Video: Demystifying Video Delivery Protocols

Let’s face it, there are a lot of streaming protocols out there both for contribution and distribution. Internet ingest in RTMP is being displaced by RIST and SRT, whilst low-latency players such as CMAF and LL-HLS are vying for position as they try to oust HLS and DASH in existing services streaming to the viewer.

This panel, hosted by Jason Thibeault from the Streaming Video Alliance, talks about all these protocols and attempts to put each in context, both in the broadcast chain and in terms of its features. Two of the main contribution technologies are RIST and SRT which are both UDP-based protocols which implement a method of recovering lost packets whereby packets which are lost are re-requested from the sender. This results in a very high resilience to packet loss – ideal for internet deployments.

First, we hear about SRT from Maxim Sharabayko. He lists some of the 350 members of the SRT Alliance, a group of companies who are delivering SRT in their products and collaborating to ensure interoperability. Maxim explains that, based on the UDT protocol, it’s able to do live streaming for contribution as well as optimised file transfer. He also explains that it’s free for commercial use and can be found on github. SRT has been featured a number of times on The Broadcast Knowledge. For a deeper dive into SRT, have a look at videos such as this one, or the ones under the SRT tag.

Next Kieran Kunhya explains that RIST was a response to an industry request to have a vendor-neutral protocol for reliable delivery over the internet or other dedicated links. Not only does vendor-neutrality help remove reticence for users or vendors to adopt the technology, but interoperability is also a key benefit. Kieran calls out hitless switching across multiple ISPs and cellular. bonding as important features of RIST. For a summary of all of RIST’s features, read this article. For videos with a deeper dive, have a look at the RIST tag here on The Broadcast Knowledge.

Demystifying Video Delivery Protocols from Streaming Video Alliance on Vimeo.

Barry Owen represents WebRTC in this webinar, though Wowza deal with many protocols in their products. WebRTC’s big advantage is sub-second delivery which is not possible with either CMAF or LL-HLS. Whilst it’s heavily used for video conferencing, for which it was invented, there are a number of companies in the streaming space using this for delivery to the user because of it’s almost instantaneous delivery speed. Whilst a perfect rendition of the video isn’t guaranteed, unlike CMAF and LL-HLS, for auctions, gambling and interactive services, latency is always king. For contribution, Barry explains, the flexibility of being able to contribute from a browser can be enough to make this a compelling technology although it does bring with it quality/profile/codec restrictions.

Josh Pressnell and Ali C Begen talk about the protocols which are for delivery to the user. Josh explains how smoothstreaming has excited to leave the ground to DASH, CMAF and HLS. They discuss the lack of a true CENC – Common Encryption – mechanism leading to duplication of assets. Similarly, the discussion moves to the fact that many streaming services have to have duplicate assets due to target device support.

Looking ahead, the panel is buoyed by the promise of QUIC. There is concern that QUIC, the Google-invented protocol for HTTP delivery over UDP, is both under standardisation proceedings in the IETF and is also being modified by Google separately and at the same time. But the prospect of a UDP-style mode and the higher efficiency seems to instil hope across all the participants of the panel.

Watch now to hear all the details!
Speakers

Ali C. Begen Ali C. Begen
Technical Consultant, Comcast
Kieran Kunhya Kieran Kunhya
Founder & CEO, Open Broadcast Systems
Director, RIST Forum
Barry Owen Barry Owen
VP, Solutions Engineering
Wowza Media Systems
Joshua Pressnell Josh Pressnell
CTO,
Penthera Technologies
Maxim Sharabayko Maxim Sharabayko
Senior Software Developer,
Haivision
Jason Thibeault Moderator: Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance

Video: Reducing peak bandwidth for OTT

‘Flattening the curve’ isn’t just about dealing with viruses, we learn from Will Law. Rather, this is one way to deal with network congestion brought on by the rise in broadband use during the global lockdown. This and other key ways such as per-title encoding and removing the top tier are just two other which are explored in this video from Akamai and Bitmovin.

