Achieving success in the video processing space

December 6, 2019

By Tony Jones, Principal Technologist, MediaKind

As I alluded to in my last blog, the TV industry over the last decade has been turned on its head by the rapid adoption of OTT internet video streaming. A recent survey found that 52% of Americans use a streaming service, a figure that was in the single digit range just over a decade ago.

Alongside the impact OTT has had on business models and content acquisition strategies, the rise of streaming underlines the importance of having an end-to-end delivery model. While the next wave of game-changing innovations such as targeted ad insertion will require content providers to think even more holistically and not just about the technology silos of the past.

Video delivery: a 1,2,3 approach

In very simplistic terms, video delivery (linear broadcast or on-demand) can be broken down into three steps:

  • Getting the content into a workflow
  • Encoding and Packaging that content so its suitable for the consumer
  • And delivering that content at a required level of quality and reliability

Whether this approach applies to pay, ad-supported, or free-to-air business models, the fundamentals of video delivery remain. And thanks to the widespread adoption of industry standards and file-based technologies, getting content into the workflow has improved this process.

The first area where a strategic decision must be made is in encode/packaging. Broadly speaking, this encompasses a number of steps, but the overarching aim to use bandwidth efficiently, while ensuring satisfactory video quality. Video stream quality is largely dependent on the source video, the type of video compression used to efficiently transport the video across a medium and the output quality.

In the multiscreen, multi-platform world, there are hundreds of permutations for delivering video at a level of quality and corresponding bitrate. Making the right strategic decisions during the encoding process can mean the difference between delivering an also-ran service, drowned out by myriad competitors and an industry leading platform that’s at the top of its game.

Efficient video encoding is one part of a complex end-to-end delivery chain

As I noted in the first part of my blogvideo encoders are not all equal – and the work put into improving the encoding process has not stood still.” For our development teams, the concept of being fully in control of our encoding implementation and algorithms is a recognition of our commitment to ongoing research and development. But advances in encoder technology taken in isolation are not enough to deliver a high-quality consumer experience. The encode/packaging is just a part of the end-to-end media chain that can also include delivery, content protection, ad insertion, analytics and video playback.

This is evident today in the real world. Take for example the delivery of live sports that is transmitted over satellite/terrestrial and OTT. If the OTT experience is dozens of seconds behind the live experience, fans may gain news of a goal, touchdown or home-run via social media long before it appears on the video-enabled device.

But to reduce latency on an ABR video stream requires not just optimized video encoding and packaging, but also an optimization or elimination of caches and buffers across the video distribution chain, right into the client. The trick here is to achieve this on real networks when there are highly popular events. Another example would be targeted ad insertion, where metadata and video content must flow seamlessly between multiple systems, even third parties. In other words, efficient video encoding is part of a much more complex end-to-end delivery chain.

MediaKind’s key principles for working in the video processing space

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once remarked “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” For the media industry, this maxim directly applies to how technology providers and partners should be selected. At MediaKind, our approach as an effective media provider and partner in the video processing space is built on three key principles:

  • We believe in our best-in-class, individual products and the importance of both owning the technology and controlling the future end-to-end roadmap with a robust optimization strategy. This is especially true within the TV sector that is going through a period of consolidation.
  • We provide a suite of integrated products that can effectively eliminate hefty integration costs. End-to-end, does not mean sacrificing best-of-breed in all cases but remember it’s always a case of the sum of the parts.
  • Our end-to-end capability works across a variety of environment and business models. This is essential for future proofing as organizations start to shift technology from CAPEX/on-prem to OPEX/Cloud and everything in between. This flexibility must also consider comprehensive orchestration as the media industry moves towards a more self-service economy.

In short, it’s our belief that the value of an operator is no longer based around time spent integrating relatively standard components. Instead, we build differentiated services that can sit on top of an optimized video delivery chain, taking full advantage of the valuable asset of the network infrastructure.

To learn more about MediaKind’s video encoding heritage, click here to read the first part of Tony Jones’ blog.