Video: Creating Interoperable Hybrid Workflows with RIST

TV isn’t made in one place anymore. Throughout media and entertainment, workflows increasingly involve many third parties and being in the cloud. Content may be king, but getting it from place to place is foundational in our ability to do great work. RIST is a protocol that is able to move video very reliably and flexibly between buildings, into, out of and through the cloud. Leveraging its flexibility, there are many ways to use it. This video helps review where RIST is up to in its development and understand the many ways in which it can be used to solve your workflow problems.

Starting the RIST overview is Ciro Noronha, chair of the RIST Forum. Whilst we have delved in to the detail here before in talks like this from SMPTE and this talk also from Ciro, this is a good refresher on the main points that RIST is published in three parts, known as profiles. First was the Simple Profile which defined the basics, those being that it’s based on RTP and uses an ARQ technology to dynamically request any missing packets in a timely way which doesn’t trip the stream up if there are problems. The Main Profile was published second which includes encryption and authentication. Lastly is the Advanced Profile which will be released later this year.

 

 

Ciro outlines the importance of the Simple Profile. That it guarantees compatibility with RTP-only decoders, albeit without error correction. When you can use the error correction, you’ll benefit from correction even when 50% of the traffic is being lost unlike similar protocols such as SRT. Another useful feature for many is multi-link support allowing you to use RIST over bonded LTE modems as well as using SMPTE ST 2022-7

The Main Profile brings with it support for tunnelling meaning you can set up one connection between two locations and put multiple streams of data through. This is great for simplifying data connectivity because only one port needs to be opened in order to deliver many streams and it doesn’t matter in which direction you establish the tunnel. Once established, the tunnel is bi-directional. The tunnel provides the ability to carry general data such as control data or miscellaneous IT.

Encryption made its debut with the publishing of the Main Profile. RIST can use DTLS which is a version of the famous TLS security used in web sites that runs on UDP rather than TCP. The big advantage of using this is that it brings authentication as well as encryption. This ensures that the endpoint is allowed to receive your stream and is based on the strong encryption we are familiar with and which has been tested and hardened over the years. Certificate distribution can be difficult and disproportionate to the needs of the workflow, so RIST also allows encryption using pre-shared keys.

Handing over now to David Griggs and Tim Baldwin, we discuss the use cases which are enabled by RIST which is already found in encoders, decoders and gateways which are on the market. One use case which is on the rise is satellite replacement. There are many companies that have been using satellite for years and for whom the lack of operational agility hasn’t been a problem. In fact, they’ve also been able to make a business model work for occasional use even though, in a pure sense, satellite isn’t perfectly suited to occasional use satellites. However, with the ability to use C-band closing in many parts of the world, companies have been forced to look elsewhere for their links and RIST is one solution that works well.

David runs through a number of others including primary and secondary distribution, links aggregation, premium sports syndication with the handoff between the host broadcaster and the multiple rights-holding broadcasters being in the cloud and also a workflow for OTT where RIST is used for ingest.

RIST is available as an open source library called libRIST which can be downloaded from videolan and is documented in open specifications TR-06-1 and TR-06-2. LibRIST can be found in gstreamer, Upipe, VLC, Wireshark and FFmpeg.

The video finishes with questions about how RIST compares with SRT. RTMP, CMAF and WebRTC.

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Speakers

Tim Baldwin Tim Baldwin
Head of Product,
Zixi
David Griggs David Griggs
Senior Product Manager, Distribution Platforms
Disney Streaming Services
Ciro Noronha Ciro Noronha
President, RIST Forum
Executive Vice President of Engineering, Cobalt Digital

Video: Growing the Next Generation of Us

Hiring is one of the most important things you will do in your company. Bad hires, at best, are a drain of money, time and opportunity costs. Good hires, on the other hand, can be incredible, long-term assets within your company. So when we have the new hire, we want to onboard them in the best way and continue giving them opportunities to learn and develop. This talk from Disney Streaming Services shares their progressive approach to developing engineers so they can handle the toughest moments when the production system is out of commission – AKA ‘the crucible’.

Alexanadria Shealy explains that teams are often made of people with a whole range of backgrounds, often people who are full of transferable skills, but with no specific from your exact domain. As teams grow, the team needs to constantly strive to onboard new people and bring them into the team both to work within the culture and to round off the skill set of the team at large.

Alexandria says their team has the best of intentions at all times and works hard to prevent any problems. As we all know, though, it’s impossible to prevent problems. “Scaling the software is easier than scaling the team,” she continues, and it’s best not to keep going back to the same people time and time again simply because they have become the experts as this isn’t scalable. The trick is to make the difficult things we do into something which is accessible for the inexperienced.
 

 
Kevin Fuhrman introduces ‘the crucible’ as a stressful place to be. It’s the time that you have a production outage which everyone is waiting to be fixed, and they’re repeatedly asking you when, and they’re watching you. But these fixes are never straight forward. They need a lot of focus and a lot of fault-finding. The stress of delivering under pressure adds to the stress of delivering under pressure. The crucible is not an easy place to be but is well known in broadcasters and streaming providers everywhere.

After your next outage, ask yourself how many of your staff would need to be on a bus travelling to their vacation before your team wouldn’t be able to handle it. In an ideal time, you’d have to have pretty much the whole team on holidays before you couldn’t deal with an outage. But many places know that if a few key people weren’t around, their ability to recover would be significantly compromised.

