Video: CMAF And The Future Of OTT

Why is CMAF still ‘the future’ of OTT? Published in 2018, CMAF’s been around for a while now so what are the challenges and hurdles holding up implementation? Are there reasons not to use it at all? CMAF is a way of encoding and packaging media which then can be sent using MPEG DASH and HLS, the latter being the path Disney+ has chosen, for instance.

This panel from Streaming Media West Connect, moderated by Jan Ozer, discusses CMAF use within Akami, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu. Peter Chave from Akamai starts off making the point that CMAF is important to CDNs because if companies are able to use just one CMAF file as the source for different delivery formats, this reduces storage costs for consumers and makes each individual file more popular thus increasing the chance of having a file available in the CDN (particularly at the edge) and reducing cache misses. They’ve had to do some work to ensure that CMAF is carried throughout the CDN efficiently and ensuring the manifests are correctly checked.

Disney+, explains Bill Zurat, is 100% HLS CMAF. Benefiting from the long experience of the Disney Streaming Services teams (formerly BAMTECH), but also from setting up a new service, Disney were able to bring in CMAF from the start. There are issues ensuring end-device support, but as part of the launch, a number were sunsetted which didn’t have the requirements necessary to support either the protocol or the DRM needed.

Hulu is an aggregator so they have strong motivation to normalise inputs, we hear from Hulu’s Nick Brookins. But they also originate programming along with live streaming so CMAF has an important to play on the way in and the way out. Hulu dynamically regenerates their manifests so can iterate as they roll out easily. They are currently part the way through the rollout and will achieve full CMAF compatibility within the next 18 months.

The conversation turns to DRM. CMAF supports two methods of DRM known as CTR (adopted by Apple) and CBC (also known as CBCS) which has been adopted by others. AV1 supports both, but the recommendation has been to use CBC which appears have been universally followed to date explains Netflix’s Cyril Concolato. Netflix have been using AV1 since it was finalised and are aiming to have most titles transitioned by 2021 to CMAF.

Peter comments from Akamai’s position that they see a number of customers who, like Disney+ and Peacock, have been able to enter the market recently and move straight into CMAF, but there is a whole continuum of companies who are restricted by their workflows and viewer’s devices in moving to CMAF.

Low latency streaming is one topic which invigorates minds and debates for many in the industry. Netflix, being purely video on demand, they are not interested in low-latency streaming. However, Hulu is as is Disney Streaming Services, but Bill cautions us on rushing to the bottom in terms of latency. Quality of experience is improved with extra latency both in terms of reduced rebuffering and, in some cases, picture quality. Much of Disney Streaming Services’ output needs to match cable, rather than meeting over-the-air latencies or less.

The panel session finishes with a quick-fire round of questions from Jan and the audience covering codec strategy, whether their workflows have changed to incorporate CMAF, just-in-time vs static packaging, and what customers get out of CMAF.

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Speakers

Cyril Concolato Cyril Concolato
Senior Software Engineer,
Netflix
Peter Chave Peter Chave
Principal Architect,
Akamai
Nick Brookins Nick Brookins
VP, Platform Services Group,
Hulu
Bill Zurat Bill Zurat
VP, Core Technology
Disney Streaming Services
Jan Ozer Moderator: Jan Ozer
Contributing Editor, Streaming Media
Owner, StreamingLearningCenter.com

Video: Optimising Video for Everyone at Once

CDNs are all about scale. Their raison d’ëtre is to help you scale, but that’s no trivial task which is why companies like Akamai exist so you only have to concentrate on your core product, for this talk, online streaming. Akamai’s main game is to move content you provide to them to the ‘edge’ of the network, as close to the user as possible.

The pandemic certainly put the CDNs, as well as telcos, through their paces. In this talk, Peter Chave from Akami talks about the challenges in the scale they’re achieving on a day-to-day basis. Whilst it’s lucky that 2020 was due to be a ‘big’ year in terms of sporting events, the Winter Olympics being but one example, meaning that large capacity had already been planned for, the whole industry has been iterating to get things right as the load has shifted and increased.

In March, Akamai saw a years-worth of growth. The shift in traffic was not just in magnitude but also it was a rebalancing of upload vs download. With video conferences and VPNs used all the more, the asymmetrical design of consumer internet services was put to the test.

Peter explains that companies like Netflix volunteered to reduce the burden by reducing bitrates. This was done in two main ways. One was to simply remove the top level from manifests. The other was to update the players to be much more conservative as they worked their way up through the bitrates. It’s also made some companies consider a switch to HEVC or otherwise which, whilst not being immediate, can have the effect of reducing overall bitrates across your service.

The CDN can also adjust the manifest which is much more flexible since, rather than editing a central file, in the edge in certain geographies and at certain times of day, the CDN can adjust the manifests on the fly. Lastly, Peter explains how Akamai have been throttling the speed at which video chunks are served. For times when a person has a lot more available bitrate than it needs for a video, there is no reason for it to download chunks at 100Mbps, so throttling the download speed helps reduce peaks.

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Speakers

Peter Chave Peter Chave
Principal Architect,
Akamai Technologies