Video: Edge Compute and the CDN

Requests to servers are returned only tens of milliseconds later which is hardly any time to wait. But they quickly add up to users waiting seconds for their player to find out what video it wants, get it and finally start showing it. We all know that time is money when it comes to people ‘pressing play’ so reducing this startup time.

Anime streaming service, CrunchyRoll went to task to reduce their startup time. Michael Dale, VP of Engineering there, sits with Heather Chamberlin Mellish from AWS to describe how they used AWS to optimise the communications needed to establish a streaming session,

Named Katana, the project looked at the 12+ requests involved between third parties and the player itself which were all needed to start the session. Advertising companies need to be consulted, streaming manifest files need to represent chunks from multiple CDNs, SSAI and metrics were done with third-party vendors and the service is protected with DRM. These are just some of the factors which led to so many return trips needing to be accomplished before shipping.

This talk provides an overview and a little bit of a ‘behind the scenes’ of a blog post which also covers this project.

Key to success was deploying on AWS Lambda@Edge which is a server which allows you to run code within AWS’s CloudFront. If you have Python or Javascript, this allows you to run it at the edge server closest to the user. For Crunchyroll’s global audience, this is particularly useful as it avoids having to set up infrastructure in every one of the AWS regions but still reduces much of the return trip time. Michael explains that, although Lambda is often viewed as an ephemeral service, when it’s not in use it can be suspended and used again in the future allowing it to maintain state for a player.

Michael explains the ways in which Katana has achieved success. Many of the third-party services have been brought into Lambda@Edge and AWS. DRM and Advertising are still third-party, but doing most things within the edge and also pre-emptively returning information such as manifests has removed many requests. The video breaks down their use of GraphQL and how Multi-CDN and SSAI workflows have been implemented.

Watch now!

Michael Dale Michael Dale
VP Engineering,
Heather Mellish Heather Chamberlin Mellish
Principal Edge Go To Market Specialist,
AWS Amazon Web Services

Video: Harness SSAI’s Superpowers

Server-side Ad Insertion (SSAI) is a great option for streaming services delivering video to a wide variety of devices and for those who need to avoid ad blockers. Whilst ad insertion can happen in the player, this mechanism can be interfered with allowing users to avoid ads. Whilst client-side ad insertion can much more easily create a unique stream for each client, dynamic SSAI can now do the same with a better user experience.

This panel from the OTT Leadership Summit at Streaming Media West 2019 brings together Disney, WarnerMerdia and Crunchyroll to share their experiences with SSAI. They discuss beaconing, ad standards, scaling, SCTE and more.

Beaconing goes hand in hand with ad playback providing metrics on what happened. When you perform certain actions, the player will reach out to a URL. This can be used to indicate such things as users skipping or pausing a video. The beacon information can then be used to verify how much of which ads were seen by whom and charge advertisers accordingly.

The panel moves on to discussing scaling using live sports as an example and cover questions to ask vendors to ensure you and they are ready for maximum scale. Bandwidth, is declared the biggest challenge, but a less obvious problem is that your upstream ad providers can’t always scale well. If you rely on calls from your server to others, then it’s vital to understand their scaling capacity and strategy. They discuss issues with losing beacons when operating at scale and the need for detailed logging and debugging in order to spot errors and reconcile the results.

Some time is next spent on VPAID and VAST 4 which are both messaging specifications to allow ad servers to tell applications which ads to play. The panel discusses the pros and cons in their use for SSAI where the stitcher needs to reach out to and ad server in real time to find out which ads to play.

At the end of the discussion, the panel takes questions from the floor but not before discussing SCTE Markers and ‘content conditioning’ which surrounds taking care of your source videos and encoder such that the two assets fit together properly at I-frame boundaries.

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Robert Jameson Robert Jameson
Technical Director, Media Enablement
Turner | WarnerMedia
Stephen Gray Stephen Gray
Director, Ad Tech Systems
Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International
Michael Dale Michael Dale
VP Engineering,
Nadine Krefetz Nadine Krefetz
Consultant, Reality Software
Contributing Editor, Streaming Media