Thought Leadership Monday Mashup: Streaming Media Solutions

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At Streaming Media West - 2015, trends and the future of streaming media solutions were explored. Here is some of what was discussed.

HEVC: Did a greedy goose kill the golden egg?
HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) is a compression standard utilizing the h.265 codec. Just hearing the name h.265 sounded like a natural evolutionary flow since h.264 is the current standardized king of online video. The benefits are great: more processing power to encode and decode. HEVC with the h.265 codec has the potential to compress a video file to half the size of its mp4 ounterpart using the h.264 codec. A smaller file size and reduced data rate means less bandwidth is used, setting the stage for efficient streaming of 4k video. In 2014, it looked like there would only be some modest licensing and royalty fees associated with HEVC (one patent pool with a royalty fee cap). Now there has emerged two patent pools -with a potential 3rd one in the works. If you are in the broadcast market or are dependent on Smart TVs to deliver your content, you probably will need to stick with this new standard when it finally settles down. If your main distribution is through a browser, you will most likely want to look elsewhere.

The Mighty Thor hammers out an agreement with open source
During this time open source has been getting its act together A new group, the Alliance for Open Media has come up with a more unified approach. Key players in the mix are Cisco and their Thor codec, Google with VP9 / VP10 and Mozilla sponsoring the Daala codec. Other members of the consortium include Microsoft, Amazon and Intel. All have a vision of a singular new royalty free codec for Ultra HD video.

Colleen Henry of Facebook felt that for now, VP9 is the best way to go until the Alliance releases their codec in 2017. “In reality if you have to use video, you can’t use HEVC now: the workflow is not there, the device support really isnt there-just because the chip is there. How are you actually going to create the video and deliver it to people? Good freakin luck. You can use VP9 and VP10 now. There’s actually a signal flow for it. YouTube is already using VP9 and it works. I can actually deliver VP9 today and it’s great.”

For a software solution, Sorenson Squeeze 10 is one way to encode. GitHub offers a plug in for AdobeWebM which allow Adobe Premiere to provide VP9 encoding. JW Player will be rolling out VP9 decoding support in Q1, 2016 according to John Luther, SVP of product strategy for JW Player.

Cook up great videos with a DASH of streaming
Streaming video is delivered on the web, primarily in two ways:

  • HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) - Apple’s baby
  • DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) - everyone else

DASH allows for multiple streams encoded at different bitrates to be dynamically switched on-the-fly depending upon the end-user’s connection speed. As DASH improves, time to first frame becomes quicker.

HLS still rules on IOS because Apple calls the shots there, so you need both delivery codecs for your video distribution.

Out with Plug-Ins, in with standardized cross-browser support
Much the same as Apple banished Flash, Google said sayonara to Microsoft Silverlight starting with Chrome 42.  Media Source extensions (MSEs) in HTML5 are your best streaming media solutions now.

Will Law, Chief Architect, Media Cloud Engineering of Akamai Technologies likes the fact that DASH is free of patents and licensing because it frees up innovation. Law favors a consistent format for interoperability, “If we all focus on solving one set of issues, then we get further ahead than if we solve 3 different issues on everybody’s different points.”

Communicate with video in different ways

WebRTC (Web Real Time Communication -you gotta love the acronyms) is a space of communication between two or more browsers --the type of place that Skype, FaceTime and videoconferencing moguls appreciate. Law observed that “This is a real interesting area for video distribution where the peer to peer components of the data channel can move segmented video around and then combine it with MSE and HTML5.”

There are a lot of start-ups and lots of attention in this space right now, so be on the lookout for great streaming video breakthroughs in 2016 and 2017.

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