Sorenson Media

Sorenson Media
Industry Computer software
Founder James Lee Sorenson
Headquarters Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Area served
Key people
Marcus Liassides (CEO)

Sorenson Media was established in December 1995 to address market demand for rich online media content by developing innovative, cost-effective video encoding technology that significantly reduced bandwidth requirements while preserving the highest video quality. Originally called Sorenson Vision, the company developed technology licensed and ultimately acquired from Utah State University. The company first unveiled its codec (compression and decompression tool) at a developer’s preview at MacWorld Expo in January 1997.

Sorenson Media has been instrumental in bringing Internet video to QuickTime and to associated applications on the Windows and Macintosh platforms and due to their licensing agreement with Apple were committed to improving the online video experience for content creators, managers and consumers alike. Since its release, Sorenson Media’s video encoding technology has been used in Apple Computer's trailers web site and clip for studios such as Disney, Lucas Film, MGM and Paramount and iTunes music videos before the switch to the industry standard H.264 format.


Sorenson Media is led by its chairman and founder James Lee Sorenson, based on his previous experience in industries ranging from Internet video and telecommunication services to private equity, medical devices, large-scale investment and real estate development. Its president and CEO is Marcus Liassides, who obtained experience in several facets of the digital media industry, including expertise in over-the-top (OTT) video platform development.[1]


Technical service for the deaf

Significant improvements in video call quality of service for the deaf occurred in the United States in 2003 when Sorenson developed its VP-100 model stand-alone videophone specifically for the deaf community. It was designed to output its video to a deaf user's standard television set in order to lower the cost of acquisition. It also provided remote control and a powerful video compression codec for unequaled video quality and ease of use with a Video Relay Service (VRS). Favourable reviews quickly led to its popular usage at educational facilities for the deaf, and from there to the greater deaf community.[6]

Coupled with similar high-quality videophones introduced by other electronics manufacturers, the availability of high speed Internet, and sponsored video relay services authorized by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in 2002, VRS for the deaf underwent rapid growth in the United States.[6]

Encoding Technologies

Sorenson codec may refer to either of three proprietary video codecs:

Sorenson Video

Two versions of Sorenson Video were released, both using SVQ1 as their FourCC.

Version one first appeared with the release of QuickTime 3 on March 30, 1998. The backward-compatible version two was released with QuickTime 4 on March 11, 1999, which mainly included minor improvements and optimizations to the Developer Edition of the encoder, so encoded movies would be backwards compatible with the QuickTime 3 release. Changes for version two were only made to the encoder, not to the compression format. This format uses a Y'CbCr 4:1:0 color space, which means every block of eight pixels share the same color components, which can cause color bleeding across pixels. This was solved in version 3 and the Spark version which both use the more common Y'CbCr 4:2:0 color space. FFmpeg supports decoding of Sorenson Video since 2002, encoding of SVQ1 was added in 2004 for 0.4.9-pre1.[7]

Version two was given wide exposure from the release of the teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace on March 11, 1999.

The official specifications of the codec are not public. For a long time the only way to play back Sorenson Video was to use Apple's QuickTime or MPlayer, which used DLL files extracted from QuickTime for Windows.

Sorenson Video 3

This incompatible version of Sorenson Video uses SVQ3 as its FourCC.

This version was released with QuickTime 5.0.2 on July 1, 2001. It was available exclusively for QuickTime.[8][9] Apple QuickTime later focused on other compression formats and moved Sorenson Video 3 to a separate group called "legacy encoders".[10] According to an anonymous developer of FFmpeg,[11] reverse engineering of the SVQ3 codec (Sorenson Video 3) revealed it as a tweaked version of H.264.[12] The same developer added support for this codec to FFmpeg. FFmpeg supports decoding of "Sorenson Vector Quantizer 3" (fourcc SVQ3) and Sorenson Vector Quantizer 1 (fourcc SVQ1) starting with version 0.4.7, released in 2003.[13]

Sorenson Video 3 comes with Sorenson Squeeze.[14]

Sorenson Spark

Sorenson Spark is an implementation of H.263 for use in Flash Video and Adobe Flash files. FFmpeg uses FLV1 FourCC and Adobe frame identifiers of 0x21, 0x22 and 0x23.

As Apple began to embrace MPEG-4 and move away from other proprietary codecs, Sorenson Media licensed Sorenson Spark (Sorenson H.263) to Macromedia, which was included with Macromedia Flash MX v6 on March 4, 2002.[15][16] Sorenson Spark is the required video compression format for Flash Player 6 and 7.

Macromedia later tried to find a better video codec. Starting with Flash Player 8 (released in September 2005), the preferred video codec became VP6.[17][18] Sorenson Spark can be still used in the Adobe Flash CS4 Professional (2008) for Flash Video files (alongside H.264 and VP6).[17] According to Adobe engineer Tinic Uro, Sorenson Spark is an incomplete implementation of H.263.[18][19] It differs mostly in header structure and ranges of the coefficients.[12]

FFmpeg in 2003 added encoding and decoding support for Sorenson H.263.[20]

See also


  1. Sorenson Media Appoints Digital Media Industry Veteran Marcus Liassides as CEO (media release), website, October 18, 2003.
  2. Terran Interactive, Inc. (1998) Codec Central - Sorenson Video, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  3. Squeeze, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  4. "Sorenson Squeeze CrunchBase Profile". Retrieved 2011-03-08.
  5. "Sorenson 360 CrunchBase Profile". Retrieved 2011-03-08.
  6. 1 2 Fitzgerald, Thomas J. For the Deaf, Communication Without the Wait, The New York Times, December 18, 2003.
  7. FFMpeg General Documentation - Video Codecs, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  8. Sorenson Media (2001-07-02) Sorenson Media Announces the Availability of Sorenson Video 3 Exclusively for QuickTime, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  9. Apple (2000-10-10) Apple Releases QuickTime 5 and QuickTime Streaming Server 3 Public Previews, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  10. Apple Mailing Lists - batch export: where is sorenson ?, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  11. Deconstructing H.264/AVC at the Wayback Machine (archived July 24, 2008) on DrunkenBlog, July 28, 2004.
  12. 1 2 Larsson, Benjamin (2009-03-17). "h263-svq3 optimizations". FFmpeg-devel (Mailing list). Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  13. FFmpeg Changelog, Retrieved on 2009-08-10
  14. Sorenson Media SV3 Pro Codec, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  15. Adobe (2002-03-04) Macromedia - Press room : Macromedia and Sorenson Media Bring Video to Macromedia Flash Content and Applications
  16. Adobe LiveDocs About the Sorenson Spark codec, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  17. 1 2 Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Documentation - Digital video and Flash, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  18. 1 2 (2005-08-13) The quest for a new video codec in Flash 8, Retrieved on 2009-08-10
  19. "Sorenson Spark". MultimediaWiki. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
  20. (2003) FFmpeg 0.4.8 Documentation - Video Codecs at the Wayback Machine (archived December 7, 2003), Retrieved on 2009-08-10
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