Will starts the talk explaining why congestion happens in a world where ABR (adaptive bitrate streaming) is supposed to deal with this. With Akamai’s traffic up by around 300%, it’s perhaps not a surprise there’s a contest for bandwidth. As not all traffic is a video stream, congestion will still happen when fighting with other, static, data transfers. However deeper than that, even with two ABR streams, the congestion protocol in use has a big impact as will shows with a graph showing Akamai’s FastTCP and BBR where BBR steals all the bandwidth rather than ‘playing fair’.

Using a webpage constructed for the video, Will shows us a baseline video playback and the metrics associated with it such as data transferred and bitrate which he uses to demonstrate the different benefits of bitrate production techniques. The first is covered by Bitmovin’s Sean McCarthy who explains Bitmovin’s per-title encoding technology. This approach ensures that each asset has encoder settings tuned to get the best out of the content whilst reducing bandwidth as opposed to simply setting your encoder to a fairly-high, safe, static bitrate for all content no matter how complex it is. Will shows on the demo that the bitrate reduces by over 50%.

Swapping codec, is an obvious way to reduce bandwidth. Unlike per-title encoding which is transparent to the end user, using AV1, VP9 or HEVC requires support by the final device. Whilst you could offer multiple versions of your assets to make sure you still cover all your players despite fragmentation, this has the downside of extra encoding costs and time.

Will then looks at three ways to reduce bandwidth by stopping the highest-bitrate rendition from being used. Method one is to manually modify the manifest file. Method two demonstrates how to do so using the Bitmovin player API, and method three uses the CDN itself to manipulate the manifests. The advantage of doing this in the CDN is because this allows much more flexibility as you can use geolocation rules, for example, to deliver different manifests to different locations.

The final method to reduce peak bandwidth is to use the CDN to throttle download speed of the stream chunks. This means that while you may – if you are lucky – have the ability to download at 100Mbps, the CDN only delivers 3- or 5-times the real-time bitrate. This goes a long way to smoothing out the peaks which is better for the end user’s equipment and for the CDN. Seen in isolation, this does very little, as the video bitrate and the data transferred remain the same. However delivering the video in this much more co-operative way is much more likely to cause knock-on problems for other traffic. It can, of course, be used in conjunction with the other techniques. The video concludes with a Q&A.

Watch now!
Speakers

Will Law Will Law
Chief Architect,
Akamai
Sean McCarthy Sean McCarthy
Technical Product Marketing Manager,
Bitmovin

Video: S-Frame in AV1: Enabling better compression for low latency live streaming.

Streaming is such a success because it manages to deliver video even as your network capacity varies while you are watching. Called ABR (Adaptive Bitrate), this short talk asks how we can allow low-latency streams to nimbly adapt to network conditions whilst keeping the bitrate low in the new AV1 codec.

Tarek Amara from Twitch explains the idea in AV1 of introducing S-Frames, sometimes called ‘switch frames’, which take the role of the more traditional I or IDR frames. If a frame is marked as an IDR frame, this means the decoder knows it can start decoding from this frame without worrying that it’s referencing some data that came before this frame. By doing this, you can allow frequent points at which a decoder can enter a stream. IDR frames are typically I frames which are the highest bandwidth frames, by a large proportion. This is because they are a complete rendition of a frame without any of the predictions you find in P and B frames.

Because IDR frames are so large, if you want to keep overall bandwidth down, you should reduce the number of them. However, reducing the number of frames reduces the number if ‘in points’ for for the stream meaning a decoder then has to wait longer before it can start displaying the stream to the viewer. An S-Frame brings the benefits of an IDR in that it still marks a place in the stream where the decoder can join, free of dependencies on data previously sent. But the S-Frame is takes up much less space.

Tarek looks at how an S-Frame is created, the parameters it needs to obey and explains how the frames are signalled. To finish off he presents tests run showing the bitrate improvements that were demonstrated.
Watch now!
Speaker

Tarek Amara Tarek Amara
Engineering Manager, Video Encoding,
Twitch