As complicated as SD to HD conversions seemed at the time, that’s nothing on the plethora of combinations available now. Dealing with BT 601 and 709 colour spaces along with aspect ratios and even conversions from NTSC/PAL kept everyone busy. With frame rates, different HDR formats and wide colour gamut (HDR) being just some of the current options, this talk considers whether it would be better to bring in a ‘house format’ as opposed to simply declaring your company to be a ‘ProRes HQ’ house and accepting any content, HDR or SDR, in ProRes rather than being more specific regarding the lifestyle of your videos.
This talk from Chris Seeger from NBCUniversal and Yasser Syed from Comcast discuss their two-year effort to document common workflow video format combinations talking to companies from content providers to broadcasters to service distributors. The result is a joint ITU-ISO document, now in its second edition, which provides a great resource for new workflows today.
Yasser makes the point that, in recent years, the volume of scripted workflows has increased significantly. This can motivate broadcasters to find quicker and more efficient ways of dealing with media in what can be a high-value set of workflows that are increasingly being formed from a variety of video types.
Discussing signalling is important because it brings workflows together. Looking at videos we see that multiple sources arrive on left, need to identify correctly and then converted. This video talks about keeping separate video codecs and the identifying metadata needed for contribution and distribution which is best done automatically. All combinations are possible, but take advantages o the best content, having everything converted into a single, HDR-friendy mezzanine format is the way forward.
Is using uncompressed video in the cloud with just 6 frames of latency to get there and back ready for production? WebRTC manages sub-second streaming in one direction and can even deliver AV1 in real-time. The key to getting down to a 100ms round trip is to move down to millisecond encoding and to use uncompressed video in the cloud. This video shows how it can be done.
Fox has a clear direction to move into the cloud and last year joined AWS to explains how they’ve put their delivery distribution into the cloud remuxing feeds for ATSC transmitters, satellite uplinks, cable headends and encoding for internet delivery, In this video, Fox’s Joel Williams, Evan Statton from AWS explain their work together making this a reality. Joel explains that latency is not a very hot topic for distribution as there are many distribution delays. The focus has been on getting the contribution feeds into playout and MCR monitoring quickly. After all, when people are counting down to an ad break, it needs to roll exactly on zero.
Evan explains the approach AWS has taken to solving this latency problem and starts with considering using SMPTE’s ST 2110 in the cloud. ST 2110 has video flows of at least 1 Gbps, typically and when implemented on-premise is typically built on a dedicated network with very strict timing. Cloud datacentres aren’t like that and Evan demonstrates this showing how across 8 video streams, there are video drops of several seconds which is clearly not acceptable. Amazon, however, has a product called ‘Scalable Reliable Datagram’ which is aimed at moving high bitrate data through their cloud. Using a very small retransmission buffer, it’s able to use multiple paths across the network to deliver uncompressed video in real-time. The retransmission buffer here being very small enables just enough healing to redeliver missing packets within the 16.7ms it takes to deliver a frame of 60fps video.
On top of SRD, AWS have introduced CDI, the Cloud Digital Interface, which is able to describe uncompressed video flows in a way already familiar to software developers. This ‘Audio Video Metadata’ layer handles flows in the same way as 2110, for instance keeping essences separate. Evan says this has helped vendors react favourably to this new technology. For them instead of using UDP, SRD can be used with CDI giving them not only normal video data structures but since SRD is implemented in the Nitro network card, packet processing is hidden from the application itself.
The final piece to the puzzle is keeping the journey into and out of the cloud low-latency. This is done using JPEG XS which has an encoding time of a few milliseconds. Rather than using RIST, for instance, to protect this on the way into the cloud, Fox is testing using ST 2022-7. 2022-7 takes in two identical streams on two network interfaces, typically. This way it should end up with two copies of each packet. Where one gets lost, there is still another available. This gives path redundancy which a single stream will never be able to offer. Overall, the test with Fox’s Arizona-based Technology Center is shown in the video to have only 6 frames of latency for the return trip. Assuming they used a California-based AWS data centre, the ping time may have been as low as two frames. This leaves four frames for 2022-7 buffers, XS encoding and uncompressed processing in the cloud.
Streaming Media is back to take the pulse of the Streaming market following on from their recent, mid-year survey measuring the impact of the pandemic. This is the third annual snapshot of the state of the streaming market which will be published by Streaming Media in March. To give us this sneak peak, Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen is joined by colleague Tim Siglin and Harmonic Inc.’s Robert Gambino,
They start off with a look at the demographics of the respondents. It’s no surprise that North America is well represented as Streaming Media is US-based and both the USA and Canada have very strong broadcast markets in terms of publishers and vendors. Europe is represented to the tune of 14% and South America’s representation has doubled which is in line with other trends showing notable growth in the South American market. In terms of individuals, exec-level and ‘engineering’ respondents were equally balanced with a few changes in the types of institutions represented. Education and houses of worship have both grown in representation since the last survey.
