Video: What is HESP Ultra-Low-Latency Streaming?

Is it possible to improve on CMAF’s offer of an ultra-low-latency, scalable protocol with good viewer experience? This is what HESP, the High-Efficiency Streaming Protocol, promises. With almost instant channel change times and sub-second latency, it’s worth taking a look at those protocol created by THEOPlayer to understand where it might work in your workflows.

Presented by Pieter-Jan Speelmans and Johan Vounckx from THEO, we hear some more detail surrounding HESP’s inception. Quality, latency and bitrate are often referred to as a triangle where if you improve one or even two, the remaining factor will get worse to compensate. HESP plays in the triangle connecting ‘viewer experience’, ‘low latency’ and ‘scalability’. If you compare WebRTC with CMAF, you see that WebRTC prioritises low-latency streaming but suffers in terms of scalability. CMAF, being 2-5 seconds higher latency, has much better scalability but the channel zapping times are high which affects viewer experience as well as overall latency. HESP, contests Pieter-Jan, actually improves all three. It’s able to do this because it’s not extending existing protocols which weren’t designed to meet all these requirements, rather it’s bringing in new techniques which shift the whole equation.

THEOPlayer has created the HESP Alliance which is devoted to standardising the HESP technology through the IETF or other avenue, promoting adoption through marketing and the creation of tools, certification and management of intellectual property. The talk outlines the decoder royalties which can be payable by subscriber, per subscriber per hour, or per device.

Source: THEOPlayer

Looking at the technical details, we find out that you can actually start playing an HESP stream without downloading the manifest. While HESP does have manifest files, they change very infrequently. If a new one is changed at short notice, the server can ask players to download one by embedding a message in the stream. The channel zapping speed is achieved using two streams, an initialisation stream and a continuation stream. The initialisation stream just I and P frames allowing you to start playing immediately. The continuation stream is intended to be the low-bitrate stream used after the establishment of the stream.

HESP uses two modes: Maximal Gain and Maximal Compatability. Maximal gain aims to have the lowest latency, lowest bandwidth and lowest zapping times. It has long segments with 1 frame chunks containing one I or P frame. The Maximal Compatability mode, however, allows you to reuse Low-Latency DASH and LLHLS streams and uses 6-second segments with 200msec chunks including B frames.

THEOPlayer claim 7x less delivery delay, 20x lower zapping times and a 20% bandwidth saving over CMAF with broad compatibility with many TVs, android, iOS, Web, streaming devices.

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Speakers

Pieter-Jan Speelmans Pieter-Jan Speelmans
CTO & Founder,
THEOPlayer
Johan Vounckx Johan Vounckx
Vice President, Innovation,
THEOPlayer

Video: LL-HLS Discussion with THEO, Wowza & Fastly

Roundtable discussion with Fastly, Theo and Wowza

iOS 14 has finally started to hit devices and with it, LL-HLS is now available in millions of devices. Low-Latency HLS is Apple’s latest evolution of HLS, a streaming protocol which has been widely used for over a decade. Its typical latency has gradually come down from 60 seconds to, between 6 and 15 seconds now. There are still a lot of companies that want to bring that down further and LL-HLS is Apple’s answer to people who want to operate at around 2-4 seconds total latency, which matches or beats traditional broadcast.

LL-HLS was introduced last year and had a rocky reception. It came after a community-driven low-latency scheme called LHLS and after MPEG DASH announced CMAF’s ability to hit the same 2-4 second window. Famously, this original context, as well as the technical questions over the new proposal, were summed up well in Phil Cluff’s blog post which was soon followed by a series of talks trying to make sense of LL-HLS ahead of implementation. This is the Apple video introducing LL-HLS in its first form. And the reactions from AL Shenker from CBS Interactive, Marina Kalkanis from M2A Media and Akamai’s Will Law which also nicely sums up the other two contenders. Apple have now changed some of the spec in response to their own further reasearch and external feedback which was received positively and summed up in, THEO CTO, Pieter-Jan Speelmans’ recent webinar bringing us the updates.

In this panel, Pieter is joined by Chris Buckley from Fastly Inc. and Wowza’s Jamie Sherry discussing pressing LL-HLS into action. Moderator Alison Kolodny hosts the talk which covers a wide variety of points.

“Wide adoption” is seen as the day-1 benefit. If you support LL-HLS then you’ll know you’re able to hit a large number of iPads, iPhones and Macs. Typically Apple sees a high percentage of the userbase upgrade fairly swiftly and easily see more than 75% of devices updated within four months of release. The panel then discusses how implementation has become easier given the change in protocol where the use of HTTP/2’s push technology was dropped which would have made typical CDN techniques like hosting the playlists separately to the media impossible. Overall, CDN implementation has become more practical since with pre-load hints, a CDN can host many, many connections into to it, all waiting for a certain chunk and collapse that down to a single link to the origin.

