A short history of the Duck Corporation/On2 Technologies - Part 1, Before On2
Who knew that this small company would be at the forefront of digital multimedia? Most of you know that the AV1/VP9 stuff are just a continuation of Google’s acquisition of On2 technologies. But many don’t know that the On2 Corporation was also known as the Duck Corporation. The Duck Corporation was founded in the 1990s to commercialize a new video compression technology Dan Miller and Victor Yurkovsky had come up with in the early 90s. In a time where digital video was marked with high bitrates and expensive hardware, the Duck Corp did have potential to disrupt the market. Their first codec implementation was hardware based, and then moved to software.
What set the TrueMotion 1 codec apart from all the rest is that it didn’t use the Discrete Cosine Transform. Instead, it used delta encoding. They did patent the technology, and began to market it to various corporations. At first, they licensed the technology to Horizons Corporation for them to sell and market. This practice (presumably) continued until around 1995/1996, when they decided to take matters into their own hands. One of their earliest successes is being able to market TrueMotion to Sega in use in their games. The Sega Saturn had many titles using the Truemotion codec. Duck would advertise their offerings at expos, magazines, and the Internet.
However, soon enough they began to shift their focus to the up and coming digital TV revolution (something I will talk about in a different article). Since the basis for digital TV was set in the late 1980s, work began on seeing how that could be applied to over the air television. In 1996ish this work was mostly finalized with MPEG2 and H262/H263 and the first digital TV station came on the air. They then set a mandate that all TV stations within the next 10 years should become digital, and that all TV sold by a certain date should have digital decoding capability. The deadline for the analog shutoff was delayed, but everything else mostly stayed the same. Anyway, Duck was also involved in standardizing and finalizing some of these plans.
The TrueMotion 2 and TrueMotion RT codecs were also something they were venturing into. TrueMotion 2 offered better compression quality, and TrueMotion RT was a intraframe only codec meant for streaming. TrueMotion 2 was included in Windows 98. Then there are their audio codecs and Truemotion VR codec that was interesting but didn’t really enjoy much attention or fanfare.
Shortly after Windows 98 came out the Duck Corporation renamed to On2 Technologies. In part 2, I will talk about the history of the company while it was called on2, and in part 3, I will talk about the acquisition by Google, the webm project, and the alliance of open media.