At a private event with manufacturers, Google spoke about the Project Caviar program, which is developing media formats for HDR video and spatial audio – they will become free alternatives to Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
Solutions created by Project Caviar developers are integrated with YouTube – the platform does not support Dolby technologies. Google wants to involve other industry players in the project, including hardware manufacturers and device vendors. The company began its work in this space more than a decade ago: in 2009 it acquired video codec developer On2 to open source some of its solutions; The company also played a significant role in the Alliance for Open Media, the consortium responsible for the free AV1 video codec.
A distinctive feature of Project Caviar is that it is not about another codec: the company will use existing technologies to create new HDR video and 3D audio formats – better picture and sound, as implemented in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos . Google product manager Roshan Baliga, who spoke at the presentation, didn’t directly mention Dolby, but noted that the licensing costs “could hurt manufacturers and consumers.”
A significant portion of Dolby’s revenue comes from royalties from device manufacturers. According to some reports, Dolby Vision license fees range from $2 to $3; Payouts for Dolby Atmos have not been announced, but in the case of Xbox consoles, they are $15 per console. A set-top box manufacturer with a wholesale price of $50 pays $2 each for Dolby Vision and Dolby Digital. Samsung tried to fight the dominance of the paid solution, which developed HDR10 + technology with the participation of other players, but their licensed alternative to Dolby Vision is already supported by services such as Netflix, Disney + and HBO Max. And thanks to Apple Music, Dolby Atmos has become the standard for spatial audio.
Now a free spatial audio solution is being developed by the Alliance for Open Media, which includes Amazon, Google, Netflix, Meta* and Samsung – the format is called Immersive Audio Container, but without support it is unlikely to withstand Dolby marketing. Therefore, through Project Caviar, Google decided to ensure that the Vision and Atmos alternatives offered more options: a wide range of sound settings for spatial audio and support for recording in HDR10 + with the ability to easily upload materials to YouTube and other services .
For Dolby, the emergence of a powerful competitor could have serious financial implications: In 2021, 25% of the company’s sales came from Atmos, Vision, and patents for display technologies, but going forward the company wants to make as much money from these solutions as it does from codecs.
* It is included in the list of public associations and religious organizations for which the court made a final decision to liquidate or ban activities on the grounds provided for in Federal Law No. 114-FZ of July 25. 2002 “On Countering Extremist Activities”.