Video: The ROI of Deploying Multiple Codecs

Adding a new codec to your streaming service is a big decision. It seems inevitable that H.264 will be around for a long time and that new codecs won’t replace it, but just take their share of the market. In the short term, this means your streaming service may also need to deliver H.264 and your new codec which will add complexity and increase CDN storage requirements. What are the steps to justifying a move to a new codec and what’s the state of play today?

In this Streaming Media panel, Jan Ozer is joined by Facebook’s Colleen Henry, Amnon Cohen-Tidhar from Cloudinary and Anush Moorthy from Netflix talk about their experiences with new codecs and their approach to new Codecs. Anush starts by outlining the need to consider decoder support as a major step to rolling out a new codec. The topic of decoder support came up several times during this panel in discussing the merits of hardware versus software decoding. Colleen points out that running VP9 and VVC is possible, but some members of the panel see a benefit in deploying hardware – sometimes deploying on devices like smart TVs, hardware decoding is a must. When it comes to supporting third party devices, we hear that logging is vitally important since when you can’t get your hands on a device to test with, this is all you have to help improve the experience. It’s best, in Facebook’s view, to work closely with vendors to get the most out of their implementations. Amnon adds that his company is working hard to push forward improved reporting from browsers so they can better indicate their capabilities for decoding.

 

 

Colleen talks about the importance of codec switching to enhance performance at the bottom end of the ABR ladder with codecs like AV1 with H264 at the higher end. This is a good compromise between the computation needed for AV1 and giving the best quality at very low bitrates. But Anush points out that storage will increase when you start using two codecs, particularly in the CDN so this needs to be considered as part of the consideration of onboarding new codecs. Dropping AV1 support at higher bitrates is an acknowledgement that we also need to consider the cost of encoding in terms of computation.

The panel briefly discusses the newer codecs such as MPEG VVC and MPEG LCEVC. Colleen sees promise in VVC in as much as it can be decoded in software today. She also says good things about LCEVC suggesting we call it an enhancement codec due to the way it works. To find out more about these, check out this SMPTE talk. Both of these can be deployed as software decoders which allow for a way to get started while hardware establishes itself in the ecosystem.

Colleen discusses the importance of understanding your assets. If you have live video, your approach is very different to on-demand. If you are lucky enough to have an asset that is getting millions upon millions of views, you’ll want to compress every bit out of that, but for live, there’s a limit to what you can achieve. Also, you need to understand how your long-tail archive is going to be accessed to decide how much effort your business wants to put into compressing the assets further.

The video comes to a close by discussing the Alliance of Open Media’s approach to AV1 encoders and decoders, discussing the hard work optimising the libAV1 research encoder and the other implementations which are ready for production. Colleen points out the benefit of webassembly which allows a full decoder to be pushed into the browser and the discussion ends talking about codec support for HDR delivery technologies such as HDR10+.

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Speakers

Colleen Henry Colleen Henry
Cobra Commander of Facebook Video Special Forces.
Anush Moorthy Anush Moorthy
Manager, Video & Imagine Encoding
Netflix
Amnon Cohen-Tidhar Amnon Cohen-Tidhar
Senior Director or Video Architecture,
Cloudinary
Jan Ozer Moderator: Jan Ozer
Principal, Stremaing Learning Center
Contributing Editor, Streaming Media

Video: Workflow Evolution Within the CDN

The pandemic has shone a light on CDNs as they are the backbone of much of what we do with video for streaming and broadcast. CDNs aim to scale up in a fast, sophisticated way so you don’t have to put in the research to achieve this yourself. This panel from the Content Delivery Summit sees Dom Robinson bringing together Jim Hall from Fastly with Akamai’s Peter Chave, Ted Middleton from Amazon and Paul Tweedy from BBC Design + Engineering.

The panel discusses the fact that although much video conferencing traffic being WebRTC isn’t supported, there are a lot of API calls that are handled by the CDN. In fact, over 300 trillion API calls were made to Amazon last year. Zoom and other solutions do have an HLS streaming option that has been used and can benefit from CDN scaling. Dom asks whether people’s expectations have changed during the pandemic and then we hear from Paul as he talks a little about the BBC’s response to Covid.

