Video: Best Practices for End-to-End Workflow and Server-Side Ad Insertion Monitoring

This video from the Streaming Video Alliance, presented at Mile High Video 2020 looks at the result of recent projects document the best practice for two important activities: server-side ad insertion (SSAI) and end-to-end (E2E) workflow monitoring. First off, is E2E monitoring which defines a multi-faceted approach to making sure you’re delivering good-quality content well.

The this part of the talk is given by Christopher Kulbakas who introduces us to the document published by the Streaming Video Alliance covering monitoring best practices. The advice surrounds three principles: Creating a framework, deciding on metrics, and correlation. Christopher explains the importance of monitoring video quality after a transcode or encode since it’s easy to take a sea of green from your transport layer to indicate that viewers are happy. If your encode looks bad, viewers won’t be happy just because the DASH segments were delivered impeccably.

The guidance helps your monitor your workflow. ‘End to end’ doesn’t imply the whole delivery chain, only how to ensure the part you are responsible for is adequately monitored.

Christopher unveils the principles behind the modular monitoring across the workflow and tech stack:
1) Establish monitoring scope
Clearly delineate your responsibility from that of other parties. Define exactly how and to what standard data will be handled between the parties.

2) Partition workflow with monitoring points
Now your scope is clear, you can select monitoring points before and after key components such as the transcoder.

3) Decompose tech stage
Here, think of each point in the workflow to be monitored as a single point in a stack of technology. There will be content needing a perceptual quality monitor, Quality of Service (QoS) and auxiliary layers such as player events, logs and APIs which can be monitored.

4) Describe Methodology
This stage calls for documenting the what, where, how and why of your choices, for instance explaining that you would like to check the manifest and chunks on the output of the packager. You’d do this with HTTP-GET requests for the manifest and chunks for all rungs of the ladder. After you have finished, you will have a whole set of reasoned monitoring points which you can document and also share with third parties.

5) Correlate results
The last stage is bringing together this data, typically by using an asset identifier. This way, all alarms for an asset can be grouped together and understood as a whole workflow.

End-to-End Server-Side Ad Monitoring

The last part of this talk is from Mourad Kioumgi from Sky who walks us through a common scenario and how to avoid it. An Ad Buyer complains their ad didn’t make it to air. Talking to every point in the chain, everyone checks their own logs and says that their function was working, from the schedulers to the broadcast team inserting the SCTE markers. The reality is that if you can’t get to the bottom of this, you’ll lose money as you lose business and give refunds.

The Streaming Video Alliance considered how to address this through better monitoring and are creating a blueprint and architecture to monitor SSAI systems.

Mourad outlines these possible issues that can be found in SSAI systems:
1) Duration of content is different to the ad duration.
2) Chunks/manifest are not available or poorly hosted
3) The SCTE marker fails to reach downstream systems
4) Ad campaigns are not fulfilled despite being scheduled
5) Ad splicing components fail to create personalised manifests
6) Over-compression of the advert.

Problems 2,3, 5 and 6 are able to be caught by the monitoring proposed which revolves around adding the Creative ID and AdID into the manifest file. This way, problems can be correlated which particularly improves the telemetry back from the player which can deliver a problem report and specify which asset was affected. Other monitoring probes are added to monitor the manifests and automatic audio and video quality metrics. Sky successfully implemented this as a proof of concept with two vendors working together resulting in a much better overview of their system.

Mourad finishes his talk looking at the future creating an ad monitoring framework to distribute an agreed framework document for. best practices.

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Speakers

Christopher Kulbakas Christopher Kulbakas
Project Lead, Senior Systems Designer, Media Technology & infrastructure,
CBC/Radio Canada
Mourad Kioumgi Mourad Kioumgi
VOD Solutions Architect.
Sky

Video: Getting Back Into the Game

The pandemic has obviously hurt live broadcaster, sports particularly but as the world starts its slow fight back to normality we’re seeing sports back on the menu. How has streaming suffered and benefited? This video looks at how technology has changed in response, how pirating of content changed, how close we are to business as usual.

Jason Thibeault from the Streaming Video Alliance brings together Andrew Pope from Friend MTS, Brandon Farley from Streaming Global, SSIMWAVE’s Carlos Bacquet, Synamedia’s Nick Fielibert and Will Penson with Conviva to get an overview of the industry’s response to the pandemic over the last year and its plans for the future.

