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Announcements Releases Theora Alpha One 219

Pajama Crisis writes ", the crazy guys behind Ogg Vorbis, have released the first alpha version of Ogg Theora, an open video codec. Downloading, hacking and smashing into little pieces is cheerfully encouraged. Theora has been mentioned on Slashdot before. Also, Xiph has been working with a couple different companies to bring Vorbis to a portable near you; stay tuned."
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  • What I want... (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Xtraneous ( 594376 )
    An ogg-vorbis firmware patch for my Riovolt SP-250
  • so? (Score:1, Troll)

    by Apreche ( 239272 )
    Is this video codec any good? Does it provide any advantage over DivX ;-) ? Besides being an open video codec from the makers of ogg, what technical advantages are there to using it? If I make a video with it that is equivalent in quality to a 30 minutes 200MB divx will the quality be higher or file size be smaller without losing quality? If not it seems just another case of open source re-inventing the wheel. I mean, that's what ogg is, an open source re-invention of the wheel.
    • Re:so? (Score:3, Insightful)

      Too true. OSS ideas are to re-invent the wheel, even though many mathematical algorythims are patented (like Ogg - psychoacoutic model of elimination). Still, it may be needed, as Sigma pissed off the guys who were creating Xvid. Cause a company was selling open source software without providing source, the Xvid team is now rioting and is quitting making xvid.

      And a second point: what would be more "together", 2 totally diffrent codeds slapped together, or a dual thought out codec. I figure they use similar measuers to make both. If the do, you might only need 2 chips on a Ogg: AV displayer (handheld device). A Ogg decoder, and a video displayer. Just an idea.
      • many mathematical algorythims are patented (like Ogg - psychoacoutic model of elimination)

        Can you provide evidence of this ? I thought the ogg team were very careful not to infringe any patents.

    • Re:so? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nanojath ( 265940 )
      I think you're wrong, I think you're looking at the process from too short-term and narrow of a point of view. The beauty of open source is that it creates a basis for the way certain things should be: to wit, that the fundamental architectures of how we digitize media should be a free, open standard so that we can concentrate on what's worth selling (services that organize and deliver content and devices that play it). Having any degree of proprietary encumbrance on a media codec is the equivalent of patenting the alphabet or the left-right up-down orientation of conventional english text. It's just stupid, it serves no purpose.

      At worste, it doesn't do any harm. At best, it may serve as the basis for a resonable, sensible multi-media platform at last. So what's your problem? It's not like anyone is making you use it.

  • Killer App (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wls ( 95790 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:12PM (#4330980) Homepage
    The killer application is to insert a DVD and have it simplistically rip and encode it for personal viewing. Make it simplistic enough for the masses to use, and let the codec take off as a standard induced by practice not dictates or technology.
    • It would be nice if open source were too accomplish these features first.

      Many times opensource coders are forced to play catchup with propietry software because the Open Source movement wasn't as widespread as it is today.It would be nice to be on the forefront.

    • Re:Killer App (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:26PM (#4331099)
      The killer application is to insert a DVD and have it simplistically rip and encode it for personal viewing.

      Yeah - I'm sure the MPAA is going to let that happen.

      They sue you into oblivion [] just for making an unlicensed DVD player. Just imagine what they'd do to a company trying to distribute a packaged DVD ripping solution. If there were a "scrotal electrocution" clause in the DMCA, it'd be reserved for this.
    • What your mean is something as simple Oggdrop. A small box, a few settings, drop a wav in it and you got an ogg. Simplicity at it's best.
    • Re:Killer App (Score:2, Interesting)

      by utexaspunk ( 527541 )
      likewise, OGG could stand a better chance as an audio codec if an insert-and-be-done program were made. Windows Media Player (and iTunes) has this feature for CD's. You stick it in, it gets the track names and rips it. Match that with a P2P client, and it could get adopted just for downloading ease. If everyone were using the same program, files that were the same would have the same names, which would make it much easier to download a whole album, or switch from one peer to another mid-download, thus reducing download time and bandwidth usage.
      • likewise, OGG could stand a better chance as an audio codec if an insert-and-be-done program were made. Windows Media Player (and iTunes) has this feature for CD's. You stick it in, it gets the track names and rips it.

        KDE's Konqueror does exactly that. Just stick an audio cd in and type audiocd:/ in Konqu's location and see what happens...

      • You mean like Grip []? Well, at least the ripping part.
    • No, what would be ideal is for it to duplicate not only the video but the entire DVD structure, menus, subtitles, extras and all. A single, fully functional video file, except of course using more modern codecs so it's smaller. (And since this is a still a very big file, it should also contain data that allows the software to detect and repair the inevitable errors.)

