While most of IBC’s buzz was generated by the shiny HEVC + 4K couple, it was a good occasion to stand back from the hype and measure how one of the most important video standards (at least for the OTT world) had spread over the industry since last year. MPEG-DASH is not sexy (let’s remember that it’s basically a collection of XML schemes), it’s a bit boring (as it’s usually demonstrated with the Big Buck Bunny that you saw not less than 2.000 times) and it’s complex – but once you go past those defaults, you might find that its potential to simplify your workflows and boost the profitability of your video service is high…
And that’s precisely what the industry has finally understood: video distributors want to streamline their workflows and save their storage budgets by reducing the number of output formats, they search for ways to build long term strategies with evolutive solutions – and all of this implies rolling away from proprietary ABR solutions like Smooth Streaming, HLS, HDS and the now defunct Widevine WVM proprietary packaging format (rest in peace), DASH’s first victim.
A contrasted situation
Two and a half years after DASH became a Draft International Standard, the industry is balanced between hopes and scepticism. On the positive side, we can notice that DASH, being supported in roughly a hundred of solutions, has really made its way outside the labs into the real production workflows and gathered a wide industry consensus with strong supporters like Microsoft, Netflix or Google. The growing number of DASH Industry Forum participants is a good indicator of traction, and we see some deciding factors shaping up for boosting DASH traction: HbbTV 1.5 is on the verge of becoming a reality in Europe and DASH as a HEVC transport layer pushes strongly in Japan. Widevine’s quiet but steady move of dropping their proprietary packaging for DASH is a really strong signal for the rest of the industry, as it is showing that today there is no strong market position that can justify getting bogged down in futureless architecture choices (some might still not have gotten the memo).
On the dark side of the force, the DASH supporters are facing a not-so-shiny field situation where deployments are still a perspective and the 30-days-trial a reality: people are still evaluating the technology and making up their mind on which profile to use, heating up the calculators to check how they can really save on their current budget given the reality of the DASH+CENC+Multi-DRM support on the client-side nowadays. Let’s face it: migrating to DASH for existing services might not be really interesting because the cost of this migration, and the difficulties to achieve it on all target devices, makes it a no-brainer. They would rather go on with their existing HLS/HDS/Smooth Streaming workflows which are stable and roughly interoperable inside their own subdomains, that’s a kind of reassuring Yalta equilibrium for many of us. The question is different for HbbTV services: they don’t have other choice than implementing DASH now. Early HEVC adopters neither, as using HEVC in ISO BMFF profile is the natural way as of now – but we might see alternative transport mechanisms finally challenging DASH on it in the upcoming years (see for example Haivision SRT). To summarize, H.264-based HbbTV and HEVC are currently the main drivers for DASH adoption, but this is not sufficient to accelerate the deployment rythm right now.
What’s missing? For the Premium OTT services, the most important penalty factor might be that Common Encryption+Multi-DRM is still very emerging (read below) and therefore they cannot leverage it yet to mutualize their packaged output between all their devices which generally require 2 to 3 different DRMs for the full coverage. Once CENC+Multi-DRM will be widely supported on both content preparation and client-side ends, there is no doubt that the boost will be massive as the budget savings on storage and the gain in workflows simplicity will be HUGE. Two other important interop bricks are missing to DASH today: key exchange mechanisms between DASH packagers and DRM servers, a painful track on which the DASH-IF is currently working, and a standardized ingest protocol. I questionned encoder/transcoder/packager providers on their preference on this and usually they mention WebDav first. The only dissonant voice was coming from the Unified Streaming team, considering that the Smooth Streaming ingest protocol was the most efficient and widely used in the industry and therefore could easily be patched for DASH ingest. My take on this is that the current situation will persist, meaning that big CDNs will decide which ingest protocol/encoder authentication methods they prefer, and the rest of the industry will comply. Hopefully no new protocol will be invented on the way…
Did you say “fragmentation risks”?
