Video: LL-HLS Discussion with THEO, Wowza & Fastly

Roundtable discussion with Fastly, Theo and Wowza

iOS 14 has finally started to hit devices and with it, LL-HLS is now available in millions of devices. Low-Latency HLS is Apple’s latest evolution of HLS, a streaming protocol which has been widely used for over a decade. Its typical latency has gradually come down from 60 seconds to, between 6 and 15 seconds now. There are still a lot of companies that want to bring that down further and LL-HLS is Apple’s answer to people who want to operate at around 2-4 seconds total latency, which matches or beats traditional broadcast.

LL-HLS was introduced last year and had a rocky reception. It came after a community-driven low-latency scheme called LHLS and after MPEG DASH announced CMAF’s ability to hit the same 2-4 second window. Famously, this original context, as well as the technical questions over the new proposal, were summed up well in Phil Cluff’s blog post which was soon followed by a series of talks trying to make sense of LL-HLS ahead of implementation. This is the Apple video introducing LL-HLS in its first form. And the reactions from AL Shenker from CBS Interactive, Marina Kalkanis from M2A Media and Akamai’s Will Law which also nicely sums up the other two contenders. Apple have now changed some of the spec in response to their own further reasearch and external feedback which was received positively and summed up in, THEO CTO, Pieter-Jan Speelmans’ recent webinar bringing us the updates.

In this panel, Pieter is joined by Chris Buckley from Fastly Inc. and Wowza’s Jamie Sherry discussing pressing LL-HLS into action. Moderator Alison Kolodny hosts the talk which covers a wide variety of points.

“Wide adoption” is seen as the day-1 benefit. If you support LL-HLS then you’ll know you’re able to hit a large number of iPads, iPhones and Macs. Typically Apple sees a high percentage of the userbase upgrade fairly swiftly and easily see more than 75% of devices updated within four months of release. The panel then discusses how implementation has become easier given the change in protocol where the use of HTTP/2’s push technology was dropped which would have made typical CDN techniques like hosting the playlists separately to the media impossible. Overall, CDN implementation has become more practical since with pre-load hints, a CDN can host many, many connections into to it, all waiting for a certain chunk and collapse that down to a single link to the origin.

One aspect of implementation which has improved, we hear from Pieter-Jan, is building effective Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) switching. With low-latency protocols, you are so close to live that it becomes very hard to download a chunk of video ahead of time and measure the download speed to see if it arrived quicker than realtime. If it did, you’d infer there was spare bit rate. LL-HLS’s use of rendition reports, however, make that a lot easier. Pieter-Jan also points out SSAI is easier with rendition reports.

The rest of the discussion covers device support for LL-HLS, subtitles workflows, the benefits of TLS 1.3 being recommended, and low-latency business cases.

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The webinar is free to watch, on demand, in exchange for your email details. The link is emailed to you immediately.
Speaker

Chris Buckley
Senior Sales Engineer,
Fastly Inc.
Pieter-Jan Speelmans Pieter-Jan Speelmans
CTO,
THEO Technologies
Jamie Sherry Jamie Sherry
Senior Product Manager,
Wowza
Alison Kolodny Moderator: Alison Kolodny
Senior Product Manager of Media Services,
Frame.io

Video: The challenges of deploying Apple’s Low Latency HLS In Real Life

HLS has taken the world by storm since its first release 10 years ago. Capitalising on the already widely understood and deployed technologise already underpinning websites at the time, it brought with it great scalability and the ability to seamlessly move between different bitrate streams to help deal with varying network performance (and computer performance!). In the beginning, streaming latency wasn’t a big deal, but with multi-million pound sports events being routinely streamed, this has changed and is one of the biggest challenges for streaming media now.

Low-Latency HLS (LL-HLS) is Apple’s way of bringing down latency to be comparable with broadcast television for those live broadcast where immediacy really matters. The release of LL-HLS came as a blow to the community-driven moves to deliver lower latency and, indeed, to adoption of MPEG-DASH’s CMAF. But as more light was shone on the detail, the more questions arose in how this was actually going to work in practice.