The streaming industry has a range of companies including generalist publishers, like many broadcasters and specialists such as DAZN and NFL Gamepass. During the pandemic, the generalist publishers were able to rely more on their other genres and back catalogues or even news which saw a big increase in interest. This is not to say that the pandemic made life easy for anyone. Sports broadcasters were undoubtedly hit, though companies such as DAZN who show a massive range of sports were able dig deep in less mainstream sports from around the world in contrast with services such as NFL Game Pass which can’t show any new games if the season is postponed. We’ve heard previously how esports benefited from the pandemic

The panel discusses the changes seen over the last year. Mixed views on security with one company seeing little increase in security requests, another seeing a boost in requests for auditing and similar so that people could be ready for when sports streaming was ‘back’. There was a renewed interest in how to make sports streaming better where better for some means better scaling, for others, lower latency, whereas many others are looking to bake in consistency and quality; “you can’t get away with ‘ok’ anymore.”

SSIMWAVE pointed out that some customers were having problems keeping the channel quality high and were even changing encoder settings to deal with the re-runs of their older footage which was less good quality than today’s sharp 1080p coverage. “Broadcast has set the quality mark” and streaming is trying to achieve parity. Netflix has shown that good quality goes on good devices. They’re not alone being a streaming service 50 per cent of whose content is watched on TVs rather than streaming devices. When your content lands on a TV, there’s no room for compromise on quality.

Crucially, the panel agrees that the pandemic has not been a driver for change. Rather, it’s been an accelerant of the intended change already desired and even planned for. If you take the age-old problem of bandwidth in a house with a number of people active with streaming, video calls and other internet usage, any bitrate you can cut out is helpful to everyone.

Next, Carlos from Conviva takes us through graphs for the US market showing how sports streaming dropped 60% at the beginning of the lockdowns only to rebound after spectator-free sporting events started up now running at around 50% higher than before March 2020. News has shown a massive uptick and currently retains a similar increase as sports, the main difference being that it continues to be very volatile. The difficulties of maintaining news output throughout the pandemic are discussed in this video from the RTS.

Before hearing the panel’s predictions, we hear their thoughts on the challenges in improving. One issue highlighted is that sports is much more complex to encode than other genres, for instance, news. In fact, tests show that some sports content scores 25% less than news for quality, according to SSIMWAVE, acknowledging that snooker is less challenging than sailing. Delivering top-quality sports content remains a challenge particularly as the drive for low-latency is requiring smaller and smaller segment sizes which restrict your options for GOP length and bandwidth.

To keep things looking good, the panel suggests content-aware encoding where machine learning analyses the video and provides feedback to the encoder settings. Region of interest coding is another prospect for sports where close-ups tend to want more detail in the centre as you look at the player but wide shots intent to capture all detail. WebRTC has been talked about a lot, but not many implementations have been seen. The panel makes the point that advances in scalability have been noticeable for CDNs specialising in WebRTC but scalability lags behind other tech by, perhaps, 3 times. An alternative, Synamedia points out, is HESP. Created by THEOPlayer, HESP delivers low latency, chunked streaming and very low ‘channel change’ times.

Watch now!
Speakers

Andrew Pope Andrew Pope
Senior Solutions Architect,
Friend MTS
Brandon Farley Brandon Farley
SVP & Chief Revenue Officer,
Streaming Global
Carlos Bacquet Carlos Bacquet
Manager, Sales Engineers,
SSIMWAVE
Nick Fielibert
CTO, Video Network
Synamedia
Will Penson Will Penson
Vice President, GTM Strategy & Operations,
Conviva
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance

Video: Making Streaming Video Better

The streaming community is one of the most vibrant in the broadcast, media & entertainment with many examples of individuals and companies sharing knowledge and working together. The Streaming Video Alliance is a great example of this continued effort to ‘make streaming video better’, a group of, now, 90 companies that are working together to push the industry forward.