Gossips might sneer that there is almost as much DASH profiles, if not more, as the classic ABR flavors, which makes of DASH a modern techno swamp. But the reality is a bit different on the field: very few technology providers have implemented the two TS profiles, the 3GP profile or the Full profile – and the industry is concentrating its support efforts around ISO BMFF On-demand and Live profiles, as well as on the now famous DASH-AVC/264 profile which is a subset of the ISO profiles. The DASH Industry Forum has acknowledged that the initial DASH-AVC/264 approach was falling a bit short in the cruel light of the upcoming 4K, so the 1080p was introduced in the August Interoperability Points 2.0 recommendation, alongside multichannel audio. Apart from the absence of playlist support, the major difference between DASH-AVC/264 and ISO BMFF profiles remains the lack of support for muxed contents (only elementary streams are supported in DASH-AVC/264) which is however not a problem for multi-language content providers in quest of storage space optimization. Fragmentation risks might still come from the “outside world”, for example if Apple finally decides to support the TS DASH profiles, and/or if their new DRM scheme doesn’t fit with the Common Encryption specification.
This hypothesis raises another question: is there a fragmentation risk regarding DRMs applied to DASH ? Apart from the fact that the UltraViolet consortium is multiplying the number of qualified DRMs each day while no requirement enforces an UV-compliant player to implement more than one DRM client component, the situation is rather stable as the Common Encryption (CENC) and the pssh headers boxes standardized for multi-DRM data objects storage are rather consensual among the industry. Now the question is more to prove in the field that this can be a reality. Unified Streaming was the only booth to demonstrate it at IBC, with two different DRM key types retrieved from the same DASH fragments (PlayReady and Verimatrix) by various iOS/Android players. Elsewhere on the DASH packaging booths the attitude was more a “wait and see customer demand” one, a rather classical approach where the first customer for a given DRM finances the integration costs, or an equally classical “we are on it for the next release”. Until the DRM key exchange mechanisms between DASH packagers and DRM servers will have been standardized, this will however stay as a lab proof of concept that you could not easily reproduce in real-life workflows, all the more than Adobe Access DRM compatibility with CENC has not been clearly demonstrated yet. Microsoft finally announced a DASH/CENC-centric version of PlayReady which will hopefully be adopted by all industry actors and will prevent us from meeting again the same lack of interoperability which prevailed in a recent past for HLS+PlayReady combinations.
Where is DASH playing?
On the mobile/tablet front the DASH-compliant players are mushrooming (CENC+Multi-DRM ones being the minority temporarily) as if HLS was not a so universal solution, and the trend of DASH+HEVC gets reinforced by the market push of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chipset which makes HEVC decoding a reality at high frame sizes, including on new STB environments. STBs are precisely the new playing field for DASH, as AirTies embedded Opera SDK in its products and SoftAtHome is launching its DASH-ready SOP6 Middleware, joining Netview SDK on this market sub-segment. On other embedded sub-markets, HbbTV 1.5 TVs/STBs is clearly the number one market for DASH with big players like Sony, Samsung and Philips pushing ahead for DASH (respectively with Marlin, PlayReady and Marlin DRMs) with LG and Panasonic to follow later this year. One major question here is to know how much of the “old” HbbTV deployed TVs will see their firmware upgradable for DASH. On the media players front, the arrival of Chromecast might boost the deployments but the device whitelisting process is still a bit too restrictive to allow widespread development of DASH-with-DRM enabled applications – PlayReady and Widevine being supported here on the paper with DASH packaging.
What’s on the horizon for DASH?
A major step will be achieved later this year when the DASH Industry Forum will have completed its HEVC integration evaluation, leading to a DASH-HEVC/265 profile recommendation that the market is definitely needing in order to sustain long-term support of HEVC through DASH, the current early-adopter HEVC field tests being too vulnerable in terms of standardization. Still, IBC was a good occasion to see live DASH+HEVC encoding demonstrations at Fraunhofer, Thomson Video Networks, Allegro and Elemental booths. DASH+HEVC players are not very common today (Ittiam, VisualOn, Fraunhofer, GPAC) but this might quickly change as HEVC is concentrating much hopes and efforts everywhere in the industry.
DASH-IF recently tried to integrate the multichannel audio various de-facto standards into DASH-AVC/264 recommendations, introducing recommendations for Dolby Digital Plus/Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD and the more confidential MPEG Surround and HE-AAC Profile v2 level 6 standards. Today DTS-HD seems to gather most of the attention (with Elemental and Castlabs as encoding and player partners), while Fraunhofer integrates 7.1 HE-AAC and Unified Streaming does Dolby Digital Plus. No real consensus here. On the QoS/QoE front, the first DASH implementations are surfacing in appliances from Witbe, Bridge Tech and Agama, as well as Bridge Tech mobile apps, so it may be interpreted as an additional positive sign of industry definitive acceptance for DASH.