The advice from the Disney Streaming Services team comes in two packages. The first is taking care of onboarding your new colleagues. Looking for highly applicable tasks which have immediate relevance to them and will allow them to contribute quickly. They suggest giving new joiners a history lesson explaining why things are how they are. How did you choose the software your using, either the systems or the langauges. Explain what you would have preferred to do differently and better. This helps people understand what parts of the system they feel able to improve upon, in code as well as in workflow. It’s important, they explain, to help people spot the parts of the system which were put in because something was simply needed and the parts which are there due to a lot of thought and due diligence. Again, true of code as much as workflows.

We all know that mistakes are important in the learning process. One option laid out is to find parts of projects which are difficult enough to allow someone to dip their tow below the surface and to learn. The underlying point is not to shield junior members of the team from projects. In fact, heading a project with all your experienced engineers may be a way to deliver the project with low risk, but the cost of not investing in getting your less experienced team members involved will be paid when the project is delivered and needing support, maintenance and development. It also works against the interest of the less experienced individuals by reducing the speed at which they advance.

Alexandria and Kevin summarise by saying you should create and grow owners, rotate who is on the A-team, give everyone the chance to be in the crucible and share notes and experiences freely. The video finishes by remarking that the technology of today was built by us standing on the shoulders of giants. It’s important, therefore, that the giants of today remember to let people climb aloft.

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Speakers

Alexandria Shealy
Director, Technical Project Management
Disney Streaming Services
Kevin Fuhrman Kevin Fuhrman
Staff Software Engineer,
Disney Streaming Services

Video: Moving Live Video Quality Control from the Broadcast Facility to the Living Room

Moving an 24×7 on-site MCR into people’s rooms is not trivial, but Disney Streaming Services, in common with most broadcasters knew they had to move people home, often into their living rooms. Working in an MCR requires watching incoming video to check content which is not easy to do at home, particularly when some of their contribution arrives at 100 Mb/s. These two MCRs in San Francisco and NYC covering Hulu Live & ESPN+ along with other services had two weeks to move remote.

Being a major streaming operator, DSS had their own encoding product called xCoder. DSS soon realised this would be their ticket to making home working viable. As standard, these encoders reject any video which doesn’t match a small range of templates. Michael Rappaport takes us how they wrote scripts to use ffprobe to analyse the desired video and then configure the xCoder just the right way. The incoming video goes straight to xCoder without being ‘groomed’ as it normally wood to add closed captions, ABR etc.

Aside from bandwidth, it was also important to provide these streams as close to real-time as possible, as the operators needed to see ‘right now’ to do their job effectively. This is why the ‘grooming’ section is skipped as that would add latency but also the added functions such as PID normalisation and closed caption insertion aren’t needed. Michael explains that when a feed is needed, it will call out to the whole encoder pool, find an underutilised one and then can program it automatically using an API.

Watching this at home was made possible by some work done by Disney Streaming Services to allow their player to receive feeds directly from an xCoder without having any problems decoder parameters. Michael doesn’t mention what protocol they use, but as the xCoder creates a proprietary video stream, so they could be used that carried over TCP.

Made their own players to the receiver from the xCoders. xCoder, as a standalone, produces a proprietary TCP stream. xCoder exposes an API hook that allows us to quickly determine things like frame rate, resolution, and even whether or not the xCoder is able to subscribe to the stream

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Speakers

Michael Rappaport Michael Rappaport
Senior Manager, Encoding Administration,
Disney Streaming Services

Video: Layer 4 in the CDN

Caching is a critical element of the streaming video delivery infrastructure, but with the proliferation of streaming services, managing caching is complex and problematic. Open Caching is an initiative by the Streaming Video Alliance to bring this under control allowing ISPs and service providers a standard way to operate.

By caching objects as close to the viewer as possible, you can reduce round-trip times which helps reduce latency and can improve playback but, more importantly, moving the point at which content is distributed closer to the customer allows you to reduce your bandwidth costs, and create a more efficient delivery chain.

This video sees Disney Streaming Services, ViaSat and Stackpath discussing Open Caching with Jason Thibeault, Executive Director of the Streaming Video Alliance. Eric Klein from Disney explains that one driver for Open Caching is from content producers which find it hard to scale, to deliver content in a consistent manner across many different networks. Standardising the interfaces will help remove this barrier of scale. Alongside a drive from content producers, are the needs of the network operators who are interested in moving caching on to their network which reduces the back and forth traffic and can help cope with peaks.

Dan Newman from Viasat builds on these points looking at the edge storage project. This is a project to move caching to the edge of the networks which is an extension of the original open caching concept. The idea stretches to putting caching directly into the home. One use of this, he explains, can be used to cache UHD content which otherwise would be too big to be downloaded down lower bandwidth links.

Josh Chesarek from StackPath says that their interest in being involved in the Open Caching initiative is to get consistency and interoperability between CDNs. The Open Caching group is looking at creating these standard APIs for capacity, configuration etc. Also, Eric underlines the interest in interoperability by the close work they are doing with the IETF to find better standards on which to base their work.

Looking at the test results, the average bitrate increases by 10% when using open caching, but also a 20-40% improvement in connection use rebuffer ratio which shows viewers are seeing an improved experience. Viasat have used multicast ABR plus open caching. This shows there’s certainly promise behind the work that’s ongoing. The panel finishes by looking towards what’s next in terms of the project and CDN optimisation.

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Speakers

Eric Klein Eric Klein
Director, CDN Technology,
Disney+
Dan Newman Dan Newman
Product Manager,
Viasat
Josh Chesarek Josh Chesarek
VP, Sales Engineering & Support
Stackpath.com
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director, Streaming Video Alliance