MPEG-DASH is slowly but surely becoming the main competitor to HLS, driven by adoption by major players and intrinsic strengths. Here's who's using it now, who's going to be soon, and what challenges still need to be addressed.
Last year at the European Broadasting Union’s BroadThinking conference, the DASH Industry Forum (DASH-IF) conducted a survey of 13 major European broadcasters on MPEG-DASH adoption. At the time, about three-quarters of them projected to have DASH deployed by end of first half of 2014. Primary sources of concern for the broadcasters were the availability of DASH enabled clients and packaging tools. One year later, we haven’t seen many broadcasters deploying DASH in production, but the traction seems to have shifted to over-the-top (OTT) content distributors and operators.
So, who are the actors already in production or close to production with DASH? What are the remaining roadblocks for its adoption? How will DASH be positioned against existing Adaptive Bitrate technologies in the coming months? What is the exact status of the DASH standard and its most promising evolutions? What are the upcoming initiatives aiming at fostering DASH adoption? Let’s get a handle on where DASH is today, and where it’s headed.
4K or ultra-high-definition was a dominant theme at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. Among the many product launches were 4K production cameras at attractive price points, promising to make ultra-high-definition affordable, offering at least four times the resolution of high-definition without a prohibitive price premium. So what are the implications for broadcasters?
Blackmagic Design introduced a studio camera for live Ultra HD production for just under $3,000, excluding lens. That is an extraordinarily affordable price for a studio camera, including a 10-inch high-definition monitor. The company has also upgraded its cost-effective production switchers to 4K. It brings 4K studio production into the most modest budgets.
We are happy to announce that our MPEG-DASH support for on-demand streaming through our streaming origin services is now GA. It is included in the cost of an Origin reserved unit. Live streaming with MPEG-DASH is still in private preview and available only to Live preview customers at this time.
OSMF Player Beta with MPEG-DASH Support
The Media Services client team is announcing a beta version of a Flash based OSMF plugin with MPEG-DASH support. Using the OSMF plugin, you can add both Smooth Streaming and on-demand MPEG-DASH (beta) content playback capabilities to existing OSMF and Strobe Media Playback players and furthermore build rich media experiences for Adobe Flash Player endpoints using Media Services. The player does not yet support live streaming of DASH content, but we are working on that too.
Microsoft Smooth Streaming Client SDK 2.5 with MPEG-DASH Support
The PlayReady team, working in conjunction with the Media Services team announced the availability of the Microsoft Smooth Streaming Client 2.5 with MPEG DASH support. This release adds the ability to parse and play MPEG DASH manifests in the Smooth Streaming Media Engine (SSME) to provide a Windows7/Windows8 and MacOS solution using MPEG DASH for on-demand streaming scenarios. Developers that wish to move content libraries to MPEG-DASH now have the option of using DASH in places where Silverlight is supported.
Windows Azure Media Services team is very pleased to announce beta version of Microsoft Smooth Streaming plugin for OSMF with WAMS MPEG-DASH support. Using Smooth Streaming OSMF plugin, you can add Smooth Streaming and Windows Azure Media Services on-demand MPEG-DASH(beta) content playback capabilities to existing OSMF and Strobe Media Playback players and furthermore build rich media experiences for Adobe Flash Player endpoints using Windows Azure Media Services you use today to target Smooth Streaming playback to other devices like Win8 store apps, browser and so on. This version of the Smooth Streaming plugin includes the following capabilities and works with OSMF 2.0 APIs:
With the rise of MPEG-DASH and the NAB-related announcements from both Microsoft and Adobe on the topic, we sat down with both companies to discuss the status of DASH support as well as their legacy ABR protocols, Smooth Streaming and HDS.
In late 2012, Microsoft release the specification “DASH Content Protection using Microsoft PlayReady,” which explained how to use PlayReady with Common Encryption and MPEG-DASH. In June 2013, Windows Azure Media Servicesadded the support for MPEG-DASH as a new Dynamic Packaging output. At IBC 2013, Microsoft officially announced a new PlayReady version supporting HTML5, Encrypted Media Extensions, as well as new SDKs for iOS and Android. Their recent NAB 2014 announcements show how much work has been done under the hood to support DASH on the maximum number of platforms. We put a few questions to the Windows Azure Media Services team—namely senior digital media architect Kilroy Hughes, principal program manager lead John Deutscher, program manager for dynamic packaging Nick Drouin and program manager for client SDKs Cenk Dingiloglu. Here’s what they told us.