Where is DASH currently deploying?
YouTube is clearly pushing DASH on Chrome browsers, Netflix is using DASH+PlayReady on Chromium devices and IE11, and in Europe FilmoTV just announced the use of DASH without much details. Still, we are anticipating a number of DASH deployments in Europe linked to HbbTV TV sets/STBs market availability in France (MYTF1VOD service by SyncTV/httv), Spain (Albertis Telecom service by Harmonic/Nagra) and Germany (Eutelsat’s Humax and Abox STB-compliant service by Tvinci).
As regards the packaging cloud providers, DASH packaging has been announced in beta on Azure Windows Media Services, and in production with Wowza or Elemental Cloud deployed on Amazon EC2. The overall current deployment pace not being much propped, it’s difficult to predict how it will evolve in the coming months. However we don’t take much risks by saying that the CENC+Multi-DRM push-up trend is gonna boost the adoption rate as it is representating a real frontier in terms of workflow optimization for all Premium services.
Interoperability is still a moving target as the multiplicity of DASH profiles, audio and DRM possibilities makes it a hard exercise – but now that DASH has clearly developped a vibrant ecosystem around the bare standard, this is a major key for long-term stability in the OTT industry, all the more that HEVC is just around the corner with another level of interop challenges to overcome. Follow the white rabbit
DASH-Enabled Encoders / Transcoders
|Allegro||AL2400 / AL1000||Live Transcoder / Live Encoder||Product / Product|
|Digital Rapids||StreamZ Live 8000EX||Live Encoder||Product (support announced)|
|Elemental||Live / Server||Live Encoder-Transcoder / File2File Transcoder||Product / Product|
|MediaExcel||Hero Live||Live Encoder-Transcoder||Product|
|RadiantGrid||Intelligent Media Transformation Platform 8.1||File2File Transcoder||PR|
|RealNetworks||Helix Broadcaster||Live Encoder-Transcoder||Product|
DASH-Enabled Packagers / Servers
|BuyDRM||KeyOS Media Server||Packager||Product|
|Envivio||Halo NMP||Packager-Origin server||PR|
|Packet Ship||OverView:Origin||Packager-Origin server||Product|
|RealNetworks||Helix Universal Server||Streaming server||Product|
|RGB Networks||Transact Packager||Packager||Product|
|Seawell Networks||Spectrum||Packager||Product / PR|
|Unified Streaming||Unified Streaming Platform Live / VOD||Packager-Origin server||Product / Product|
|Wowza||Media Server||Packager-Origin server-Streaming server||Product|
DASH-Enabled Cloud Services
|Bitmovin||Bitcodin||Transcoding platform||Service (announced)|
|Microsoft||Azure Media Services||Video processing platform||Service / Walkthrough|
|Elemental||Cloud (Amazon AWS)||Transcoding platform||Service|
|Wowza||Media Server (Amazon AWS)||Streaming platform||PR|
|ABOX42||Smart SDK||Embedded SDK||Product|
|BuyDRM||KeyOS client SDKs||Mobile SDK / Desktop SDK||Product / Product|
|DASH Industry Forum||DASH-JS||Framework||Product / Documentation|
|ITEC||DASH VLC Plugin||Desktop Player||Product|
|DeniVIP||DASH client for iOS||Mobile SDK||Announced|
|Digital Primates||OSMF player||Desktop Player||Announced|
|Discretix||Secure Player||Mobile SDK||Product|
|Fraunhofer HHI||DASH client SDK||Desktop SDK||PR|
|Chrome / Chromecast||Browser / Media Player||Info / Howto|
|GPAC||GPAC Player||Desktop player||Product|
|Inside Secure||DRM Fusion Agent / Downloadable DRM Fusion Agent||Embedded SDK / Mobile SDK||Product / Product
|Microsoft||Internet Explorer 11 / Player Framework for Windows 8 and WP8||Browser / Mobile SDK||PR / Product|
|Netview||SDKs||Embedded SDK / Mobile SDK||Product / Product|
|NXP||QuickPlayer||Android Player||Product / PR|
