RMHD: A More Detailed Look

Two years ago I’ve made some predictions about upcoming RealMedia HD and little I knew that it was finished in 2015! So finally I’ve had a look at it and here are some details.

First of all, it seems to be China-oriented since the only version with RMHD support I was able to find (even from US site) was Chinese version of RealMedia player (stream in peace…). And since it’s China it bundles CEmpeg libraries with RMHD support built-in. Good luck obtaining the modified source though.

The actual decoder was in a separate library though with the usual interface for RealVideo decoders and obviously I could not resist looking inside.

It turns out that RMHD corresponds to RealVideo 11 or RV60. Either they thought it’s too advanced to be merely RV50 or NGV was intended to be RV50 but they’ve buried it in the same grave with MPEG-3 and such.

Anyway, it’s time for juicy technical details.

RV60 is based on ITU H.EVC or its draft. It is oriented on multi-threading decoding and they have a lot of crap cut out and thrown away and I fully approve that. It’s the problem with many standardised codecs: you have so much flexibility in configuring coding parameters that you have to invent special objects to signal coding parameters for the following group of frames unless you want to waste 10% of bitrate on them in every slice header; and then you invent profiles because not all of the features can be supported by existing hardware (for example, because they’ve not been added to the standard yet). RV60 has rather simple frame header and coding units are always size 64 and they seem to comprise all three planes instead of coding planes separately.

The biggest disappointment is motion compensation of course. RV2 had 1/2-pel MC, RV3 had 1/3-pel MC, RV4 had 1/4-pel MC. I obviously expected 1/5-pel MC for RV5 but instead they’ve stopped on 1/4-pel MC (with the bog standard 1 -5 20 20 -5 1 filter for luma and bilinear interpolation for chroma too).

Spatial (aka intra) prediction is very close to H.EVC as well.

Transforms are present in 4×4, 8×8 and 16×16 sizes that are some poor integer approximations of DCT.

And now for the juiciest part: coefficients coding! Coefficients are coded with with lots of context-adaptive codebooks, for intra/inter, luma/chroma and various quantisers. And since it’s RealVideo and not Thor (and its Norwegian developer does not seem to work any more on it) all codebooks are static (total over 32k entries) and stored in compact and obfuscated form. Compact means that the description has only code lengths packed into nibbles and obfuscated means they were XORed with a string containing name and mail of the guy who probably generated those codebooks (this reminds me a bit of Cineform HD and Sierra AGI resources) and it makes me shout “RealLy!? What were you trying to achieve with that?“. I’ll look closer at actual coefficient coding a bit later (or significantly later—when I have a desire to do so) but so far it looks like the coefficients are coded in 4×4 subblocks but in general following H.EVC coding scheme.

Deblocking seems to be present and depends on block size. SAO is not present it seems (and I don’t miss it either).

There seems to be only three frame types (no RADL-, WTFL- or AltGr-frames) but the frames may have multiple references.

Overall, my predictions turned out to be mostly true. I should be surprised, I guess.

I’m yet to see any real samples too but this makes it one of the best H.EVC-based codecs (better than actual H.EVC or VPix—because nobody cares about it) so there’s nothing much to complain about.

P.S. I’ve working RealVideo 1 decoder in NihAV already so maybe the first opensource decoder for RV60 will be in NihAV too.

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