Google and Binomial Partner to Open-Source Basis Universal Texture Format

Today, Google and Binomial are excited to announce that we have partnered to open source the Basis Universal texture codec to improve the performance of transmitting images on the web and within desktop and mobile applications, while maintaining GPU efficiency. This release fills an important gap in the graphics compression ecosystem and complements earlier work in Draco geometry compression.

The Basis Universal texture format is 6-8 times smaller than JPEG on the GPU, yet is a similar storage size as JPEG – making it a great alternative to current GPU compression methods that are inefficient and don’t operate cross platform – and provides a more performant alternative to JPEG/PNG. It creates compressed textures that work well in a variety of use cases - games, virtual & augmented reality, maps, photos, small-videos, and more!

Without a universal texture format, developers are left with 2 options:

  • Use GPU formats and take the storage size hit.
  • Use other formats that have reduced storage size but couldn't compete with the GPU performance.

Maintaining so many different GPU formats is a burden on the whole ecosystem, from GPU manufacturers to software developers to the end user who can’t get a great cross platform experience. We’re streamlining this with one solution that has built-in flexibility (like optional higher quality modes) but is much easier on everyone to improve and maintain.

How does it all work? Compress your image using the encoder, choosing the quality settings that make sense for your project (you can also submit multiple images for small videos or optimization purposes, just know they’ll share the same color palette). Insert the transcoder code before rendering, which will turn the intermediary format into the GPU format your computer can read. The image stays compressed throughout this process, even on your GPU!  Instead of needing to decode and read the whole image, the GPU will read only the parts it needs. Enjoy the performance benefits!
Basis Universal can efficiently target the most common GPU formats
Google and Binomial will be working together to continue to support, maintain and add features, so check back frequently for the latest. This initial release of Basis Universal transcodes into the following GPU formats: PVRTC1 opaque, ETC1, ETC2 basic alpha, BC1-5, and BC7 opaque. Over the coming months more functionality will be added including BC7 transparent, ASTC opaque and alpha, PVRTC1 transparent, and higher quality BC7/ASTC.
Basis Universal reduces transmission size for texture while maintaining similar image quality.
See full benchmarking results
Basis Universal improves GPU memory usage over .jpeg and .png
With this partnership, we hope to see adoption of the transcoder in all major browsers to make performant cross-platform compressed textures accessible to everyone via the WebGL API, and the forthcoming WebGPU API. In addition to opening up the possibility of seamless integration into pipelines, everyone now has access to the state of the art compressor, which will also be open sourced.

We look forward to seeing what people do with Basis Universal now that it's open sourced. Check out the code and demo on GitHub, let us know what you think, and how you plan to use it! Currently, Basis Universal transcoders are available in C++ and WebAssembly.

By Stephanie Hurlburt, Binomial and Jamieson Brettle, Chrome Media