Video: CMAF and DASH-IF Live ingest protocol

Of course without live ingest of content into the cloud, there is no live streaming so why would we leave such an important piece of the puzzle to an unsupported protocol like RTMP which has no official support for newer codecs. Whilst there are plenty of legacy workflows that still successfully use RTMP, there are clear benefits to be had from a modern ingest format.

Rufael Mekuria from Unified Streaming, introduces us to DASH-IF’s CMAF-based live ingest protocol which promises to solve many of these issues. Based on the ISO BMFF container format which underpins MPEG DASH. Whilst CMAF isn’t intrinsically low-latency, it’s able to got to much lower latencies than standard HLS, for instance.

This work to create a standard live ingest protocol was born out of an analysis, Rufael explains, of which part of the content delivery chain were most ripe for standardisation. It was felt that live ingest was an obvious choice partly because of the decaying RTMP protocol which was being sloppy replaced by individual companies doing their own thing, but also because there everyone contributing in the same way is of a general benefit to the industry. It’s not typically, at the protocol level, an area where individual vendors differentiate to the detriment of interoperability and we’ve already seen the, then, success of RMTP being used inter-operably between vendor equipment.

MPEG DAHS and HLS can be delivered in a pull method as well as pushed, but not the latter is not specified. There are other aspects of how people have ‘rolled their own’ which benefit from standardisation too such as timed metadata like ad triggers. Rufael, explaining that the proposed ingest protocol is a version of CMAF plus HTTP POST where no manifest is defined, shows us the way push and pull streaming would work. As this is a standardisation project, Rufael takes us through the timeline of development and publication of the standard which is now available.

As we live in the modern world, ingest security has been considered and it comes with TLS and authentication with more details covered in the talk. Ad insertion such as SCTE 35 is defined using binary mode and Rufael shows slides to demonstrate. Similarly in terms of ABR, we look at how switching sets work. Switching sets are sets of tracks that contain different representations of the same content that a player can seamlessly switch between.

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Speaker

Rufael Mekuria Rufael Mekuria
Head of Research & Standardisation,
Unified Streaming

Video: Three Roads to Jerusalem

With his usual entertaining vigour, Will Law explains the differences to the three approaches to low-latency streaming: DASH, LHLS and LL-HLS from Apple. Likening them partly to religions that all get you to the same end, we see how they differ and some of the reasons for that.

Please note: Since this video was recorded, Apple has released a new draft of LL-HLS. As described in this great article from Mux, the update’s changes are

  • “Delivering shorter sub-segments of the video stream (Apple call these parts) more frequently (every 0.3 – 0.5s)
  • Using HTTP/2 PUSH to deliver these smaller parts, pushed in response to a blocking playlist request
  • Blocking playlist requests, eliminating the current speculative manifest request polling behaviour in HLS
  • Smaller, delta rendition playlists, which reduces playlist size, which is important since playlists are requested more frequently
  • Faster rendition switching, enabled by rendition reports, which allows clients to see what is happening in another playlist without requesting it in its entirety”[0]

Read the full article for the details and implications, some of which address some points made in the talk.

Anyone who saw last year’s Chunky Monkey video, will recognise Will’s near-Oscar-winning animation style as he sets the scene explaining the contenders to the low-latency streaming crown.

We then look at a bullet list of features across each of the three low latency technologies (note Apple’s recent update) which leads on to a discussion on chunked transfer delivery and the challenges of line-rate delivery. A simple view of the universe would say that the ideal way to have a live stream, encoded at a constant bitrate, would be to stream it constantly at that bitrate to the receiver. Whilst this is, indeed, the best way to go, when we stream we’re also keeping one eye on whether we need to change the bitrate. If we get more bandwidth available it might be best to upgrade to a better quality and if we suddenly have contested, slow wifi, it might be time for an emergency drop down to the lowest bitrate stream.

When you are delivered a stream as individual files, you can measure how long they take to download to estimate your available bandwidth. If a file can be downloaded at 1Gbps, then it should always arrive at 1Gbps. Therefore if it arrives at less than 1Gbps we know that there is a bandwidth restriction and can make adjustments. Will explains that for streams delivered with chunked transfer or in real time such as in LL-HLS, this estimation no longer works as the files simply are never available at 1Gbps. He then explains some of the work that has been undertaken to develop more nuanced ways of estimating available bandwidth. It’s well worth noting that the smaller the files you transfer, the less accurate the bandwidth estimation as TCP takes time to speed up to line rate so small 320ms-length video segments are not ideal for maximising throughput.

Continuing to look at the differences, we next look at request rates with DASH at 20 requests per second compared to LL-HLS at 720. This leads naturally to an analysis of the benefits of HTTP/2 PUSH technology used in LL-HLS and the savings that can offer. Will explores the implications, and some of the problems, with last year’s version of the LL-HLS spec, some of which have been mitigated since.

The talk concludes with some work Akamai has done to try and establish a single, common workflow with examples and a GitHub repository. Will shows how this works and the limitations of the approach and finishes with a look at the commonalities in approaches.

[0] From “Low Latency HLS 2: Judgment Day” https://mux.com/blog/low-latency-hls-part-2/

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Speakers

Will Law Will Law
Chief Architect,
Akamai

Video: Online Streaming Primer

A trip down memory lane for some, a great intro to the basics of streaming for others, this video from IET Media looks at the history of broadcasting and how that has moved over the years to online streaming posing the question whether, with so many people watching online, is that broad enough to now be considered broadcast?

The first of a series of talks from IET Media, the video starts by highlighting that the recording of video was only practical 20 years after the first television broadcasts then talks about how television has moved on to add colour, resolution and move to digital. The ability to record video is critical to almost all of our use of media today. Whilst film worked well as an archival medium, it didn’t work well, at scale, for recording of live broadcasts. So in the beginning, broad casting from one, or a few, transmitters was all there was.

Russell Trafford-Jones, from IET Media, then discusses the advent of streaming from its predecessor as file-based music in portable players, through the rise of online radio and how this naturally evolved into the urge to stream video in much the same way.

Being a video from the IET video, Russell then looks at the technology behind getting video onto a network and over the internet. He talks about cutting the stream into chunks, i.e. small files, and how sending files can create a seamless stream of data. One key advantage of this method is Adaptive BitRate (ABR) meaning being able to change from one quality level, to another which typically means changing bitrate to adapt to changing network conditions.

Finishing by talking about the standards available for online streaming, this talk is a great introduction to streaming and an important part of anyone’s foundational understanding of broadcast and streaming.

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This video was produced by IET Media, a technical network within the IET which runs events, talks and webinars for networking and education within the broadcast industry. More information

Speakers

Russell Trafford-Jones Russell Trafford-Jones
Exec Member, IET Media
Manager, Support & Services, Techex
Editor, The Broadcast Knowledge

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