Marina Kalkanis from M2A Media explains how they have been working with DAZN and Akamai to get LL-HLS working and what they are learning in this pilot project. Choosing the new segment sizes and how they are delivered is a key first step in ensuring low latency. M2A are testing 320ms sizes which means very frequent requests for playlists and quickly growing playlist files; both are issues which need to be managed.

Marina explains the use of playlist shortening, use of HTTP Push in HTTP2 to reduce latency, integration into the CDN and what the CDN is required to do. Marina finishes by explaining how they are conducting the testing and the status of the project.

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Speaker

Marina Kalkanis Marina Kalkanis
CEO,
M2A Media

Video: Introducing Low-Latency HLS

HLS has taken the world by storm since its first release 10 years ago. Capitalising on the already widely understood and deployed technologise already underpinning websites at the time, it brought with it great scalability and the ability to seamlessly move between different bitrate streams to help deal with varying network performance (and computer performance!)

HLS has continued to evolve over the years with the new versions being documented as RFC drafts under the IETF. It’s biggest problem for today’s market is its latency. As originally specified, you were guaranteed at least 30 seconds latency and many viewers would see a minute. This has improved over the years, but only so far.

Low-Latency HLS (LL-HLS) is Apple’s answer to the latency problem. A way of bringing down latency to be comparable with broadcast television for those live broadcast where immediacy really matters.

This talk from Apple’s HLS Technical Lead, Roger Pantos, given at Apple’s WWDC conference this year goes through the problems and the solution, clearly describing LL-HLS. Over the following weeks here on The Broadcast Knowledge we will follow up with some more talks discussing real-world implementations of LL-HLS, but to understand them, we really need to understand the fundamental proposition.

Apple has always been the gatekeeper to HLS and this is one reason the MPEG DASH exists; a streaming standard that is separate to any one corporation and has the benefits of being passed by a standards body (MPEG). So who better to give the initial introduction.

HLS is a chunk-based streaming protocol meaning that the illusion of a perfect stream of data is given by downloading in quick succession many different files and it’s the need to have a pipeline of these files which causes much of the delay, both in creating them and in stacking them up for playback. LL-HLS uses techniques such as reducing chunk length and moving only parts of them in order to drastically reduce this intrinsic latency.

Another requirement of LL-HLS is HTTP/2 which is an advance on HTTP bringing with it benefits such as having multiple requests over a single HTTP connect thereby reducing overheads and request pipelining.

Roger carefully paints the whole picture and shows how this is intended to work. So while the industry is still in the midst of implementing this protocol, take some time to understand it from the source – from Apple.

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Speaker

Roger Pantos Roger Pantos
HLS Technical Lead,
Apple

Webinar: Reducing Stream Latency


Latency seems to be the new battleground for streaming services. While optimising bandwidth and quality are still highly important, they are becoming mature parts of the business of streaming where as latency, and technologies to minimise it – as Apple showed this month – are still developing and vying for position.

Thursday June 27th 2019, 10am PDT / 1pm EDT / 18:00 GMT

Here, the Streaming Video Alliance brings together people from large streaming services to explore this topic finding out what they’ve been doing to reduce it, the problems they’ve faced and the solutions which are on the table.

Register now!
Speakers

Kevin Johns Kevin Johns
Distinguished Network Architect, Content and Media
CenturyLink
Chris Sammoury Chris Sammoury
Principal Engineer II,
Charter Communications
Richard Oesterreicher Richard Oesterreicher
CEO
Streaming Global/Hellastorm
Patrick Gendron Patrick Gendron
Director, Innovation
Harmonic
Johan Bolin Johan Bolin
Chief Product and Technology Officer,
Edgeware
Steve Miller-Jones Steve Miller-Jones
Vice President of Product Strategy,
Limelight Networks
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance