NVIDIA introduced the 8th generation NVENC including support for the AV1 format with Ada Lovelace. AV1 offers a substantial boost both in quality and encoding speed over traditional HEVC and H.264. FFmpeg, a free and open-source video processing tool has added support for NVIDIA’s hardware-enabled AV1 encoder.
AV1 To The Rescue
Recently, OBS also started supporting AV1 encoding on NVIDIA’s RTX 4000 GPUs. This was massive news for streamers because AV1 offers higher quality than its competitors at lower bitrates. As per NVIDIA, AV1 encoding can offer 40% more efficiency than H.264, meaning at the same bitrate you can expect 40% higher quality.
To our surprise, AV1 demolishes HEVC by offering almost 100% faster encoding speeds. Don’t take our word for it;
The encoder seems to be trading blows with hevc_nvenc. In terms of quality at low bitrate cbr settings, it seems to outperform it even. It produces fewer artifacts and the ones it does produce are less jarring to my perception.
At higher bitrates I had a hard time finding differences between the two encoders in terms of subjective visual quality.
Using the ‘slow’ preset, av1_nvenc outperformed hevc_nvenc in terms of encoding speed by 75% to 100% while performing above tests.
Needless to say, it always massively outperformed h264_nvenc in terms of quality for a given bitrate, while also being slightly faster.
— Timo Rothenpieler
To be fair, it does remain on par in certain scenarios but with lesser artifacts. At higher bitrates, the quality difference becomes minimal, although lower bitrates are where AV1 shines the most. See the following video from NVIDIA as an example.
One should note that most popular streaming websites do not currently support AV1. By the time most GPUs support this format, maybe sites like Twitch and YouTube will consider making AV1 an option. For the time being, users can record and encode videos in this format and the best part is the support will only increase as time goes on.