      Of course the only file format/architecture up to the challenge for that is Quicktime and maybe MPEG4.
    • GordianKnot (available here []) helps to automate the button. Someone should ask the author for an 'idiot' button. Select the soundtrack you want, resolution, size of the finished product, and click 'rip'.

      Of course, there are enough open source and free apps that could be automated, its not stopping anyone from making their own home-brewed gordianknot. To piss off the big guys, remember, make it a win32 binary with very easy setup. :)

    • I think what you propose would be nice, but not killer app...

      My idea of a killer app is close, one that would let you take any music you like and grab video snippets from multiple DVD's or other video sources to create your own amazing music video, then spit out the result on your DVD writer or email it off to some friends. I think people would be drawn in and it would absorb teenagers to no end.

      Allowing consumers free and easy mixing of various copyrighted media is the ultimate nightmare of RIAA and MPAA though!
    • The only killer app I want is an affordable handheld mp3 player. I'd love to get an iPod, but I'm not about to shell out $600CND for one, or shell out $300CND to get a knock off with 128mb ram. I want something I can go to the gym with, or take on a bus ride that's going to give me more than 10 or twenty songs, and that's small enough that it can clip to my waistband or arm. Currently I'm using a cheap ass $100 discman that can play mp3s for the gym. It works, but I can't edit what is on there without burning a new disk, and it's still prone to skipping while on the treadmill.

      Please please please give us something small, cheap, and with lots of hard drive space! If you make it play .ogg as well then even better, I'd love to re-rip all my cds to a "better" format than mp3!
  • And I expect that this has nothing to do with Max Headroom whatsoever, right?
  • The great thing about opensource is.. If someone is interested in a project like Ogg video codec.. they just do it.

    And the community responds if they like the idea.

    Open Source..Its the real Meritocracy.. Good ideas progress. Dumb ones die. (well most of the time :) )

    • Doesn't commerical software work even better as a meritocracy? You make something only if you think it'll be useful, and people vote with their wallets. To me, people willing to pay for a product says *much* more about the quality of a product than if it's given away for free. It's a difference between "Yeah, I'll pay money for that" versus "Eh. Well, it's free."
      • Not really. For example the CSS model completely eliminates small packages. - Nobody would pay for a command line utility like "grep" or "wc".

        This is why every commercial package gets bloated and reinvents the wheel numerous times.

  • Its benefits sound, well, theoretical to me.

  • I like the name at least. I wonder who gets to choose the fun names for things like this. Ogg Vorbis, Theora, Xiph, Tarkin, etc... Are they all names from Max Headroom?
  • vp3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:18PM (#4331029) Homepage Journal
    ...has been rolled into Theora, as is said at both [] sites [].

    Monday, September 9, 2002 -- Starting today, all source code development and maintenance for the VP3 open source codec has moved to a new home: Piloted by the open-source wunderkids at who brought you Vorbis audio, Theora heralds a new era of open and license-free multimedia.

    What is Theora? Theora will be a video codec that builds upon On2's VP3 codec.

    So, in case anyone was wondering (like I just was), there you go.
    • So it's great that they released this codec into the wild, but On2 Technologies [] is now up to a VP5 codec.

      Will the features in VP4/VP5 ever be folded in to the open source version? (a la Aladdin Ghostscript) Are the differences between VP5 and VP3 enough for us to care? Are any On2 developers actively working on Ogg Theora?

      Basically, is On2 playing the version game to force customers into upgrading (and getting more money), or are there real improvements in VP4/5 that Ogg users will want?

      Anyway, kudos to On2 in any case. I will definitely be using it.

      -- Bob

  • Where's the link?!? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:19PM (#4331050)
    Also, Xiph has been working with a couple different companies (iRiver, Frontier Labs) to bring Vorbis to a portable near you; stay tuned.

    Oh come on! News like that and no link or credible source?!?

    For those who don't know - iRiver is the company that makes Rio's Volt lineup of portable CD MP3 players. Top notch players, but up until now they only play MP3 and WMA.

    The Rio Volt's lack of Vorbis support is the only reason I haven't switched to encoding all my music in Vorbis. I've got to believe that the lack of hardware supporting Vorbis is the number one reason for its modest adoption rate.
    • Oh come on! News like that and no link or credible source?!?

      "Pajama Crisis" is Emmett Plant, Xiph's CEO.
    • It takes time to design hardware, OGG Vorbis 1.0 hasnt even been out for full year. I was surprised that video games like Serrious Sam 2 used it. Even game companies are starting to use DIVX for video files for games(WarCraft3). The word is out, people are looking at it, just give it some time.

