Cloud-based live streaming removes the complexity and lowers the costs of multiplatform content delivery.
The trend toward multiscreen content delivery is having a profound influence on the way people access, view and use media — fueled by the explosion of smartphones, tablet computers, Internet-connected TVs and streaming services for on-demand programming. Broadcasters realize that the era of linear distribution and traditional playout has passed. Now, they're eager to take advantage of emerging technologies that enable live OTT streaming of events such as sports, concerts and live pre-event, post-event and fan-oriented programming to the platforms that viewers demand.
Live event streaming to multiple platforms can present significant challenges. In many cases, on-location uplink bandwidth is severely limited, and preparing the multiple renditions needed for adaptive bit-rate streaming to each different type of mobile device requires additional investments additional investment in on-site encoding hardware, bandwidth and infrastructure. Haivision Network Video has addressed these challenges with its HyperStream Live cloud-based live video transcoding service, designed to reduce the cost and complexity of OTT multiplatform content delivery. The system automatically transcodes live video source streams into the many formats and data rates required to distribute live video via the Internet and deliver the streams to any screen regardless of device, player, screen size or bandwidth.
HyperStream Live makes maximum use of limited uplink bandwidth, providing the equivalent of more than 30Mb/s of H.264 multibit-rate, multiplatform video streams from a single 2Mb/s source stream. In extreme situations, it is possible for broadcasters to stream high-quality multibit-rate, multiplatform video from the field with as little as 1Mb/s in available uplink bandwidth.
The system moves the task of transcoding the live stream to the cloud, where computing resources and bandwidth are abundant. At the event location, a video encoder is used to compress the source video to the highest quality RTMP or transport stream allowed by the uplink bandwidth and then deliver it to a HyperStream Live cloud transcoder. The service uses Haivision's KulaByte H.264 transcoder to turn the source stream into the multiple formats and bit rates needed for the required delivery platforms.
The cloud-based service then repackages the transcoded streams for delivery to the playback devices, freeing the on-site technician from the detailed setup. Finally, the system directs the output streams to a content delivery network (CDN). (See Figure 1.) For customers lacking video player expertise, HyperStream Live specialists can also provide player development.
The same software that drives the cloud service is also available in the KulaByte (KB) Transcoder, which can be implemented as software or as a turnkey transcoding server in the broadcaster's data center or on their own cloud-based account. This option is suited to organizations that would prefer to operate their own transcoding service internally or that have 24/7 transcoding requirements that make cloud services less economically attractive.
The cloud service supports H.264 video and AAC audio compression, as well as Adobe's Flash (RTMP) and Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocols. It is interoperable with any device supporting live Flash playback, including desktops, laptops and mobile devices such as Android, and the Apple iPhone and iPad.
The cloud transcoder also is compatible with the most prevalent streaming servers in the Internet streaming ecosystem, including Flash Media Server from Adobe and Wowza Media Server from Wowza Media Systems. Likewise, it is compatible with top-tier content delivery networks, including Akamai, Limelight Networks, EdgeCast, StreamGuys, CloudFront and more.
The source encoder provides an easy-to-use graphical interface with preset selection, video preview, audio gain adjustment, local archive file chaptering control and status monitors. With sufficient workflow information up front, Haivision specialists can provide ready-to-run presets for the source encoder to simplify system setup. Using Haivision's Hydra software, the company's engineers or the broadcaster can operate both the source encoder and the cloud service (or the transcoding server option) remotely for testing, stream optimization, and to monitor and manage resources during an event.
HyperStream Live is based on Haivision's KulaByte encoding technology, in daily use by major broadcasters for highly challenging live sports coverage such as football, golf and auto racing, as well as for live events as varied the Nobel Peace Prize Awards from Oslo, the South by Southwest Music Festival, the Newport Folk Festival, the New Year's Phish concert series from Madison Square Garden and extreme sports throughout Europe.
With audiences increasingly consuming media on many different types of devices and networks, HyperStream Live and KulaByte Transcoders provide high-quality, reliable, multibit-rate output streams to the full range of playback devices, even from challenging low-bandwidth locations. The system gives content publishers a multibit-rate, multiplatform live video delivery system without the need to invest in expensive, dedicated encoder hardware and preprovisioned bandwidth. Finally, it significantly reduces the technical complexity of configuring and executing multibit-rate, multiplatform live online video streaming.
Peter Forman is vice president of the Internet Media Division at Haivision Network Video.