Of responding companies, 66% said that they both create and distribute content, a percentage that continues to grow. This is indicative, the panel says, of the barrier to entry of distribution continuing to fall. CDNs are relatively low cost and the time to market can be measured in weeks. Answering which type of streaming they are involved in, live and on-demand were almost equal for the first time in this survey’s history. Robert says that he’s seen a lot of companies taking to using the cloud to deliver popups but also that streaming ecosystems are better attuned to live video than they used to be.
Reading the news, it seems that there’s a large migration into the cloud, but is that shown in the data? When asked about their plans to move to the cloud, around a third had already moved but only a quarter said they had no plans. This means there is plenty of room for growth for both cloud platforms and vendors. In terms of the service itself, video quality was the top ‘challenge’ identified followed by latency, scalability and buffering respectively. Robert points out better codecs delivering lower bitrates helps alleviate all of these problems as well as time to play, bandwidth and storage costs.
There have been a lot of talks on dynamic server-side ad insertion in 2020 including for use with targetted advertising, but who’s actually adopting it. Over half of respondents indicated they weren’t going to move into that sphere and that’s likely because many governmental and educational services don’t need advertising to start with. But 10% are planning to implement it within the next 12 months which represents a doubling of adoption, so growth is not slow. Robert’s experience is that many people in ad sales are still used to selling on aggregate and don’t understand the power of targetted advertising and, indeed, how it works. Education, he feels, is key to continuing growth.
The panel finishes by discussing what companies hope to get out of the move to virtualised or cloud infrastructure. Flexibility comes in just above reliability with cost savings only being third. Robert comes back to pop-up channels which, based on the release of a new film or a sports event, have proved popular and are a good example of the flexibility that companies can easily access and monetise. There are a number of companies that are heavily investing in private cloud as well those who are migrating to public cloud. Either way, these benefits are available to companies who invest and, as we’re seeing in South America, cloud can offer an easy on-ramp to expanding both scale and feature-set of your infrastructure without large Capex projects. Thus it’s the flexibility of the solution which is driving expansion and improvements in quality and production values.
Replacing CDNs in streaming would need a fundamental change in the way we store and access video on the internet, but this is just what Eluvio’s technology offers along with in-built authentication, authorisation and DRM. There’s a lot to unpack about this distributed ‘content fabric’ built on an Ethereum-protocol blockchain.
Fortunately, Eluvio co-founder Michelle Munson is here to explain how this de-centralised technology improves on the status quo and show us what it’s being used for. We know that today’s streaming technology is based on the idea of preparing, packaging, transcoding and pushing data out through CDNs to views at home and whilst this works, it doesn’t necessarily consistent, low delay and, as we saw from Netflix and Facebook reducing their streaming bitrates at the beginning of the pandemic, it can be quite a burden on networks.
This content fabric, Michelle explains, is a different approach to the topic where video is stored natively over the internet creating a ‘software substrate’. The result doesn’t use traditional transcoding services, CDNs and databased. Rather we end up w ith a decentralised data distribution and storage protocol delivering just-in time packaging. The content fabric is split into four layers, one of which deals with metadata, another contains code which controls the transformation and delivery of media. The third layer is the ‘contract’ layer which controls access and proves content with finally a layer for the media itself. This contract layer is based on the Ethereum technology which runs the cryptocurrency of the same name. The fabric is a ledger with the content being versioned within the ledger history.
Michelle points out that with blockchain contracts baked in to all the media data, there is inherently access control at all parts of the network which has the property that viewers only need to have an ethereum-style ‘ticket’ to watch content directly. Their access is view-only and whilst this passes through the data and code layers, there is no extra infrastructure to build on top of your streaming infrastructure and each person can have their own individually-watermarked version as delivered with Eluvio’s work with MGM’s online premier of the recent Bill and Ted film.
Eluvium currently have a group of globally-deployed hubs in internet exchange sites which operate the fabric and contain media shards and blobs of code which can operate on the media to provide just-in-time delvery as necessary with the ability to create slices and overlays inherent in the delivery mechanism. When a player wants access to video, it issues the request with its authorisation information. This meets the fabric which responds to drive the output. Because of the layer of code, the inputs and outputs of the system are industry standard with manipulation done internally.
Before finishing by talking about the technology’s use within MGM and other customers, Michelle summarises the capabilities by saying that it simplifies workflows and can deliver a consistently low, global time to first byte with VoD and Live workflows interchangable. Whilst Michelle asserts that previous distribution protocols have failed at scale, Eluvio’s fabric can scale without the significant burdens of file IO.
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