Now Azure Media Services allow you to deliver Http-Live-Streaming (HLS) and Smooth Streams encrypted with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) (using 128-bit encryption keys). Media Services also provides the key delivery service that delivers encryption keys to authorized users.
Azure Media Services also provides a Microsoft PlayReady license delivery service. PlayReady is a full-featured content access protection technology developed my Microsoft that uses Digital Rights Management (DRM). It protects a content media stream during playback by using a license server that provides the decryption key needed to decrypt the media stream.
Firstly, you need to pre-encrypt Smooth Streaming file with PlayReady License, by providing us License Acquisition URL, Key ID and Content Key. You could follow this MSDN article to use Azure Media Encryptor to encrypt the Smooth Streaming file. As a output, you could further package the encrypted Smooth Streaming into HLS and DASH (See how here). You could also define how the license could be authorized to your user. Similar to AES dynamic encryption, we enable Token/IP/Open authentication service.
Which platform/devices that PlayReady SDK covers?
Azure Media Services can be used to encode, download, or stream Smooth Streaming or MPEG DASH content encrypted with PlayReady. For consuming PlayReady encrypted content, client SDKsand the PlayReady Porting Kit are available under commercial licensing terms. (PlayReady clients for Windows 8.1 Store Apps can be built using the free SDK located HERE). These client-side SDKs are not part of this preview.
At booth SU1210 at the 2014 NAB Show, Harmonic will demonstrate the world’s first end-to-end HEVC solution for delivering live 2160p60 10-bit Ultra HD content. In collaboration with companies including Broadcom Corporation, Sigma Designs, Vigor Systems, and ViXS, the Harmonic broadcast workflow supports the delivery of live, linear playout and VOD Ultra HD content to consumer-grade TVs and set-top boxes (STBs).
The first consumer-grade demonstration showing live streaming of Ultra HD content, based on Harmonic’s market-leading HEVC encoding technology and the XCode 6400, a 2160p60 10-bit SoC chip from ViXS Systems, used to decode and display live content to a UHDTV via HDMI 2.0.
An end-to-end solution for delivering 2160p60 Ultra HD VOD content over IP networks featuring Harmonic’s ProMedia® Xpress high-performance transcoder with HEVC support, sent by the WFS™ file-based workflow engine to a MediaGrid shared storage system, and streamed using the ProMedia Origin stream packager and server to consumer devices in the MPEG-DASH format.
A 2160p60 Ultra HD linear playout workflow featuring Harmonic’s WFS, ProMedia Xpress, and MediaGrid solutions integrated with an Advertio transport stream playout platform from Vigor Systems, to deliver an Ultra HD linear channel.
An Ultra HD 120-Hz broadcast workflow powered by Harmonic ProMedia Xpress frame-rate upconverted on Sigma Designs’ high-performance and cost-effective 120-Hz Ultra HD TV platform. Sigma Design’s Ultra HD TV platform is comprised of an Ultra HD TV SoC that enables HEVC decoding (STV7603) and an innovative motion judder removal and frame-rate conversion SoC (FRC8000) for providing the best picture quality on large screen displays.
The first standard-compliant live 4K Ultra HD broadcast workflow, powered by Harmonic ProMedia Xpress transcoding and decoded by Broadcom’s BCM7445 Ultra HD video decoder solution.
PeerApp, Limelight Networks and EdgeCast Networks jointly formed the open Content Service Extension initiative last year to enable an open-standards environment through which broadband operators can work collaboratively with Internet content providers and web applications to deliver services in a manner that efficiently utilizes network infrastructure and maximizes subscriber Quality of Experience (QoE). The CSE architecture allows CDNs and content service providers to extend their business logic and delivery footprint deeply into operator networks, through invocation of network functions and capabilities deployed and controlled by the operator. It also establishes a mechanism through which operators can be fairly compensated for the role their infrastructure and network capabilities play in service delivery. In addition to participating in this demonstration, Sandvine will also be formally joining the Content Service Extension initiative.
The demonstration features managed delivery of 4K video content from Limelight's global CDN footprint into the home, triggering operator caching and network Quality of Service (QoS) extension services in a trusted and controlled fashion. The operator-side implementation of the CSE service architecture includes PeerApp's UltraBand cache and CSE controller platforms as well as Sandvine's Service Delivery Engine (SDE).
Usually when creating a video, all that is needed is to encode it using a codec (for example H.264 or HEVC). However, to transmit a video using MPEG-DASH, an extra segmentation step is required. Typical encoders do not provide this step and produce content which is not compatible with DASH.
