Andy Warman

By: Andy Warman on May 6th, 2020

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Transcode Video in the Cloud to Streamline OTT Multiscreen Delivery

The number of video streaming devices used per household is growing steadily. Recent research states that 31% of adults watch video via a connected TV device daily. And about three-quarters of all TV households in the U.S. today have at least one connected TV device, with an average of 3.9 devices per connected TV household. But also, outside of the US, there is a global trend of watching video on multiple screens. One report found that more than 75% of worldwide video viewing is mobile.

Due to the rise in mobile viewing, video transcoding has become a critical task for broadcasters, pay-TV operators and content providers.

Video transcoding basics

Video transcoding involves converting compressed media content from one digital encoding format to another. It is typically a two-step process that starts with decoding. Then, the video is re-encoded into a new format.

During the transcoding process, you can edit three essential elements of digital video: the file format, the video, and the audio. You can also add watermarks, graphics and logos to the video during the transcoding process. Harmonic’s VOS®360 platforms unify your workflows and simplify the entire video processing chain.

Video transcoding is a necessity for high quality, simplified video delivery

Transcoding is important for broadcast and OTT delivery because today’s consumers are more connected than ever before. Here are several key reasons why you might need to transcode a digital video file:

  • The target end-user device doesn’t support the original file format, or you want to deliver the content in a more modern format: In the video streaming environment, there are many different formats and types of devices. The industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies and next-generation formats on the horizon. Video transcoding simplifies the conversion of video into multiple types of formats, allowing you to prepare content using different codecs, bitrates, resolutions and file sizes. Why is this useful? An end-user’s device might not support the format of the original file. Or, you might want to take advantage of advances in compression technology.
  • Optimize and ensure a superior QoE: In the OTT environment, viewers have access to varying internet speeds. You need to be able to deliver high-quality, high-resolution video to users that have a high-speed broadband connection, while at the same time delivering lower-resolution video to viewers with slower connections.

If the digital video file is too large and contains a lot of data, it will consume a significant amount more storage and bandwidth during distribution. For example, digital cinema files are large by nature and may need to be recompressed for smaller screen sizes like smartphones. Harmonic is a leader in video compression. Our EyeQ™ Content-Aware Encoding leverages artificial intelligence. These enhancements are built on top of Harmonic's software-based PURE Compression Engine™ to deliver a superior viewing experience on any device at low bitrates. These solutions can help you reduce bandwidth consumption by up to 50%.  

Video transcoding also allows you to prepare content in multiple bitrates and thereby reduce the file size for devices with a limited storage capacity. Using more efficient codecs is strategic. You can compress video files and remove any inessential data from the video. Reducing the file size makes it possible to view video across all platforms and devices. It widens your audience reach and it also allows you to decrease buffering and latency, which are key to viewer satisfaction, especially for live OTT streaming. 

Cloud-based video transcoding is a growing trend

Depending on your business objectives, you’ll want a solution that is flexible enough to evolve as you grow. Although many deployment options are available today a file-based transcoding software as a service (SaaS) offers distinct advantages. Here are the top benefits of using a cloud-based transcoding service:

  • Exceptional video quality. Whether you’re delivering SD or UHD video, the quality has to be exceptional. Cloud-based transcoding services support a wide range of formats, codecs and encoding schemes so that you can deliver broadcast-quality video at low bitrates. Some of the digital input formats and codecs that are widely used in the industry today include MPEG-TS, MP4, ProRes, MXF and XDCAM. As formats evolve, you can more quickly adopt these new technologies using a software compared with a hardware transcoding solution.
  • Increased efficiency and scalability: Unlike traditional on-premises transcoding farms, when you rely on a cloud service there is no need to worry about allocating power, network, cooling, and space to build and maintain a large enough cluster for your day-to-day transcoding workloads. The cloud can be a more efficient way to transcode video files. It’s also super scalable. From as scalability standpoint, your cloud transcoding service provider will monitor the infrastructure and automatically allocate resources according based on your needs.
  • Quick content turnaround: Today’s broadcasters and service providers are delivering more content to more screens than ever before. Using a cloud-based transcoding service you can turnaround content faster. A key factor in speedy delivery is having user-friendly platforms — from the initial on-boarding and configurations to creating your first transcoding job. If it’s intelligently designed, you’ll be able to start your first transcoding job within minutes of signing up for the service.
  • Stay cost-effective: When you choose a cloud transcoding service that is based on a SaaS business model, you only pay only for what you use. This usage-based pricing model is perfect for any type of service provider because there is no significant upfront investment in infrastructure. Transcoding pricing is tailored to usage patterns.
  • High availability and reliability: Cloud transcoding services are built upon multiple public cloud infrastructure platforms. In other words, they are designed to provide operational resiliency. You don’t have to worry about system availability or reliability. A transcoding service provider like Harmonic can operate and monitor your system around the clock, non-stop.

Harmonic's File360 is a dedicated file-based transcoding software as a service (SaaS) that transforms virtually any asset to the most popular distribution formats used today in broadcast and OTT. It leverages a cloud infrastructure to offer highly flexible and dynamically scalable transcoding farms at the most competitive rates. File360 delivers high-performance transcoding through parallel processing to handle even the most demanding and time-sensitive transcoding workloads, all at very competitive rates.

Video transcoding in the cloud offers flexibility and efficiency

Cloud transcoding services are flexible, scalable and operationally efficient. With cloud transcoding, you can instantly expand your transcoding capacity as your video service grows.

One of the major advantages of SaaS is that there is no on-premise equipment, so no installation is needed. You can integrate cloud transcoding services with your backend systems quickly through APIs. Also, the cloud is future proof. So as new formats and technologies become available, you can quickly support them.

Leveraging a public cloud infrastructure for transcoding you can handle even the most demanding and time-sensitive transcoding workloads, cost-effectively. Even more importantly, you can ensure you’re delivering exceptional video quality on all screens at low bitrates. Transcoding is an important part of video processing and delivery and you can optimize your entire workflow using the cloud. Want to learn more about the benefits of cloud-based file transcoding for broadcast and OTT delivery? Contact us today to start a conversation.

About Andy Warman

Andy Warman is the Director of playout solutions at Harmonic. He provides business development and strategic direction for Harmonic’s line of playout enabled solutions for cloud and appliances including Spectrum media server, the Polaris automation suite, MediaGrid shared storage solutions and VOS cloud-native media processing. Warman also serves on the board of directors ofthe Alliance for the IP Media Solutions (AIMS) and chairs the trade association’s Marketing Working Group. Warman joined Harmonic after 11 years at Harris Broadcast in product management, where he drove Harris’ channel-in-a-box strategy, server platform and storage consolidation initiatives. With deep domain experience in the production and playout arena, he also has experience in automation, news production, content creation and infrastructure common to broadcast workflows. Andy holds a degree in Electronics and Management Science from the University of Kent at Canterbury.