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Topic: Where did ATRAC go? (Read 11253 times) previous topic - next topic
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Where did ATRAC go?

So, recently, I'm kinda trying to make heads or tails out of codecs like AC-3, E-AC-3, ATRAC, ATRAC3, and the newer ATRAC incarnations.

The reason is simple: seeing if software is around to handle them, encode and decode them on Linux.

I've recently learned of ATRAC9. I thought ATRAC was basically abandoned by Sony, but it seems that's not so! In fact ATRAC9 is "Designed for games", and is used on the PS4 and PS Vita (what about PS4 Pro, though?).

So it seems ATRAC isn't actually as dead as I though, and I was wondering what software people use to work with it (the only one I know of is FFmpeg), and who works with those codecs in the wild, and can perhaps shed some light about where the codec, or Sony rather, is going with this. Is ATRAC9 the last one of the breed and PS4 Pro doesn't use an ATRAC variant?

FFmpeg is able to encode AC-3 and E-AC-3 as well as decode them, however when it comes to ATRAC, only ATRAC3 and ATRAC3+ are supported, both standard and with a lossless profile, each. However, FFmpeg can only decode ATRAC.

To be honest, I mainly prefer tools like lame and flac. I.e. stand-alone encoders and decoders, FFmpeg is fine and all that, but for daily use in the console, having a dedicated tool for the codecs I've mentioned, would be great. Aften is available for AC-3 (but not  E-AC-3), but it's super old and abandoned. There are no ATRAC encoders that I know of (at least not for Linux, anyway).

ATRAC3 has been released in 1999, 2002, and 2006, with the various profiles being released one after the other. Going by these years, when will be the earliest for its patents to expire? Since patents take 20 years to expire, that'd be 2019, 2022, and 2026, correct?

And what about ATRAC9? No encoders as far as I can see, and is it still being used in the newer PS4 Pro?

Re: Where did ATRAC go?

Reply #1
Ac-3 is a standard format developed by Dolby and used by DVD, Blu-ray and other formats. There are many codecs available since it is a standard, documented format. It is also very simple (pure transform).

Atrac is a family of codecs developed by Sony for various hardware devices they sold over the decades. They're mostly hybrid subband / transform like MP3. Codecs are generally provided by Sony as the format is undocumented. The decoders in ffmpeg work with the first few versions of the format that have been reverse engineered. I'm not sure if the later versions were ever reverse engineered, they are mostly dead formats now.

Re: Where did ATRAC go?

Reply #2
ATRAC9 is still in use in recent games on Sony consoles. The codec has been reverse engineered and a decoder has been written with full format documentation. Along with CRI Middleware's ADX2 or HCA format, it's one of two modern codecs to be MDCT-based.

Re: Where did ATRAC go?

Reply #3
OK, that clears up quite a bit. Given that ATRAC9 has been reverse engineered, I'd assume we'd eventually see it in FFmpeg?

I've been using ATRAC3 on MiniDisc back in the day, and even though it wasn't bad at all, I was wondering why it didn't set foot anywhere else, surprising move to keep is such a secret, etc.

Re: Where did ATRAC go?

Reply #4
I've been using ATRAC3 on MiniDisc back in the day, and even though it wasn't bad at all, I was wondering why it didn't set foot anywhere else, surprising move to keep is such a secret, etc.

It was basically an mp3 clone (or maybe parallel developed codec). They would have had trouble attracting interest, and were probably worried about patent lawsuits.

Re: Where did ATRAC go?

Reply #6
I'm kinda amazed ATRAC was that kinda pretty late to the game. And also that it's still being kept alive.

Given the age of the original ATRAC1, shouldn't those patents have already expired, too? So maybe not ATRAC3, but ATRAC1 should be free right now.

Also, given those were patented, shouldn't the patent explain the codec, such that it's possible to create an encoder and decoder?

Re: Where did ATRAC go?

Reply #7
If their were any patents covering atrac 1/3, they're probably expired by now.

Patents cover specific inventions, not more complex things like an entire codec.  Plus you may not know which claims in each patent are relevant to which codec without first reverse engineered the format.