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Adobe: 2013 Will Be the Year of Discovery for MPEG DASH
MPEG DASH holds promise for simplifying the fractured world of online video delivery, but it's not quite ready for primetime.
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MPEG DASH might be the future of online video, but how far off is that future? At the recent Streaming Media West conference in Los Angeles, Kevin Towes, senior product manager at Adobe, sat down for a red carpet interview to discuss the format's fate.

"Why it's so exciting for people is that its hope is that it can help simplify the workflows specifically for broadcasters, and if you think about the workflows today to deliver to Flash on the desktop and to iOS and to Android and connect to TVs, there are multiple workflows almost for every single device which means more content encoding, more content storage, multiple DRMs, multiple frame sizes, and it gets extremely complicated and super expensive for broadcasters," Towes said. "So the spirit of MPEG DASH is to suggest a way where one format, one encryption format, one storage mechanism, one delivery method can be used across all of these devices. And so why everybody is excited about it is because it helps reduce costs, it helps reduce fragmentation, it helps increase the interoperability between encoders and content delivery networks and video players."

Will 2013 be the year of MPEG DASH. Not quite, but look for DASH to play a bigger role.

"There is still a lot more work to do," Towes noted. "In 2012 I like to think of it as that's the year of awareness. Next year is going to be the year in 2013 the year of discovery. How can you attach some of these encoders and CDNs and players and devices together to really demonstrate the resiliency and the vision of what DASH is trying to present? And then as we go through that it's about then operationalizing it, getting DASH into the hands of the consumers from a more viewable point of view."

Scroll down to view the full interview with Kevin Towes.

Troy: Hi everyone, this is Troy Dreier from streamingmedia.com coming to you from the red carpet at Streaming Media West in Los Angeles. We like to have some informal conversations with the leaders of our industry. Joining me today, Kevin Towes of Adobe, hi Kevin. Please tell everybody what you do.

Kevin: Hi, Troy. Thanks for having me. I'm the Senior Product Manager at Adobe responsible for media delivery. What that means is responsible for the technologies that include internet protocols, video delivery protocols that deliver video to desktop and to mobile devices.

Troy: I know you recently took part in a major release from Adobe, the release of Adobe Media Server. Right? We've been hearing about it for months and months but it finally just came out recently, right?

Kevin: Exactly, the Adobe Media Server version 5, we're very proud of that product. It celebrates its tenth year as a product this year and has changed the world many times over through its RTMP and content protection technologies like RTMPE, and adaptive bit rate technologies like dynamic streaming. Adobe Media Server has evolved since we started ten years ago as a communications server. This fifth release of the product represents a pretty big milestone. Last year we introduced version 4.5 which introduced the first time we delivered video to a non-flash client. It was a pretty big move. With version 5 we completed that development with the support for content protection on the Apple platform. And so that we can apply full DRM with Adobe Access mapped with Adobe Media Server. As well as our Adobe Access Protective Streaming technology which is an innovation from Adobe which allows you to have very simple publishing workflow for both Flash and for iOS devices so that you don't need to have complicated storage or complicated kind of protection workflows. So Adobe Access Protected Streaming is now supported in Apple devices like the iOS platform.

Troy: Big news, big moves. Now like you said this is not a new product but it is a new name. So what's in a name?

Kevin: There's a lot in a name and what we were really most excited about with the new name was it represents the media server now as a media server that is limitless in possibilities and endpoints. As we see more and more devices whether it's Android or Apple or even Microsoft devices entering the market, we wanted to position the Adobe Media Server as a technology that was a media server, not specifically just Flash. We continue to do Flash extremely well but we wanted to make sure that our customers were able to extend that experience across the devices that they wanted to, meeting all of the requirements that they have to meet for premium content or enterprise-level content whether it's a movie or an episodic TV show or even your corporate enterprise video. So requirements like closed captioning and content protection are all part of it.

Troy: I've been very impressed that rather than getting protectionist about Flash or fighting against Apple, you guys just want to make the tools that people use to do the best job.

Kevin: That's right. We're in the business of making video look great and we're extending that business to help customers monetize that content through analytics as well as ad insertion, and so we're absolutely thrilled that we can extend that experience across multiple devices beyond Flash.

Troy: So Adobe Media server, formerly Flash Media Server for those of you who didn't know, is a part, a component of a new system you have called Project Primetime, is this right? You have to explain this to me because I'm still getting my head around what Project Primetime is.