Our dash.encrypt project provides a solution. It takes encoded video and audio from an array of different formats and repackages them as valid DASH streams. It also generates the required manifest which is the table of contents for the stream.
Hosted as a GitHub project, it is available as an open-source application written in Java. We provide everything you need to start creating DASH content and invite you to help refine the program.
Smooth Streaming and MPEG-DASH Client 2.5 SDK enables you to build rich IIS Smooth Streaming experiences for both on-demand and live IIS Smooth Streaming for Silverlight and Windows Phone 8 applications. In addition, MPEG Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) for Silverlight on-demand scenarios using the Live Profile support has been added to the 2.5 release.
MPEG DASH is now a supported feature, so developers that wish to move content libraries to DASH have the option of using DASH in places where Silverlight is supported. The existing SSME object model forms the basis of DASH support in the SSME. DASH concepts like Adaptation Sets and Representations have been mapped to their logical counterpart in the SSME. Adaptation Sets are exposed as Smooth Streams and Representations are exposed as Smooth Tracks. Existing Track selection and restriction APIs can be expected to function identically for Smooth and DASH content. In most other respects, DASH support is transparent to the user and a programmer who has worked with the SSME APIs can expect the same developer experience when working with DASH content.
The demonstration will be streaming DivX HEVC UltraHD (4K) video to a 4K TV set. The MPPA-256 , KALRAY’s first MPPA® MANYCORE processor coming with 256 cores on a single chip, will be used for a demonstration at CCBN 2014, being held in Beijing, China (Mar 20-22). The MPPA-256 processor demonstrates a complete Ultra HD HEVC live encoding based on DivX HEVC UltraHD video.
Kalray’s demnonstrator uses the MainConcept HEVC SDK that is capable of encoding a high-quality Ultra HD HEVC video at 30 fps using four MPPA®-256 processors which consume less than 50 Watts altogether. The decoding and live display will be shown on a commercially available Ultra HD TV.
This solution demonstrates a DASH stream playing in Adobe Flash. The license key is exchanged between DRMtoday's cloud service and the Unified Streaming Platform. Live or on-demand content is encrypted on-the-fly and delivered for protected playback to any device supporting the Adobe Access DRM.
NAGRA, the Kudelski Group digital TV business and the world’s leading independent provider of content protection and multiscreen television solutions, announced today that its DRM technology, NAGRA MediaAccess Persistent Rights Management (PRM), was approved by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) to protect the streaming of premium SD and HD content to open devices for its UltraViolet streaming service.
NAB 2014 wouldn't be the same without Livestream, one of the internet's most popular broadcasting services, introducing new hardware or software. As such, Livestream has just announced another way for users to share video on its site: an application for Google Glass. Obviously, Livestream isn't the first to bring this feature to the wearable set, since you can already use the search giant's own Hangouts app to broadcast what you're seeing.
At the conference this year, Adobe is demonstrating major product innovations, including MPEG-DASH and the new ultra high definition television (UHDTV) standard, which will enable media companies to deliver content across 4K enabled SmartTVs and other IP-connected devices. New capabilities in Adobe Primetime include:
- Cloud ad insertion offers maximum device scale and enables content monetization on any connected device without requiring client code for ad insertion. The technology supports all TV content and is compatible with HLS to deliver any ad to any viewer on any screen. The existing client-side ad insertion capability, which ensures that broadcasters don’t have to tap into large server capacities to reach large audiences, combined with cloud ad insertion, makes Primetime the industry’s only delivery and format agnostic solution for content monetization. It also offers maximum flexibility and scale for companies that sell TV ads across devices. Primetime cloud ad insertion is available today
- 4K support ensures that Primetime customers can deliver the highest resolution content to the latest set of digital home devices allowing consumers to enjoy stunning viewing experiences. Primetime leverages the latest UHDTV hardware capabilities to ensure fully optimized performance. Support for 4K is being previewed at NAB and is expected to ship in 2014
- Primetime 2.0 also offers support for the new MPEG-DASH streaming format in its core video engine layer. Support of the new industry standard gives programmers and operators the flexibility to deliver consistent video experiences across devices using their preferred format. MPEG-DASH support will ship by the end of 2014.
- In addition to desktop operating systems, SmartTVs, Android and iOS devices, Primetime 2.0 now supports XBox 360 gaming consoles and Roku devices.
