2004 2:21

Good stuff, doubt I'd ever use it (haven't even thought about DivX since I got my DVD burner early this year), but I'd love to see the results. Nice to see a large body like the BBC getting involved in such an open way and not demanding anything in return. Gives a little glimmer of hope for the future.

27.10.2004 2:43

Well nice going BBC. Hopefully the codec proves efficient as well.

38.10.2004 0:56

The BBC released the software as open source 6 months ago on sourceforge under the MPL license. It is already up to version 0.4.3 which you can download here: Please try out the software and send feedback to

48.10.2004 16:13

sounds very interesting, open source video, would be nice to see some of the things people add and whatnot.

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