 

 

THE CTA’s Common Media Client Data standard, also known as CTA 5004, is a way for a video player to pass info back to the CDN. In fact, this is so powerful that it can provide highly granular real-time reports for customers but also enables hints to be handed back from the players so the CDNs can pre-fetch content that is likely to be needed. Furthermore, having a standard for logging will be great for customers who are multi-CDN and need a way to match logs and analyse their system in its entirety. This work is also being extended, under a separate specification to be able to look upstream in a CDN workflow to understand the status of other systems like edge servers.

The panel touches on custom-made analytics, low latency streaming such as Apples LL-HLS and why it’s not yet been adopted, current attempts in the wild to bring HLS latency down, Edge computing and piracy.

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Speakers

Peter Chave Peter Chave
Principal Architect,
Akamai Technologies
Paul Tweedy Paul Tweedy
Lead Architect, Online Technology Group,
BBC Design + Engineering
Ted Middleton Ted Middleton
Global Leader – Specialized Solution Architects, Edge Services
Amazon
Jim Hall Jim Hall
Principal Sales Engineer,
Fastly
Dom Robinson Moderator: Dom Robinson
Director and Creative Firestarter, id3as
Contributing Editor, StreamingMedia.com, UK

Video: Understanding the World of Ad Tech

Advertising has been the mainstay of TV for many years. Like it or loathe it, ad-support VoD (AVoD) delivers free to watch services that open up content to a much wider range of people than otherwise possible just like ad-supported broadcast TV. Even people who can afford subscriptions have a limit to the number of services they will subscribe to. Having an AVoD offering means you can draw people in and if you also have SVoD, there’s a path to convince them to sign up.

To look at where ad tech is today and what problems still exist, Streaming Media contributing editor Nadine Krefetz has brought together Byron Saltysiak from WarnerMedia, Verizon Media’s Roy Firestone, CBS Interactive’s Jarred Wilichinksy and Newsy’s Tony Brown to share their daily experience of working with OTT ad tech.

 

 

Nadine is quick to ask the panel what they feel the weakest link is in ad tech. ‘Scaling up’ answered Jarred who’s seen from massive events how quickly parts of the ad ecosystem fail when millions of people need an ad break at the same time. Bryon adds that with the demise of flash came the loss of an abstraction layer. Now, each platform has to be targetted directly leading to a lot of complexity. Previously, as long as you got flash right, it would work on all platforms. Lastly, redundancy came up as a weakness. Linked to Jarred’s point about the inability to scale easily, the panel’s consensus is they are far off broadcast’s five-nines uptime targets. In some ways, this is to be expected as IT is a more fragmented, faster-moving market than consumer TVs making it all the harder to keep up and match the changing patterns.

A number of parts of the conversation centred around ad tech as an ecosystem. This is a benefit and a drawback. Working in an ecosystem means that as much as the streaming provider wants to invest in bolstering their own service to make it able to cope with millions upon millions of requests, they simply can’t control what the rest of the ecosystem does and if 2 million people all go for a break at once, it doesn’t take much for an ad provider’s servers to collapse under the weight. On the other hand, points out Byron, what is a drawback is also a strength whereby streaming has the advantage of scale which broadcasters don’t. Roy’s service delivered one hundred thousand matches last year. Byron asks how many linear channels you’d need to cover that many.

Speed is a problem given that the ad auction needs to happen in the twenty seconds or so leading up to the ad being shown to the viewer. With so many players, things can go wrong starting off simply with slow responses to requests. But also with ad lengths. Ad breaks are built around 15 seconds segments so it’s difficult when companies want 6 or 11 seconds and it’s particularly bad when five 6-second ads are scheduled for a break: “no-one wants to see that.”

Jarred laments that despite the standards and guidelines available that “it’s still the wild west” when it comes to ad quality and loudness where viewers are the ones bearing the brunt of these mismatched practices.

Nadine asks about privacy regulations that are increasingly reducing the access advertisers have to viewer data. Byron points out that they do in some way need a way to identify a user such that they avoid showing them the same ad all the time. It turns out that registered/subscribed users can be tracked under some regulations so there’s a big push to have people sign up.

