The OBE blog

One of the great things about having rack-space in our new office is that we can now support open source projects using our equipment such as FFmpeg and Libav. They are critical parts of our software as well as underpin much of multimedia processing in the world today.

Fuzzing, is one of the ways in which we can improve the quality of the decoders when exposed to corrupted input. It involves randomly or systematically corrupting the input of a program in order to make it crash. The heartbleed vulnerability was one of the most famous bugs found via fuzzing [1].

Google, notably fuzzed FFmpeg and Libav at a relatively large scale, leading to a thousand fixes. But after seeing crashes in the H264 decoder earlier in the year, with real-world events such as packet loss and video splices, it was clear that something was wrong. One possibility is that Google only fuzzed progressive H264 content using frame threads and didn’t include interlaced content nor tried decoding in the lower-latency sliced-threads mode. Or that the codebase changed significantly enough to introduce new bugs.

Using basic tools like zzuf and later on the more advanced american fuzzy lop and a single quad-core server (in contrast to Google’s 2000 cores), the following unique bugs were found, a few of which caused easily-triggerable, real-world crashes.

H264 Frame Threads

H264 Sliced Threads




Thanks to @rilian for providing fuzzing scripts and thanks to those who investigated and fixed the bugs, Michael Niedermayer in particular.



Note: This is a more technical post than usual, and about 5 months late.

The decoding in the OBE C-100 decoder was optimised to make use of instructions in modern CPUs and this blog post explains how we did it:

HD-SDI video uses 10-bit pixels but computers operate in bytes (8-bits). However, 10-bit professional video doesn’t fit nicely into bytes. Instead, 10-bit video on a computer is stored in memory like this:

The X represents an unused bit - note how in total 12 out of 32 of the bits are unused (that’s 37.5%). It’s very wasteful if the data needs to be transferred to a piece of hardware like a Blackmagic SDI card. Virtually all professional SDI cards use the ‘v210’ format that was first introduced by Apple in the 90s [1] and v210 improves the efficiency of 10-bit storage by packing the 10-bit video samples as follows:

(adapted from [1])

Now only 2 out of the 32-bits are unused, a major improvement. Using the old v210 encoder in FFmpeg, each pixel is loaded from memory, shifted to the correct position and “inserted” using the OR operation. When doing this on 1920x1080 material, this involves about 250 million of these operations every second. More CPU time is spent packing the pixels for display than actually decompressing them from the encoded video!

Clearly, we’ve got to do something about this - Thanks to the magic of SIMD instructions (in this case SSSE3 and AVX) we can instead process 12 pixels in one go [2]: 

  1. Load luma pixels from memory
  2. Make sure they are within the v210 range
  3. Shift each pixel (if necessary) to appropriate position
  4. Shuffle pixels to rearrange them to v210 order
  5. Repeat 1-4 for chroma
  6. OR the luma and chroma registers together
  7. Store in memory

This can be (unscientifically) benchmarked with the command:

ffmpeg -pix_fmt yuv422p10 -s 1920x1080 -f rawvideo -i /dev/zero -f rawvideo -vcodec v210 -y /dev/null

Before: 168fps

After: 480fps

A 3x speed boost.

But, a lot of content that the decoder receives is 8-bit which has this packing format:

In existing software decoders, this needs to be converted to the 10-bit samples in the first picture and then packed into v210, a two step process. But, we can now just do this in a single step.

ffmpeg -pix_fmt yuv422p -s 1920x1080 -f rawvideo -i /dev/zero -f rawvideo -vcodec v210 -y /dev/null

Before: 95fps

After: 620fps

Now 6.5x faster!

What more could be done: 

  • Allow the decoder to decode straight to v210 using FFmpeg's draw_horiz_band capability. 
  • Try using AVX2 on newer Haswell CPUs - should provide a small speed increase but with an increased complexity.
  • Use multiple CPU cores on the conversion - this isn’t really useful for OBE but people creating v210 files may find it useful (especially UHD content).

Thanks must go to those who helped review this code.