First, and most significant, is that Apple now recommends using different audio bitrates for the different quality streams, starting at 64Kbps and scaling up to 128Kbps. In all previous versions of the Tech Note, Apple used 64Kbps across the board, which most authorities attributed to the potential for “popping” artifacts if a viewer switched to different rates during a stream switch. Adobe’s adaptive presets took the same approach, and most white papers on the subject advised the same.
The other major change is the adjustment of the recommended segment size from ten seconds to nine seconds, which cleared up the most enduring mystery of the Tech Note. As I wrote in How to Encode Video for HLS Delivery: "In terms of segment duration, the most confusing aspect of TN2224 is the recommendation of a segment size of ten seconds, and a keyframe interval of three seconds, as this wouldn’t seem to produce a keyframe at the start of each segment. Interestingly, the new default settings in Apple Compressor 4.1 follow these recommendations, creating a segment duration of ten seconds, but using a keyframe interval of three seconds.
In contrast, most authorities recommend making sure that the keyframe interval divides evenly into the segment size. For example, cloud encoder Zencoder’s well-written Best Practices for Encoding HLS Video states, “keyframe rate should be an even interval of the segment size.”
Harmonic today announced that its multiscreen transcoding and delivery ecosystem now supports workflows compatible with Adobe Primetime’s ad insertion capabilities, enabling monetization of multiscreen video delivery with Adobe’s state-of-the-art “TV everywhere” platform. The Harmonic Multiscreen Ad Insertion solution includes Harmonic’s ProMedia® Live real-time multiscreen transcoder, ProStream® with ACE® real-time transcoder, ProMedia Origin multiscreen packager and streaming video server, MediaGrid shared storage, as well as the WFS file-based workflow engine, which manages ProMedia Carbon or ProMedia Xpress file-based transcoders to prepare ad content for delivery. This workflow is compatible with the Adobe Primetime platform, which enables pay-TV service providers and broadcasters to insert advertising as well as manage program substitution and blackouts for any device with access to the web.
NanoTech Entertainment announced today that it has partnered with Ittiam Systems Ltd. to provide NanoTech's Nuvola NP-1 and NP-C consumer and commercial 4K Ultra HD streaming media players with HEVC (H.265) and VP9 support. NanoTech will join Ittiam in providing demonstrations of the newly enhanced players at Ittiam's NAB 2014 Booth SU11021 (Upper South Hall).
The demonstrations will show how Ittiam's Tegra-4 optimized 4K HEVC decoder running on Nuvola can effectively enable anyone with a 3 Mbps or greater pipe to stream 4K content to their Ultra HD TV. NanoTech's own 4K OTT Video Service, UltraFlix, along with the likes of Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and M-GO will all be able to stream amazing quality content to Nuvola customers at lower bit-rates than ever before.
While few companies of any kind are actually making money from HEVC (H.265) today, the successor to H.264 will become increasingly important during the next 2–3 years, perhaps even earlier in some markets for some producers. So understanding the current status of the technology and how to encode and potentially deploy HEVC in the near term is very relevant for most streaming media producers. Accordingly, in this article, I’ll review the state of HEVC and take a high-level look at the first generation of HEVC encoders.
For the last two years, I have been working to extend the capabilities to of the Origin Server for Window Azure Media Services. In January of 2013, Windows Azure Media Services (WAMS) became generally available as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) on Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. Just over a year later, it would stream the largest live sporting event in history – millions of concurrent users and over 10,000 hours of unique content over the 16-day Sochi Winter Olympic Games. This article describes the capabilities of Microsoft’s origin server, as well as the evolution of the product in the last two years to meet today’s demanding streaming media space.
“Interestingly, there is one special case where no-fee interconnection is embraced by the big ISPs — when they are connecting among themselves. They argue this is because roughly the same amount of data comes and goes between their networks. But when we ask them if we too would qualify for no-fee interconnect if we changed our service to upload as much data as we download (in other words, moving to peer-to-peer content delivery) — thus filling their upstream networks and nearly doubling our total traffic — there is an uncomfortable silence.”
This brings up an interesting question: Could Netflix actually do that?
Since 2012, YouTube has been trying to reduce dramatically the time it takes for a video to start from the moment you press play. Flash Networks (Mobixell at the time) was among the first to detect a new proprietary implementation called sliced bread.
The matter might seem trivial, but internal research from Google show that most users find a waiting time exceeding 200ms unacceptable for short videos.
YouTube has been developing a proprietary protocol, based on HTTP adaptive streaming DASH to decrease latency and start time for its videos.