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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 RFC 4281

Internet Draft                                               R. Gellens
Document: draft-gellens-mime-bucket-00.txt                     Qualcomm
Expires: December 2004                                        June 2004

             The Codecs Parameter for "Bucket" Media Types

Status of this Memo

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Copyright Notice

    Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  All Rights Reserved.


    Several MIME type/subtype combinations exist which can contain
    different media formats.  A receiving agent thus needs to examine
    the details of such media content to determine if the specific
    elements can be rendered given an available set of codecs.
    Especially when the end system has limited resources, or the
    connection to the end system has limited bandwidth, it would be
    helpful to know from the Content-Type alone if the content can be

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    This document adds a new parameter, "codecs", to various
    type/subtype combinations to allow for unambiguous specification of
    the codecs required to support the media formats contained within.

    By labelling content with the specific codecs required to render the
    contained media, receiving systems can determine if the codecs are
    supported by the end system, and if not, can take appropriate action
    (such as rejecting the content, sending notification of the
    situation, transcoding the content to a supported type, fetching and
    installing the required codecs, etc.)

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Table of Contents

     1.  Conventions Used in this Document  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
     2.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     3.  The Codecs Parameter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
     4.  Examples  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     5.  Additional Media Feature Details . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
     6.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     7.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
     8.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     9.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
    10.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
    11.  Author's Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
       Intellectual Property Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       Full Copyright Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
       Disclaimer  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Conventions Used in this Document

    The key words "REQUIRED", "MUST", "MUST NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD
    NOT", and "MAY" in this document are to be interpreted as described
    in "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels"

2.  Introduction

    One of the original motivations for MIME is the ability to identify
    the specific media type of a message part.  However, due to various
    factors, it is not always possible from looking at the MIME type and
    subtype to know which specific media formats are contained in the
    body part, or which codecs are required in order to display the

    There are several media type/subtypes (either currently registered
    or deployed with registration pending) which may contain codecs
    chosen from a set.  It is currently necessary to examine each media
    element in order to determine the codecs required to render the
    content.  For example, video/3gpp may contain any of the video
    formats H.263, H.263+, H.264, MPEG-4 SPL0, and/or any of the audio
    formats AMR, AMR-WB, or AAC, as specified in [3GPP-Formats].

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    In some cases, the specific codecs can be determined by examining
    the header information of the media content.  While this isn't as
    bad as examining the entire content, it still requires specialized
    knowledge of each format and is resource consumptive.

    This ambiguity can be a problem for various clients and servers.  It
    presents a significant burden to Multimedia Messaging (MMS) servers,
    which must examine the media sent in each message in order to
    determine which codecs are required to render the content.  Only
    then can it determine if the content requires transcoding or
    specialized handling prior to being transmitted to the handset.

    Additionally, it presents a challenge to smart clients on devices
    with constrained memory, processing power, or transmission bandwidth
    (such as cellular telephones and PDAs).  Such clients often need to
    determine in advance if they are currently capable of rendering the
    content contained in an MMS or email message.


    o    audio/3gpp can contain AMR or AAC contents as specified in
    o   audio/3gpp2 can contain AMR, AAC, 13K (as per [13k]), EVRC, or
        SMV, as specified in [3GPP2-Formats] (video/3gpp2 MIME
        registration pending).
    o   video/3gpp can contain H.263, H.263+, H.264, MPEG-4 SPL0, and/or
        AMR, AMR-WB, or AAC, as specified in [3GPP-Formats].
    o   video/3gpp2 can contain H.263, H.263+, H.264, MPEG-4 SPL0,
        and/or AMR, AAC, 13K (as per [13k]), EVRC, or SMV, as specified
        in [3GPP2-Formats] (video/3gpp2 MIME registration pending).

    Note that there are additional media types which are ambiguous, but
    are outside the scope of this document, including:
    o   video/mp4V-ES and video/mpeg4-generic which can contain anything
        allowed by the MPEG-4 specification, or any audio codec
        registered with the MP4 registration authority [MP4-Reg].
    o   video/quicktime which can contain anything for which there is a
        QuickTime codec component; since QuickTime is extensible, this
        is not limited to the codecs that are or have been shipped by
        Apple Computer.

    With each "bucket" type, a receiving agent only knows that it has a
    container format.  It doesn't even know whether content labelled
    video/3GPP or video/3GPP2 contains video; it might be audio only,
    audio and video, or video only.

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    A solution which permits a receiving agent to determine the specific
    codecs required to render media content would help provide efficient
    and scalable servers, especially for Multimedia Messaging (MMS), and
    aid the growth of multimedia services in wireless networks.

3.  The Codecs Parameter

    This document adds a parameter to allow unambiguous specification of
    the codecs required to render the content in a media element.  This
    parameter is optional in all current types to which it is added.
    Future types which contain ambiguity are strongly encouraged to
    include this parameter, as mandatory if possible, as optional

    Media types:

        *registration pending

    Parameter name:

    Parameter value:
        A single value, or a comma-separated list of values (which must
        be enclosed in quotes) which identifies the codec(s) required to
        render the content in the body part.  The values use the
        four-character identifier as registered by the MP4 Registration
        Authority [MP4-Reg], optionally followed by a dot and an MP4
        Registration Authority ObjectTypeIndication (OTI) [MP4-Reg].
        The values are case-sensitive.