(This is from Apple’s venerable Letters from the Ice Floe)


This post follows on from an old blog post about OSS DPP Creation, which many people have used to deliver DPP MXF files. It’s fair to say that this entirely vendor neutral method of creating AVC-Intra based MXF files raised of important questions about interoperability. Many manufacturers were only capable of decoding files from a single vendor. To this day there is ongoing debate about whether certain manufacturers are capable of delivering advertised features when their equipment fails to decode legal, but difficult to decode test files (notably CABAC AVC-I).

A lot of these issues have subsequently been followed up in the groundbreaking interoperability programme from the DPP, something which should be applauded. At the same time it is rather sad that after over a decade of file-based workflows in broadcast, manufacturers need to be schooled by their customers on how to interpret specifications which should be unambiguous in the first-place, or in some cases how to follow the prescribed document instead of a secret, proprietary document.

Recently, the Institut fur Rundfundtechnik (Broadcast Technology institute for German speaking broadcasters) have published their set of incredibly precise delivery requirements. Using OSS software, an IRT compliant file can now be be delivered to German broadcasters in the ARD_ZDF_HDF format. Files created with this method have also been tested at the IRT plugfest (see for more information)

1: x264

x264 is a best-in-class MPEG-4/AVC encoder that's used for a variety of uses such as web video, Blu-ray disc and broadcast television encoding. It supports 10-bit 4:2:2 as required by IRT - a 10-bit build of x264 is required to make AVC-Intra files. x264 will warn you if you encode AVC-Intra using an 8-bit build. x264 can be downloaded from:  (choose the latest and remember to get a 10-bit build) or better still, compiled from scratch.


x264.exe input.file --colorprim "bt709" --transfer "bt709" --colormatrix "bt709" --tune psnr --fps 25/1 --interlaced --force-cfr --avcintra-class 100 --output-csp i422 -o out.h264


x264.exe input.file --colorprim "bt709" --transfer "bt709" --colormatrix "bt709" --tune psnr --fps 50/1 --interlaced --force-cfr --avcintra-class 100 --output-csp i422 -o out.h264

(If you get errors about avcintra-class it means your x264 is too old)

2: BMXlib

BMXlib is a library from BBC R&D that is designed to manipulate MXF files. Recent versions of bmxlib have been updated to support the IRT delivery requirements.

Note that your wav files must be 24-bit encoded and silence tracks used where required. The AFD value should be altered as required.


raw2bmx.exe -y 09:58:00:00 -t op1a --afd 8 --ard-zdf-hdf -o out.mxf --avci100_1080i out.h264 --wave in.wav --wave in.wav --wave in.wav --wave in.wav


raw2bmx.exe -y 09:58:00:00 -t op1a --afd 8 --ard-zdf-hdf -o out.mxf --avci100_720p  out.h264 --wave in.wav --wave in.wav --wave in.wav --wave in.wav

(note that the IRT does not specify a timecode start so this needs to be changed as advised)

Please let is know if you have any issues. Thanks to the people and organisations who tested this.


FOSDEM is the largest Open Source conference in Europe (and in the world?) where over 5000+ people attend to hear more about Open Source. This year in association with the EBU and FOMS, we are organising an "Open media devroom" allowing people to present and discuss various Open Source projects relating to multimedia, and for our part of the session, relating especially to broadcast.

There's a lot going on and we urge you to talk about anything related using the information below: 

Dear open source in broadcasting community,

We have submitted an application to get a developer room for presentations dedicated to media at FOSDEM 2015 in Brussels ( ).

It has been accepted for the first day on Saturday 31th January as "Open media devroom"  and we co-organise it with the FOMS community.

So now the call for participation is opened.

If you are interested to present, please register your submission directly on this link:
You need to create an account and then go to "create event" to give the details of your presentation.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO SELECT THE "OPEN MEDIA DEVROOM" TRACK IN YOUR SUBMISSION. Otherwise, we won't see it and it will appear in other tracks that we don't control.

The deadline for submission is: 1st December 2014.
Presentation are recorded and will be made available with CC-BY licence by FOSDEM.

The timeslot for presentation is 20 minutes and it is foreseen to have panel discussions also (40 minutes).

We will then have to select submission together with FOMS community and final schedule is expected to be published by 30th December.