Video: Optimal Design of Encoding Profiles for Web Streaming

With us since 1998, ABR (Adaptive Bitrate) has been allowing streaming players to select a stream appropriate for their computer and bandwidth. But in this video, we hear that over 20 years on, we’re still developing ways to understand and optimise the performance of ABRs for delivery, finding the best balance of size and quality.

Brightcove’s Yuriy Reznik takes us deep into the theory, but start at the basics of what ABR is and why we. use it. He covers how it delivers a whole series os separate streams at different resolutions and bitrates. Whilst that works well, he quickly starts to show the downsides of ‘static’ ABR profiles. These are where a provider decides that all assets will be encoded at the same set bitrate of 6 or 7 bitrates even though some titles such as cartoons will require less bandwidth than sports programmes. This is where per-title and other encoding techniques come in.

Netflix coined the term ‘per-title encoding’ which has since been called content-aware encoding. This takes in to consideration the content itself when determining the bitrate to encode at. Using automatic processes to determine objective quality of a sample encode, it is able to determine the optimum bitrate.

Content & network-aware encoding takes into account the network delivery as part of the optimisation as well as the quality of the final video itself. It’s able to estimate the likelihood of a stream being selected for playback based upon its bitrate. The trick is combining these two factors simultaneously to find the optimum bitrate vs quality.

The last element to add in order to make this ABR optimisation as realistic as practical is to take into account the way people actually view the content. Looking at a real example from the US open, we see how on PCs, the viewing window can be many different sizes and you can calculate the probability of the different sizes being used. Furthermore we know there is some intelligence in the players where they won’t take in a stream with a resolution which is much bigger than the browser viewport.

Yuriy brings starts the final section of his talk by explaining that he brought in another quality metric from Westerink & Roufs which allows him to estimate how people see video which has been encoded at a certain resolution which is then scaled to a fixed interim resolution for decoding and then to the correct size for the browser windows.

The result of adding in this further check shows that fewer points on the ladder tend to be better, giving an overall higher quality value. Going much beyond 3 is typically not useful for the website. Shows only a few resolutions needed to get good average quality. Adding more isn’t so useful.

Yuriy finishes by introducing SSIM modeling of the noise of an encoder at different bitrates. Bringing together all of these factors, modelled as equations, allows him to suggest optimal ABR ladders.

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Yuriy Reznik Yuriy Reznik
Technology Fellow and Head of Research,

Video: Subjective and Objective Quality Assessment

Video quality is a key part of user experience, so understanding how different parts of your distribution chain can affect your video in different ways is an important factor ensuring continued quality in the service and quick fault finding where problems are reported.

Abdul Rehman from SSIMWAVE speaks at the Kitchener-Warterloo Video Technology Meetup explaining both subjective quality assessment where humans judge the quality of the video and objective quality assessments where computers analyse, often terabytes, of video to assess the quality.

Starting with a video showing examples of different problems that can occur in the chain, Abdul explains how many things can go wrong including lost or delayed data, incorrect content and service configuration checks. Display devices, nowadays, come in many shapes, sizes and resolutions which can, in turn, cause impairments with display as can the player and viewing conditions. These are only around half of the different possibilities which include the type of person – a golden eye, or a pure consumer.

In order to test your system, you may need test codecs and you will need test content. Abdul talks about subject rated databases which have images which have certain types of distortions/impairments. After seeing many examples of problem images, Abdul asks the question of who to deal with natural images which look similar or deliberate use, for creative purposes, of distorted videos.

Subjective video quality assessment is one solution to this since it uses people who are much better at detecting creative quality than computers. As such, this avoids many false positives where video may be judged as bad, but there is intent in the use. Moreover, it also represents direct feedback from your target group. Abdul talks through the different aspects of what you need to control for when using subjective video quality assessment in order to maximise its usefulness and allow results from different sessions and experiments to be directly compared.

This is to be compared against objective video quality assessment where a computer is harnessed to plough through the videos. This can be very effective for many applications meaning it can shine in terms of throughput and number of measurements. Additionally, it can make regression testing very easy. The negatives can be cost, false positives and sometimes speed – depending on the application. You then can take your pick of algorithms such as MS-SSIM, VMAF and others. Abdul finishes by explaining more about the benefits and what to look out for.

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Abdul Rehman Abdul Rehman
Cofounder, CEO and CTO,

Video: Let’s be hAV1ng you

AV1 is now in use for some YouTube feeds, Netflix also can deliver AV1 to Android devices so we are no longer talking about “if AV1 happens” or “when AV1’s finished”. AV1 is here to stay, but in a landscape of 3 new MPEG codecs, VVC, EVC and LCEVC, the question moves to “when is AV1 the right move?”

In this talk from Derek Buitenhuis, we delve behind the scenes of AV1 to see which AV1 terms can be, more-or-less, mapped to which MPEG terms. AV1 is promoted as a royalty free codec, although notably a patent pool has appeared to try and claim money from users. Because it’s not reusing ideas from other technologies, the names and specific functions of parts of the spec are both not identical to other codecs, but are similar in function.

Derek starts by outlining some of the terms we need to understand before delving in further such as “Temporal Unit” which of course is called a TU and is analogous to a GOP. Then he moves on to highlighting the many ways in which previous DCT-style work has been extended meaning the sizes and types of DCT have been increased, and the prediction modes have changed. All of this is possible but increases computation.

Derek then highlights several major tools which have been added. One is the prediction of the Chroma from the Luma signal. Another is the ‘Constrained Direction Enhancement Filter’ which improves the look of diagonal hard edges. The third is ‘switch frames’ which are similar to IDR frames or, as Derek puts it ‘a fancy P-frame.’ There is also a Multi-Symbolic Arithmetic Codec which is a method of guessing a future binary digit which, based on probability, allows you to encode a sub-set of the number but just enough to ensure that the algorithm will come out with the full number,

After talking about the Loop Restoration Filter Derek then critiques a BBC article which drew, it seems, incorrect conclusions based on not enabling the appropriate functions needed for good compression and also suggesting that there was not enough information provided for anyone else to replicate the experiment. Derek then finishes with MS-SIM plots of different encoders.

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Download the slides.

Derek Buitenhuis Derek Buitenhuis
Senior Video Encoding Engineer,

Video: Towards Measuring Perceptual Video Quality & Why

In the ongoing battle to find the minimum bitrate for good looking video, automation is key to achieving this quickly and cheaply. However, metrics like PSNR don’t always give the best answers meaning that eyes are still better the job than silicon.

In this talk from the Demuxed conference, Intel’s Vasavee Vijayaraghavan shows us examples of computer analysis failing to identify lowest bitrate leaving the encoder spending many megabits encoding video so that it looks imperceptibly better. Further more it’s clear that MOS – the Mean Opinion Score – which has a well defined protocol behind it continues to produce the best results, though setting up and co-ordinating takes orders of magnitude more time and money.

Vasavee shows how she’s managed to develop a hybrid workflow which combines metrics and MOS scores to get much of the benefit of computer-generated metrics fed into the manual MOS process. This allows a much more targeted subjective perceptual quality MOS process thereby speeding up the whole process but still getting that human touch where it’s most valuable.

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Vasavee Vijayaraghavan Vasavee Vijayaraghavan
Cloud Media Solutions Architect,