Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Getting traditional content ready for the web

Martin Wahl explains how the Olympics were webcast
Everyone agrees that web-based streaming is the fastest growing segment of the digital entertainment market, but that doesn't help those with libraries of traditionally-created content to be able to take advantage of it without some effort and tools. Jan Skoglund, of Google's Chrome team moderated a panel on some of the tools available to effectively provide traditional entertainment over the web.

Renganathan Ramamoorthy, also from Google, led off by discussing the background of Google's VP9 codec, that has been instrumental in providing content streams beyond HD over the internet. VP9 was designed to be a web-native codec, as a better-performing alternative to re-using codecs that were originally developed for other media. The growth of video to over half of all web traffic -- and especially the rapid growth in mobile video -- made it critical for large content players like Google to figure out a way to deliver high-quality content with less bandwidth.

Google knew that whatever codec it developed would need to be usable across a variety of devices and bandwidths -- thus adaptable. To make that happen it needed to be available to everyone. Its development would need to keep pace with the rapid pace of web development. The result -- VP9 -- provides equivalent quality to H.264 while using significantly less bandwidth.

Microsoft's Martin Wahl -- the panel's only non-Googler -- provided a user perspective by discussing how the 2014 Winter Olympics were cloud cast using Microsoft technology. He began with the challenges -- mostly the highly-complex technologies needed and the large capital outlay required. But with Live events being the most compelling broadcast entertainment, the motivation to deliver them as streams over the cloud is compelling.

Wahl showed another reason streaming can be value-added to broadcasters. Over the years that Microsoft has worked with NBC to add viewing options for the Olympics, the total amount of time watched per viewer has increased -- even the amount of TV viewing increased, before adding in the additional viewing time on PCs, tablets, and smartphones. To help media capture that additional revenue, Microsoft created Azure Media Services as a complete cloud-based solution for content owners and broadcasters to stream and then monetize their content.

Anil Kokaram and Doug Stallard from Google's YouTube rounded out the panel with a discussion of how better video really does make a difference to its users and how VP9 is helping them deliver it while using less bandwidth.

-- David Cardinal, for SMPTE & SCIEN

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