Streaming Video Alliance executive director, Jason Thibeault, discusses their work with John Porterfield on the JP’sChalkTalks YouTube channel. A technology consortium not unlike the VSF, AIMS, IABM or SMPTE, Jason says that the SVA doesn’t work on standards since the fast-paced iterations of the streaming industry don’t match the relatively long standardisation timelines. Naturally, that’s not to say streaming doesn’t need standards. SCTE 35 and 224 ad markers are vital to many workflows and the whole foundation from codecs to IT technologies such as HTTP and TCP is based on standards. But we see from the success of TCP and HTTP what the end game of the Streaming Video Alliance is. These standards laid down a way for any company to interoperate with another and now we don’t consider the possibility that a piece of networking kit speaking TCP won’t work with another. Jason explains that the key for the SVA is enabling interoperabiloty and removing vendor lock-in. This creates a healthier industry which is better for streaming providors and vendors.

John asks about how 2020 saw progress streaming. Jason explains that much of the growth seen due to the pandemic was actually the result of a lot of work that was already ongoing meaning that many companies were already working on scaling up for the future; the future came early. Going into the year, there was a lot of talk about low latency streaming, and there still is, but SVA members were cognisant of the fact they still couldn’t guarantee a consistent experience which they’d much prefer over low-latency. This reliability and resilience question deals with repeatability of experience and, for example, playback remaining stable in one ABR rung.

Jason looks ahead at 2021 talking about the work being produced by the alliance. Live streaming end-to-end best practice is being examined and will be released as a published document. Follow up validation in the lab of the recommendations is then planned with any learnings going back into the original document. Another piece of work is examining how new technologies out of the streaming industry can be adopted such as 5G and the push to the edge. Particularly in edge computing, there is a lot of potential which simply hasn’t been explored yet. On the interoperability theme, the group’s Open Caching guidance will continue to be expanded. Open caching opens the possibility of putting your cache in the edge. Jason asks where the boundary of the edge is as there is work ongoing examining pushing open caching out even to the smart TV.

The Streaming Video Alliance produces monthly webinars, many of which are covered here at The Broadcast Knowledge.

Watch now!
Speakers

Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director,
Streaming Video Alliance
John Porterfield John Porterfield
JP’sChalkTalks YouTube Channel
Owner, Social180Group

Video: Layer 4 in the CDN

Caching is a critical element of the streaming video delivery infrastructure, but with the proliferation of streaming services, managing caching is complex and problematic. Open Caching is an initiative by the Streaming Video Alliance to bring this under control allowing ISPs and service providers a standard way to operate.

By caching objects as close to the viewer as possible, you can reduce round-trip times which helps reduce latency and can improve playback but, more importantly, moving the point at which content is distributed closer to the customer allows you to reduce your bandwidth costs, and create a more efficient delivery chain.

This video sees Disney Streaming Services, ViaSat and Stackpath discussing Open Caching with Jason Thibeault, Executive Director of the Streaming Video Alliance. Eric Klein from Disney explains that one driver for Open Caching is from content producers which find it hard to scale, to deliver content in a consistent manner across many different networks. Standardising the interfaces will help remove this barrier of scale. Alongside a drive from content producers, are the needs of the network operators who are interested in moving caching on to their network which reduces the back and forth traffic and can help cope with peaks.

Dan Newman from Viasat builds on these points looking at the edge storage project. This is a project to move caching to the edge of the networks which is an extension of the original open caching concept. The idea stretches to putting caching directly into the home. One use of this, he explains, can be used to cache UHD content which otherwise would be too big to be downloaded down lower bandwidth links.

Josh Chesarek from StackPath says that their interest in being involved in the Open Caching initiative is to get consistency and interoperability between CDNs. The Open Caching group is looking at creating these standard APIs for capacity, configuration etc. Also, Eric underlines the interest in interoperability by the close work they are doing with the IETF to find better standards on which to base their work.

Looking at the test results, the average bitrate increases by 10% when using open caching, but also a 20-40% improvement in connection use rebuffer ratio which shows viewers are seeing an improved experience. Viasat have used multicast ABR plus open caching. This shows there’s certainly promise behind the work that’s ongoing. The panel finishes by looking towards what’s next in terms of the project and CDN optimisation.

Watch now!
Speakers

Eric Klein Eric Klein
Director, CDN Technology,
Disney+
Dan Newman Dan Newman
Product Manager,
Viasat
Josh Chesarek Josh Chesarek
VP, Sales Engineering & Support
Stackpath.com
Jason Thibeault Jason Thibeault
Executive Director, Streaming Video Alliance