      Soon as the video codec is released, and then production tools, we should see video hardware follow. I hope they dont make the same mistake as DIVX and have 20 different versions.
    • The Rio Volt's lack of Vorbis support is the only reason I haven't switched to encoding all my music in Vorbis.

      Coincidentally, it is also the only reason why I haven't bought a Rio Volt.
    • Here's the link! (Score:2, Informative)

      by XJoshX ( 103447 )
      Here's the link! []

      We'll see if they're able to get it into an upgrade of their current firmware.. Even if they don't its still quite exciting news for the future.
    • Here it is (Score:2, Informative)

      by Malc ( 1751 )
      It's funny, I was just reading this two hours ago: []
    • by m_chan ( 95943 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @06:35PM (#4331714) Homepage
      I saw this post [] at the iRiver user forum:

      2002-09-24 15:51:43 ( - Ogg Vorbis) Hey, folks, please read. Ladies and Gentlemen and other assorted interested parties:

      This morning (2:28am, EDT), I received an E-mail from Y.H. Lee, the Chief Engineer of iRiver's products. He has informed me that they are currently porting the fixed-point Ogg Vorbis decoder (Tremor) to their product. We will endeavour to assist them in any way we can.

      In addition to letting iRiver know that we stand behind them ready to assist with technical issues, I believe a huge thanks is in order to the people who have contacted iRiver asking them to support our format. We're indebted to all of you who have posted looking for Vorbis support on this thread, as well as all of you who have sent iRiver E-mails and called them on the telephone.

      With any luck, it won't be long before iRiver starts releasing products with Ogg Vorbis support. When the day comes, I hope you'll all take a moment to congratulate yourselves, and celebrate with a portable full of music encoded in an open and free format. :)

      If anyone has any questions, comments, or anything they want to talk about, please feel free to drop me an E-mail to, or give me a call at 215-820-9583. We're an open source project, and we love hearing from people, talking about the codec, and discussing cool stuff. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you want to gripe, complain or compliment.

      Thanks again for all your help, folks. We couldn't do it without you.

      Emmett Plant
      CEO, Foundation
  • How well does this thing compare to stuff like mpeg4? How well does it stream?
    If we need a killer on video formats, it better be a damn high compression ratio...
    • Not exactly. It had better have a configurable compression ratio. Ideally, you'd be able to take a clip, tell it "Make it 200MB" and come back in an hour (or three) to find a high-quality encode waiting for you.

      The problem is really the quality that comes out of the encoding process. The real comparison done nowadays is to encode the same movie at the same bitrate with two different codecs and compare the quality. Of course, this is a subjective and nontrivial process...

      --grendel drago
  • From their website:
    Ogg Theora

    Ogg Theora is our new Ogg/VP3 integration project partnership witn On2 Technologies []. See the [] website for more information. is coming up with a video codec entirely on their own called Ogg Tarkin, and it will have been made entirely from scratch.

  • File Extensions (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If Ogg Vorbis are .ogg files, what are they going to call Ogg Theora files?

    Are we gonna have to change them to .vog and .tog?

    Or, are they going to make all decoders smart so you send all .ogg files to it and determines whether it can read it or not.

    (And yes, I know..very FEW operating systems base their file associations on the extension. However, it does happen.)
    • Xiph intends to continue using .ogg

      Other people already using OGG as a movie format use .ogm
    • Re:File Extensions (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ncc74656 ( 45571 )
      If Ogg Vorbis are .ogg files, what are they going to call Ogg Theora files?

      If they're smart, .avi. Make it a codec that plugs in alongside XviD, Huffyuv, etc., and you'll have a sizable amount of capture/editing/playback software that'll be able to use it right off the bat.

    • they should use .the. that way people talk about ogg theora files will say things like, "did you get the dot the file?"
    • Re:File Extensions (Score:2, Informative)

      by lunatik17 ( 91135 )
      Ogg is merely the container format that both Vorbis and Theora use. Just like Mov is a quicktime container that can be any number of different codecs, as well as avi, asf and wmv. Calling a Theora file .ogg is perfectly valid and calling a vorbis file .ogg is just as valid.
      • Just like Mov is a quicktime container that can be any number of different codecs, as well as avi, asf and wmv.

        True. However, containers typically have their own associated most common codecs. For instance, a .avi file is generally either some sort of uncompressed video or MPEG-4 video, along with either PCM audio, MP3 audio, WMA audio, or Vorbis audio. Likewise, .mov typically implies Sorenson video with QDesign audio.

