As part of support for next-generation AMD RDNA 3 GPUs, the company has released a series of fixes for Linux that reveal details about the company’s future video engines, Video Codec Next 4.x. Currently, VCN 4.x supports decoding of almost all modern codecs, but for some reason AV1 encoding is not supported.
The AMD VCN 4.0 engine supports H.264/MPEG 4 AVC, H.265, VP9, AV1 and JPEG decoding, but only H.264 and H.265 encoding. Currently, VCN does not support AV1 encoding as well as H.266/VVC decoding/encoding (universal video encoding). While VVC is the next generation codec that will be needed sometime in 2023 or 2024 (when relevant content becomes available), AV1 is the current generation codec with extensible use, and there are users who would like to have it now for encoding or video transcoding.
Intel Arc Alchemist GPUs fully support AV1 decoding and encoding and are the only chips to support this now. But RDNA 3 won’t be available until the end of this year, so if AMD VCN 4.x doesn’t really support AV1 encoding, it means that a competing GPU will have an advantage over future AMD GPUs. We expect that Nvidia will also be able to support AV1 encoding with the future Ada architecture, although this has not yet been confirmed.
AMD’s current generation GPUs based on the RDNA 2 architecture use the company’s VCN 3.0, VCN 3.1 and VCN 3.1.2 video decoding units. On the contrary, the next generation RDNA 3 GPUs will be equipped with the next generation VCN 4.0 engine, according to a new patch for Linux published by AMD and discovered by the informant @Kepler_L2.
Speaking of VCN 4.0, it should be noted that even the current VCN 3.x engine fully supports H.264/MPEG4 AVC, H.265, VP9, AV1 and JPEG decoding, as well as H.264 and H.265 encoding, so we’re yet to find out what VCN 4.0 will add to this list. It is natural to increase the supported resolutions, color depth/formats and/or increase efficiency, but we expect some additional changes in the feature set.
However, it should be borne in mind that not all GPU functions are included in the launch, especially in Linux, for various legal and technical reasons. Therefore, it is possible that AV1 encoding will be supported by AMD VCN 4.0 hardware, but it is not yet supported by Linux software hooks.
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