|RealNetworks||Helix HLS/DASH SDK for Android||Android SDK||Presentation|
|Samsung||Smart TV (2012+)||TV SDK||Product|
|VisualOn||OnStream MediaPlayer+||Mobile / Desktop SDK||Product|
|Allegro||AL1200 / AL2200||Live Encoder / Live Transcoder||Product|
|Elemental / Qualcomm / VisualOn||Live / SnapDragon 800 / OnStream MediaPlayer+||Live workflow||PR / PR|
|Fraunhofer IIS, HHI and FOKUS||HEVC toolset / Famium||Live/on-demand workflow||PR|
|Ittiam||DASH Player SDK / HEVC decoder||Player SDKs||PR|
|SoftAtHome||SOP6 Middleware||STB SDK||PR|
|Thomson Video Networks / Qualcomm||ViBE VS7000 / SnapDragon 800||Live workflow||PR|
|Unified Streaming||Unified Streaming Platform||Packager-Origin server||PR|
|castLabs||Player||DTS-HD player||News / PR|
|Dolby||Dolby Digital Plus SDK||SDK||PR|
|Elemental||Live||DTS-HD Live Encoder-Transcoder||News / PR|
|Fraunhofer||7.1 HE-AAC||7.1 workflow||PR|
|Unified Streaming||Unified Streaming Platform||DTS Express, 7.1 HE-AAC Packager-Origin server||PR / PR|
DASH-Enabled QoS/QoE Systems
|Agama||Analyzer OTT||Monitoring appliance||PR|
|Bridge Tech||OTT engine / Pocket Probe||Monitoring appliance / Mobile monitoring application||Product / Product|
|Tektronix||Sentry ABR||Monitoring appliance||Product|
|Skyfire||Rocket Optimizer||Cloud Video QoE Measurement solution||Product / PR|
|Witbe||OTT Robots||Monitoring appliance||PR|
|Anevia||ViaMotion 3.4||Packager-Origin server||PR|
|Fraunhofer Fokus||FAMIUM Ecosystem for DASH & DRM Applications||Solution||Product|
|Intertrust||ExpressPlay||DRM Licence delivery service and client SDK||Service|
|Microsoft||PlayReady||Client/Server SDK||PR / Whitepaper / DASH Guidelines|
|Unified Streaming||Unified Streaming Platform||Packager-Origin server||PR|
|Verimatrix||VCAS for DASH||Client/Server SDK||PR|
|Viaccess-Orca||Connected Sentinel||DRM solution||PR|
|Widevine||Widevine DRM||Client/Server SDK||Product|
|Wowza||Media Server||Packager-Origin server-Streaming server||PR|
|BBC R&D||MPEG-DASH test media||Encoding samples||Product|
|GPAC||DASHcast / MP4Box||Transcoder-Packager / Segmenter||Product / Product|
|ITEC||MPD validation Service / SVC Bitstream Reordering for SVC-DASH / Dataset / Distributed DASH dataset / DASHEncoder / DASH over CCN||Complete toolkit||1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6|
|Digital TV Labs||Ligada iSuite for DASH||Interoperability test suite||Product|
|Path 1||Pixie||Point to point solution||Product|
|Perpetual Solutions||Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP Using MPEG-DASH Training||Training||Product|
PS 1: If your product/service supporting DASH is not listed in this page, ping me for a list update.
PS 2: Given the uncertain percentage of interoperability between various DASH-enabled components when you combine all the profile capabilities, multi-channel audio and DRM extensions of DASH, I thought I could spend the most of my upcoming year’s free-time handling interop tests, so if you want me to include your software/hardware DASH-compliant solution in the scope of the upcoming studies that will be published on the blog, don’t hesitate to contact me in order to arrange this step.
Finally, here are some good pointers I do recommend you to dig deeper into MPEG-DASH…
And of course my 8 pages of curated articles going back to May 2011 in the history of DASH…
BONUS : ETAT DE L’ECOSYSTEME MPEG-DASH, LA PRES’ EN FRANCAIS !
Une présentation spécialement réalisée pour un évènement de partage d’expérience du collectif OnlineVideoFrenchSquad (OVFSquad) le 17/10/13.
Message de service pour tous les oufs de la online video francophones : rejoignez OVFSquad sur LinkedIn et Twitter, ça envoie du poney (promis, on vous explique cette private dès que vous êtes membre )