If you got a plane for Amsterdam in September, there’s a chance that it’s not (only) to make you bulldog walking under the red lights : you will probably be undermining your new pair of shoes in the alleys of the RAI, seeking the freshness of streaming video innovations.
Each year the trip is too short – and the feet do hurt – especially if you didn’t carefully select your target booths in advance in order to see the more interesting technology breakthroughs. While making this preparation exercise, I thought that I could share my choices, in order to save your time and shoes a bit, and to hear back your tips as comments. So here are some suggestions of visits to arrange if your job is to build streaming-media-oriented-production-workflows like I do.
WebM is surely one of the hotest streaming topics right now, because it’s one of the two final HTML5 video standards with H.264. When Google bought On2 in 2009 and open-sourced its latest VP8 codec one year later, two promises were made : providing a codec which quality can compete with H.264 , and providing it in a royalty-free way. On the quality point, the general opinion is that the VP8 codec is slightly less performing than H.264 – but it can be an acceptable trade-off regarding the royalties point.
Precisely, the royalty-free point is the one which raises the more questions now, as MPEG-LA is said to have a lineup of 12 patent owners ready to claim their rights on intellectual property, as VP8 would use compression techniques taken from H.264. Seeing their fight against Google being a success would cause a major setback in HTML5 standardization efforts around open source solutions – WebM then being another coding technology subject to royalties after H.264. Nevertheless, the patent war has not started yet and WebM is still a good alternative to H.264, on the paper. And that’s why we are curious to know how we can implement it in our existing or upcoming workflows.
There are basically two ways to sustain the extensive growth of video formats that you must, as a media distributor, serve to your different target clients’ devices : the most common answer is to choose the best in breed most-powerful encoders to prepare all the target formats during the content preparation time, but you can adopt a different approach saying that you want to prepare your contents once and have the distribution part of the overall workflow take care of the repackaging and protection of the contents on the fly.
This alternative approach means : less files to manage in the main production workflow, less storage, less bandwidth to populate the origin servers, smaller time to contents’ online availability and easier support for new formats – shortly said, an agile path. Potentially a risky one, but quite attractive…
Maybe some of you remember the Tarari Encoder Accelerator for Windows Media which came on market in 2005 as a FPGA loaded PCI board. It was a 10K$ investment but it could seriously boost your encoder performances and it was a transparent solution for all encoders integrating Windows Media SDK. That was maybe the only real reliable option to do HD encoding decently at that time. More confidential were the Ambric cards for accelerating MainConcept H.264 and MPEG-2 SDK, which were found to be working with Inlet Armada transcoding farm.
Since these days, Tarari boards vanished, Windows Media encoding has been somehow outshined by H.264 and CPU performances have made great jumps, but the needs for hardware accelerated encoding solutions is still there…