One aspect of implementation which has improved, we hear from Pieter-Jan, is building effective Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) switching. With low-latency protocols, you are so close to live that it becomes very hard to download a chunk of video ahead of time and measure the download speed to see if it arrived quicker than realtime. If it did, you’d infer there was spare bit rate. LL-HLS’s use of rendition reports, however, make that a lot easier. Pieter-Jan also points out SSAI is easier with rendition reports.

The rest of the discussion covers device support for LL-HLS, subtitles workflows, the benefits of TLS 1.3 being recommended, and low-latency business cases.

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The webinar is free to watch, on demand, in exchange for your email details. The link is emailed to you immediately.
Speaker

Chris Buckley
Senior Sales Engineer,
Fastly Inc.
Pieter-Jan Speelmans Pieter-Jan Speelmans
CTO,
THEO Technologies
Jamie Sherry Jamie Sherry
Senior Product Manager,
Wowza
Alison Kolodny Moderator: Alison Kolodny
Senior Product Manager of Media Services,
Frame.io

Video: A State-of-the-Industry Webinar: Apple’s LL-HLS is finally here

Even after restrictions are lifted, it’s estimated that overall streaming subscriptions will remain 10% higher than before the pandemic. We’ve known for a long time that streaming is here to stay and viewers want their live streams to arrive quickly and on-par with broadcast TV. There have been a number of attempts at this, the streaming community extended HLS to create LHLS which brought down latency quite a lot without making major changes to the defacto standard.

MPEG’s DASH also has created a standard for low-latency streaming allowing CMAF to be used to get the latency down even further than LHLS. Then Apple, the inventors of the original HLS, announced low-latency HLS (LL-HLS). We’ve looked at all of these previously here on The Broadcast Knowledge. This Online Streaming Primer is a great place to start. If you already know the basics, then there’s no better than Will Law to explain the details.

The big change that’s happened since Will Law’s talk above, is that Apple have revised their original plan. This talk from CTO and Founder of THEOplayer, Pieter-Jan Speelmans, explains how Apple’s modified its approach to low-latency. Starting with a reminder of the latency problem with HLS, Pieter-Jan explains how Apple originally wanted to implement LL-HLS with HTTP/2 push and the problems that caused. This has changed now, and this talk gives us the first glimpse of how well this works.

Pieter-Jan talks about how LL-DASH streams can be repurposed to LL-HLS, explains the protocol overheads and talks about the optimal settings regarding segment and part length. He explains how the segment length plays into both overall latency but also start-up latency and the ability to navigate the ABR ladder without buffering.

There was a lot of frustration initially within the community at the way Apple introduced LL-HLS both because of the way it was approached but also the problems implementing it. Now that the technical issues have been, at least partly, addressed, this is the first of hopefully many talks looking at the reality of the latest version. With an expected ‘GA’ date of September, it’s not long before nearly all Apple devices will be able to receive LL-HLS and using the protocol will need to be part of the playbook of many streaming services.

Watch now to get the full detail

Speaker

Pieter-Jan Speelmans Pieter-Jan Speelmans
CTO & Founder
THEOplayer

Video: Low Latency and High QOE for Live Streaming


Low latency streaming is always a compromise, but what can be done to keep QOE high?

This on-demand webinar looks at CMAF and presents some real-world data on this low latency technique. The webinar starts by explaining that CMAF is a low-latency streaming technology similar to HLS and other streaming protocols where the idea is to deliver the video as small files. Olivier and Alain from Harmonic explain how this is done and look at some of the trade-offs and compromises that are needed and introduce techniques to keep QOE high. They also look at deployment in cloud vs. on premise.

Pieter-Jan Speelmans talks about play tradeoffs and optimisations within the player. CMAF allows the buffer to be reduced and whilst a bad network may mean you buffer is similar to ‘normal’, but in good networks, this buffer can be brought down significantly. He also talks about how ABR switching is impacted by GOP length even in CMAF.

Viaccess-Orca explains how DRM works with CMAF and looks at some of the challenges including licences acquisition time and overloading licence servers at the beginning of events. Akamai’s Will Law explains some benefits of CMAF and the near-real-time of chunk-based transfer (HTTP 1.1) and how downloading chunks at full speed leads to problems when the same broadband link is used by several clients.

There are lots of good talks on CMAF, but this is one of the few which talks about CMAF not as theory, but as is deployable today.

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Speakers

Olivier Karra Olivier Karra
SaaS Business Development Director,
Harmonic Inc.
Alain Pellen Alain Pellen
Sr. Manager, OTT & IPTV Solutions,
Harmonic Inc
Will Law Will Law
Chief Architect – Media Devision,
Akamai
Pieter-Jan Speelmans Pieter-Jan Speelmans
Founder & CTO,
THEOplayer
Nicolas Delahaye Nicolas Delahaye
VP Engineering Player,
Viaccess-Orca