    codecs      = "Codecs" *SP "=" *SP value

    value       = id / DQUOTE *SP id *(*SP "," *SP id) *SP DQUOTE

    id          = cpid [ "." oti ]

    cpid        = 4 (idchar / idchar-spec)

    oti         = "0x" 2HEXDIG

    idchar      = <any (US-ASCII) CHAR except SPACE, CTLs,
                  "$", or tspecials>

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    idchar-spec = "$" 2DIGIT

    tspecials   =  "(" / ")" / "<" / ">" / "@" /
                   "," / ";" / ":" / "\" / <">
                   "/" / "[" / "]" / "?" / "="

    Note that in some cases, the four-character ID registered in
    [MP4-Reg] may still be ambiguous, even when using the OTI.  For
    example, all mpeg-4 audio codecs are under 'mp4a', including HVXC,
    CELP, GA (which can be AAC, twinVQ, or BSAC), SA, TTSI, HILN (see
    MP4A).  However, since audio/3gpp2, video/3gpp2, audio/3gpp, and
    video/3gpp restrict the allowable ISO code points, there is no
    ambiguity in these four cases.

    When the Codecs parameter is used, it MUST contain all codecs
    required to render all content present in the body part.  The Codecs
    parameter MUST NOT contain any codecs which are not present in the
    body part.

4.  Examples

    Content-Type:  Video/3GPP2; Codecs="sevc, s263"
        (EVRC audio plus H.263 video)
    Content-Type:  Audio/3gp; Codecs=samr
        (AMR audio)
    Content-Type: video/3gpp; Codecs="s263, samr"
        (H.263 video plus AMR audio)
    Content-Type: audio/3gpp2; Codecs=mp4a.0xE1
        (13k audio)
    Content-Type: video/3gpp2; Codecs="mp4v.0x20, mp4a.0xE1"
        (Visual ISO/IEC 14496-2 [MP4V] plus 13K voice)

        Note: 0x20 OTI value says "Includes associated Amendment(s) and
        Corrigendum(a).  The actual object types are defined in ISO/IEC
        14496-2 and are conveyed in the DecoderSpecificInfo as specified
        in ISO/IEC 14496-2, Annex K."

    5.  Additional Media Feature Details

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        For the same reasons that the Codecs parameter is useful, it is
        sometimes helpful to provide additional details for a media
        element (e.g., the number of X and Y pixels, the color depth,
        etc.).  These details are sometimes called "media features" and
        sometimes "media characteristics".

        When such additional features are included, the
        [Content-Features] header provides a handy way to do so.

    6.  IANA Considerations

        The hard-working IANA staff is kindly requested to add "Codecs"
        as an optional parameter to the media types listed in Section
        3, with a reference to this document

    7.  Security Considerations

        The codecs parameter itself does not alter the security
        considerations of any of the media types for which it is
        available.  Each audio and video media type has its own set of
        security considerations which continue to apply, regardless of
        the use of the codecs parameter.

        An incorrect codecs parameter might cause media content to be
        received by a device which is not capable of rendering it, or
        might cause media content to not be sent to a device which is
        capable of receiving it.  An incorrect codecs parameter is
        therefore capable of some types of denial of service attacks.
        However, this is most likely to arise by accident, as an
        attacker capable of altering media data in transit could cause
        more harm by altering the media format itself, or even the
        content type header, rather than just the codecs parameter of
        the content type header.

    8.  Acknowledgements

        David Singer and Harinath Garudadri provided significant help,
        which is very much appreciated.

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    9.  Normative References

        [ABNF] Crocker, Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
        Specifications:  ABNF", RFC 2234, Internet Mail Consortium,
        Demon Internet Ltd., November 1997.

        [Content-Features] Kline, G., "Indicating Media Features for
        MIME Content", RFC 2912, September 2000.

        [MIME-Types] Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "Multipurpose Internet
        Mail Extensions (MIME) Part Two:  Media Types", RFC 2046,
        November 1996.

        [Media-Features] Holtman, K., A. Mutz and T. Hardie, "Media
        Feature Tag Registration Procedure", RFC 2506, BCP 31, March

        [MP4-reg] MP4REG, The MPEG-4 Registration Authority,

    10.  Informative References

        [13k] Gellens, R and H. Garudadri, "The QCP File Format and
        Media Types for Speech Data", RFC 3625, September 2003.

        [AMR] Sjoberg, J., M. Westerlund, A. Lakaniemi, Q. Xie,
        "Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) Payload Format and File
        Storage Format for the Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) and Adaptive
        Multi-Rate Wideband (AMR-WB) Audio Codecs", RFC 3267, June 2002.

        [3GPP-Codecs] TS 26.234, Third Generation Partnership Project
        (3GPP), "Transparent end-to-end streaming service; Protocols and
        codecs", URL:

        [3GPP-Formats] TS 26.244, Third Generation Partnership Project
        (3GPP), "Transparent end-to-end streaming service; 3GPP file
        format (3GP)", URL:

        [3GPP2-Formats] Third Generation Partnership Project 2, "3GPP2
        File Formats for Multimedia Service", URL:

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        [MP4A] ISO/IEC 14496-3:2001, "Information Technology--Coding of
        Audio/Visual Object--Part 3:  Audio".

        [MP4V] ISO/IEC 14496-2:2001, "Information Technology--Coding of
        Audio/Visual Object--Part 2:  Video".

    11.  Author's Address

    Randall Gellens
    QUALCOMM Incorporated
    5775 Morehouse Drive
    San Diego, CA  92121

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    Full Copyright Statement

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        Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).

        This document is subject to the rights, licenses and
        restrictions contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth
        therein, the authors retain all their rights.


        This document and the information contained herein are provided

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