Other questions covered by the panel include QA processes, the need for more automation in QA, how to go about starting your own service, dealing with Roku boxes and how to deal with AVoD downloaded files which, when brought online, need to update the ad servers about which ads were watched.

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Speakers

Tony Brown Tony Brown
Chief of Staff,
Newsy
Jarred Wilichinsky Jarred Wilichinsky
SVP Global Video Monetization and Operations,
CBS Interactive
Byron Saltysiak Byron Saltysiak
VP of Video and Connected Devices,
WarnerMedia
Roy Firestone Roy Firestone
Principal Product Manger,
Verizon Media
Nadine Krefetz Nadine Krefetz
Contributing Editor,
Streaming Media

Video: 5G – Game-Changer Or Meh?

The 5G rollout has started in earnest in the UK, North America, Asia and many other regions. As with any new tech rollout, it takes time and currently centres on densely populated areas, but tests and trials are already underway in TV productions to find out whether 5G can actually help improve workflows. Burnt by the bandwidth collapse of 4G in densely populated locations, there’s hope amongst broadcasters that the higher throughput and bandwidth slicing will, this time, deliver the high bandwidth, reliable connectivity that the industry needs.

Jason Thibeault from the Streaming Video Alliance join’s Zixi’s Eric Bolten to talk to Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen who moderates this discussion on how well 5G is standing up to the hype. For a deeper look at 5G, including understanding the mix of low frequencies (as used in 2G, 3G and 4G) and high, Ultra Wide Band (UWB) frequencies referred to in this talk, check out our article which does a deep dive on 5G covering roll out of infrastructure and many of the technologies that make it work.

 

 

Eric starts by discussing trials he’s been working on in including one which delivered 8K at 100Mbps over 5G. He sees 5G as being very useful to productions whether on location or on set. He’s been working to test routers and determine the maximum throughput possible which we already know is in excess of 100Mbps, likely in the gigabits. Whilst rollouts have started and there’s plenty of advertising surrounding 5G, the saturation in the market of 5G-capable phones is simply not there but that’s no reason for broadcasters of film crews not to use it. 30 markets in the US are planning to be 5G enabled and all the major telcos in the UK are rolling the technology out which is already in around 200 cities and towns. It’s clear that 5G is seen as a strategic technology for governments and telcos alike.

Jason talks about 5G’s application in stadia because it solves problems for both the on-location viewers but also the production team themselves. One of the biggest benefits of 5G is the ultra-low-latency. Having 5G cameras keeps wireless video in the milliseconds using low-latency codecs like JPEG XS then delivery to fans within the stadium can also be within milliseconds meaning the longest delay in the whole system is the media workflow required for mixing the video, adding audio and graphics. The panel discusses how this can become a strong selling point for the venue itself. Even supporters who don’t go into the stadium itself can come to an adjacent location for good food, drinks a whole load of like-minded people, massive screens and a second-screen experience like nothing available at home. On top of all of that, on-site betting will be possible, enabled by the low latency.

Moving away from the stadium, North America has already seen some interest in linking the IP-native ATSC 3.0 broadcast network to the 5G network providing backhaul capabilities for telcos and benefits for broadcasters. If this is shown to be practical, it shows just how available IP will become in the medium-term future.

Jason summarises the near-term financial benefits in two ways: the opportunity for revenue generation by delivering better video quality and faster advertising but most significantly he sees getting rid of the need for satellite backhaul as being the biggest immediate cost saver for many broadcast companies. This won’t all be possible on day one, remembering that to get the major bandwidths, UWB 5G is needed which is subject to a slower roll-out. UWB uses high-frequency RF, 24Ghz and above, which has very little penetration and relies on line-of-sight links. This means that even a single wall can block the signal but those that can pick it up will get gigabits of throughput.

The panel concludes by answering a number of questions from the audience on 5G’s benefit over fibre to the home, the benefits of abstracting the network out of workflows and much more.

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Speakers

Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance
Eric Bolten Eric Bolten
VP of Business Development,
Zixi
Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen Moderator: Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen
Editor-in-Chief,
Streaming Media