Kevin: Project Primetime is about enabling a monetization workflow for our broadcast partners and what that really means is every single part of the publishing workflow is what Primetime is trying to address. Whether it's publishing, that means packaging or preparing your content it could be content encryption. It could be delivery and encoding. Project Primetime enables all of those components to come together under one umbrella which ends at the client, at the device that you're consuming that video on. That device contains information as you're consuming video that can inform the ad that gets displayed on the device. And for those broadcasters whose business model it is to use ads to monetize their content, then Project Primetime enables that so it's about tying analytics with advertising, with rich content publishing and content protection all under one package.

Troy: But there isn't one piece of software that people can buy called Project Primetime, right?

Kevin: No it's not one product like Adobe Media Server. It's a suite of products if you will that includes in some of our recent acquisitions such as Autitude or Demdex which we now call Audience Manager which allows you to take data whether it's created by Omniture or created by Adobe Pass or created by a third party data system, we can bring that into Adobe and create segments and inform decisions for the ads that get displayed. And so from a consumer's point of view the value they have is they're watching ads that are relative to them, that they're interested in. The value to a broadcaster is they're able to say to their advertisers we can deliver an audience with this profile.

Troy: And Primetime even works with third-party ad servers, is that right?

Kevin: It's a nuance. Ad delivery servers could be you content delivery network, it could be your CMS or your OVP. But what we try to do is say if you want to use a separate ad delivery system, that's great. We don't do ad delivery. What Primetime is all about is ad decisioning, and the real value to broadcasters is that informed segmentation of the market so that they can target the ads.

Troy: Now Primetime is also fairly new but it sounds like you already have some fairly major clients for it.

Troy: That's right. We've been working very hard over the last 12 months as we've brought in Autitude and brought in Demdex into our platform and aligned with Adobe Media Server and Adobe Access. Over the last 12 months we've been working closely with companies like the BBC as well as NBC. With the BBC we helped obviously on the Olympics this past summer where Project Primetime's publishing components, this was Adobe Media Server as well as partnerships with encoders and content delivery networks were able to produce a system for simulcasting the games. We also introduced something called Primetime Highlights which allowed the BBC to take data to create clips and on demand clips which were consumed across multiple devices. And on NBC we actually did a lot of the ad decisioning and delivery part of that where the other part of Primetime which is analytics and ads was used with the NBC games.

Troy: Now you're here at Streaming Media West speaking at a panel on MPEG DASH. Let's talk a little bit about DASH. Maybe you could tell people just what it is and why is it getting so much hype?

Kevin: MPEG DASH is about an industry standard video platform. It's a about a file format, a protocol if you will of how you can deliver video over an HTTP network. It describes optimal ways to prepare or package content, common ways to encrypt the content, and profiles that suggest ways to do closed captioning and some of the other key requirements for videos. Why it's so exciting for people is that its hope is that it can help simplify the workflows specifically for broadcasters, and if you think about the workflows today to deliver to Flash on the desktop and to iOS and to Android and connect to TVs there are multiple workflows almost for every single device which means more content encoding, more content storage, multiple DRMs, multiple frame sizes, and it gets extremely complicated and super expensive for broadcasters. So the spirit of MPEG DASH is to suggest a way where one format, one encryption format, one storage mechanism, one delivery method can be used across all of these devices. And so why everybody is excited about it is because it helps reduce costs, it helps reduce fragmentation, it helps increase the interoperability between encoders and content delivery networks and video players.

Troy: Now everyone talks about DASH like it is clearly the future. What will it take to make it the present?

Kevin: We've done a ton of work and Qualcomm led the way a long time ago with 3GPP and this year with the formation of the DASH Promoters Group which is now called the DASH IF we have collectively been able to entice companies like ourselves with Adobe, Microsoft, Dolby, to really embrace DASH and help promote the concept of DASH so that broadcasters are aware of its benefits and are thinking about DASH as a way of the future. There is still a lot more work to do. In 2012 I like to think of it as that's the year of awareness. Next year is going to be the year in 2013 the year of discovery. How can you attach some of these encoders and CDNs and players and devices together to really demonstrate the resiliency and the vision of what DASH is trying to present? And then as we go through that it's about then operationalizing it, getting DASH into the hands of the consumers from a more viewable point of view. And ultimately by reducing the workflow and simplifying it, it helps content owners put more content online. The consumers win because there's more content online. The broadcasters win because their workflow is much less expensive, and the ecosystem like content delivery networks and encoders win because their ability to support multiple platforms is significantly reduced.

Troy: And you want to attach a year to when consumers will be using it?

Kevin: <laughs> I would love to have that crystal ball. I think that next year we're going to see a tremendous amount of discovery and experimentation with DASH and I'm hopeful that next year in 2013 we'll start to see some real events start to manifest themselves online. 2014 is probably going to be a year where we're going to see a lot more and just continue to grow from there.

Troy: Fantastic, well thank you for joining me. This is Troy Dreier coming to you from the red carpet.

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