Skip to main content

SMPTE Releases VC-1 Standard

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers announced this week the release of its much anticipated Standard for Compressed Video Bitstreams. Release of the VC-1 document, along with supporting Recommended Practices, will guide companies in building interoperable solutions using advanced compression technology.

“Standardization of VC-1 represents over two years of work by more that 120 individuals representing over 75 media and entertainment companies,” says Ingo Höntsch, Chair of SMPTE’s Video Compression Technology Committee, which oversaw development of the VC-1 standard, “and many companies throughout the industry have been promoting VC-1 integration for some time now.”

“Formal standardization of VC-1 provides stability for manufacturers and allows for a high level of confidence that users can interchange bitstreams between products from different manufacturers,” says Peter Symes who as SMPTE Engineering Vice President oversaw the development of the Standard. “The work was contentious at times, and initially some people thought that SMPTE would just “rubber stamp” the Microsoft document. In fact, many individuals and organizations contributed to the final documents over the two-year development period. Significantly, SMPTE has now been chosen as the organization to standardize two new compression systems.”

Formal standardization was proposed by Microsoft Corporation, who contributed decoder source code and other resources towards development of the process.

“The SMPTE VC-1 standard went through a very rigorous and formal open due process procedure involving committee members from all segments of the Media, Entertainment and Computer industries” says Mike Dolan of Television Broadcast Technology (TBT), who chaired the main ad hoc committee. ”This process has resulted in a clear, comprehensive and completely open standard for development of compressed video bitstreams,” Dolan adds.

SMPTE’s Compression Technology Committee has also formed a new Working Group dedicated to providing maintenance of the test materials and documents, as well as the administration of a bitstream exchange program. Microsoft has contributed source code for an example encoder that is available to committee members participating in this program.

The VC-1 documents are SMPTE 421M-2006, “VC-1 Compressed Video Bitstream Format and Decoding Process” - the Standard itself, as well as two supporting Recommended Practices, SMPTE RP227-2006 “VC-1 Bitstream Transport Encodings” and SMPTE RP228-2006 “VC-1 Decoder and Bitstream Conformance”. All three documents can be purchased on the SMPTE website at