        Calling a Theora file .ogg is perfectly valid

        Not for file systems that determine a file's media type (e.g. audio/ogg vs. video/ogg) and disposition (e.g. open in background in an audio-player style interface vs. open in foreground in a video-player style interface) from its extension. The common uses of the common Windows and UNIX file systems have this limitation. In this case, a fellow could use .ogg for audio but .ogm for a multiplexed audio/video/caption stream; this appears to be the convention that has arisen among users.

        • Mostly a me too post, but I think there is some more meat here..

          I'll leave the avi/mov descriptions alone, they are a bit incorrect, but your point that remains true is that the extensions of .mov, .mpg, and .avi all imply video streams by convention, even though not technically required by the applicable standards in any one of them. Thanks to this convention, file managers hold the reasonable expectation that a program like xmms would likely not be able to handle those formats.

          But with regard to mime-typing, the audio/ogg vs. video/ogg is handled by some systems as just saying application/ogg, which is supposed to be neutral but in actuality seems more wrong than either one. A media/ogg or something might be more fitting. The intent from the beginning was to have a truely flexible media format and some programs have recognized this. However, the extreme delay in production of 'endorsed' codecs (Theora and Tarkin) has created the convention that .ogg=audio only. And this has created a problem. Even under OSX and *nix in addition to windows now, Mime-typing based on extensions governs file manager behavior. Now with people who have winamp or xmms set up to open up extensions they have come to expect to be audio (.mp3, .ogg, etc...), Theora presents a problem. Even if both xmms and winamp are capable of playing back video, the interface is clearly not designed for video playback. Additionally, xmms video plugins have to cheat and manage their own video output, so video in xmms is even more of a hack, saving the developer only the trouble of UI design and audio output. Because of this, I suspect that the encroaching .ogm will indeed become the video extension by convention. It is sad because at least to me, .ogg as a unified media format sounds nice, and even though entirely superficial, somehow different naming seems to hurt that image.

          But this just goes to show that sometimes a beautiful vision just can't work with practical usage. It would take one hell of a UI for a player to truly deal appropriately with a format that could be a very simple audio file to something with DVD-level complexity. No single UI can be fit to all of them. WMP tries and fails miserably.... I guess the answer is a single app that radically modifies its UI based on content.... Until that is here, you are right, .ogm is a necessary divergence from the vision..
  • by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:26PM (#4331094)
    1) Add DRM so my privacy and security will be protected.

    2) Make it impossible to uninstall.

    3) Necesitate a live web connection to play files.

    4) Upload information to a "security" server every time I play a music file or insert a CD.

    5) Utilize DirectSound.

    6) Get rid of *nix versions.

    6) Release only binaries so terrorists don't get the source code.

    7) Use attorneys to bring down all mirror site distributions.

    8) Pick sellout a$$hole to pump out CD that installs trojan uninstallabe player onto people's system. Is Peter Gabriel available?

    9) Make sure user interface is horrbile, avoid simplicity and good design (so see QuickTime and WinAmp for what NOT to do).

    10) Add interoperation with future .NET (Passport) purchasing system.

  • About the name (Score:4, Informative)

    by shut_up_man ( 450725 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:27PM (#4331109) Homepage
    Q: Why the name 'Theora?'

    A: Like other Foundation codec projects such as Vorbis or Tarkin, Theora is named after a fictional character. Theora Jones was the name of Edison Carter's 'controller' on the television series Max Headroom. She was played by Amanda Pays.

    DAMN they have cool names for their stuff. I wish other people would follow their lead (bloody "Opteron").
    • Okay, I'm a geek. I didn't realize this would be a FAQ, because it never occurred to me that this would be a question at all, asked frequently or infrequently. I heard the name and thought, "Oh, yeah, Theora makes perfect since for a video codec since she was a television producer. Neat." And that was the end of it.

      I'm such a nerd.
      • Max Headroom wasn't such a big deal here in Australia (we saw the Coke ads, but I'm not sure that we ever saw the series), and it was 15 years ago (and so people under about 22 won't remember). Hence the need to explain it to some people.
  • Open Source Porn Vids!
  • ...whether or not it's better than DivX/MPEG4, only that that would be its main competition. Does that mean that they're banking on the fact that they'll never start charging licensing fees, but they're not *quite* as good as DivX? Or that they're just as good, if not better, but are going to let the people make up their own minds?

    Either way, I'm stoked. Ever since I discovered Ogg Vorbis, I haven't regretted it and haven't looked back since. Hopefully I'll be able to say the same about Ogg Theora.
    • by jonathan_ingram ( 30440 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:40PM (#4331207) Homepage
      Theora is basically a cleaned up VP3, and is likely to remain so. Although some visual improvements may sneak in along the way, this is not the main focus of the project, which is to convert VP3 from being a Windows only mess into a portable cross-platform codec which plays well with the Ogg container format.

      Previous tests by places such as Doom 9 have shown that VP3 is beaten by the various pseudo-MPEG4 encoders, although not embarassingly. I imagine that this situation will continue: DivX/XviD/etc. will continue to have marginally better quality.
      • It's come up in one or two places that I've lurked that a lot of the niceties of the video codec quality actually come from pre- and post-processing, so improvements may very well come for it. As you say, though, they may not come from the Ogg Theora project directly.

        I WILL, quite frankly, be happy to see an encoder and decoder that I can use for vp3 on my Linux box, though. The CVS repository seems to have been dead for months...

        I get the IMPRESSION (purely from various readings, not from experience) that VP3 could, in the end, be as good or marginally better for a lot of 'live' footage than mpeg4, while mpeg 4, tending to be 'sharper', may give better quality for 'sharp' images like digital "movies" (i.e. 'cutscenes' from games) and some types of animation.

        Just a purely subjective, speculative observation though. I'm most interested in the 'free as in free-from-patent-lawyers-suing-you-for-distributin g-stuff-in-this-format' aspect of it :-)

  • From the post:

    "Also, Xiph has been working with a couple different companies to bring Vorbis to a portable near you; stay tuned."

    How does he know this? Can anyone confirm this? I'm a NEXII owner and have been emailing Frontier Labs for a bit now. (Every friend that I recommend this to, that has subsequently purchased a NEXII(e) have been harassed by me to email them as well). But I've never heard any official word from them that they're even working on it. Is it true!? If it is! Woohoo! Anyone have links to at least one other site that has these rumours?
    • "Pajama Crisis" is an alias for Emmett Plant, CEO of He would know. :-) (It isn't all new either -- browse through some of the previous Vorbis stories and I'm sure you can find a few comments regarding it.)

      /* Steinar */

  • IRivers Response (Score:4, Interesting)

    by emolitor ( 129606 ) on Wednesday September 25, 2002 @05:43PM (#4331223) Homepage Journal
    "Thanks for your suggestion. Actually iRiver have listened to our users' need and start working with Ogg Vorbis format, ManPower have been allocated to develop the Ogg Vorbis, let's give our engineers more time to develop this format. Some users suggested to give a schedule on this issue. However, it is really difficult to tell at this moment, let's just hope it to be released as soon as possible." x=1268&mode=Àüü&strque=&field=1 []

    Thats clipped from their forums.
  • I can't seem to find how to compile it for Linux.

    Will there be support, I wonder....
    • There is supposed to be support for it - you are supposed to be able to run the ./ script that comes with it to generate the necessary makefiles.

      Unfortunately, I'm getting a bunch of errors from automake when I do this, so I can't test it...

    • Read the README file... then if you still have trouble, let us know.

      (This Alpha release was developed and tested on Linux)

  • obscure (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lovejoy ( 200794 )
    Yet another name to insure that Ogg is completely unmarketable!
  • by huper ( 568138 )

    Attn: All ./'ers

    There is a petition in the applecare forums to bring ogg support to the Ipod. It would make a good product even better.
    Take a look and sign it if you can. []

  • VP3 background (Score:2, Interesting)

    by imsabbel ( 611519 )
    The vp3 video codec was released to open source by on2 technology mainly because its image quality was noticable worse then (divx 5.0, Xvid ,wmv8).
    They tried to get some publicity while selling the succesor.,vp4 (or 5), which isnt open sourced.

    Any improvement to bring it on the same level as xvid or divx would just retrace on2's steps of progress.
    How can OGG be sure that they wont violate patents in this process?
  • Although VP3 didn't quite perform that well in Doom9's codec comparison test, I think there is still a lot of room for improvement. What's so special about the codecs which perform well? Why, 2-pass encoding of course, something which VP3 didn't have. Now that VP3 is opened, I'm sure we'll see 2-pass encoding being hacked in soon and odds are the quality of Theora encodes will be able to match those of DivX3-SBC, DivX5 and XviD.
  • I thought ogg's video format was going to be called Tarkin ?
    • That is still planned but the release of the vp3 codec and the existance of vorbis means they can get something out NOW. I understand they still intend to develop their own video codec. THAT is what will be Tarkin and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it. Making a video codec from scratch with out patent entanglement is going to be super hard.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant