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Microsoft: Why MPEG DASH Will See Broad Adoption in 2013
DASH-264 is almost here, and it will bring the specifics needed for interoperability and widespread use of MPEG DASH.
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MPEG DASH has been a hot topic in the streaming media world for the past year, but so far the talk has been about future possibilities. At the recent Streaming Media West conference in Los Angeles, Alex Zambelli, senior technical evangelist for the Microsoft Media Platform, explained why DASH will take off in 2013.

"I would say 2012 has really been sort of early adopters here. I think next year we're going to see broad adoption and really I think the event that's going to allow that to happen will be the publication of what's known as DASH-264," Zambelli said. "DASH-264 is really where we start getting into the specifics of DASH that enable interoperability. So DASH-264 is an application profile that's being defined by the DASH Industry Forum which is right now about 50 or so companies that joined together into DASH Industry Forum to help really both evangelize the standard and help adoption and also to define those specifics that will enable interoperability."

It's these specifics that will allow widespread use of DASH.

"When you get down to the specifics of what are the codecs, what are the file types, and then of course, what the syntax is for transmitting it over HTTP, now you're talking about something that is actually practical and that can be adopted and that will be interoperable and so that the player that I've developed can work with your server that you've developed and back and forth," Zambelli added.

For more on MPEG DASH, including what it is and why it's important to the future of streaming video, watch the full red carpet interview below.

Eric: Hi, I'm Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen. I'm the Editor of Streaming Media magazine and streamingmedia.com here at Streaming Media West 2012 with Alex Zambelli, the Senior Technical Evangelist for the Microsoft Media Platform.

Alex: That's right.

Eric: And we are talking about MPEG DASH. We knew MPEG DASH was going to be big last year at Streaming Media West 2011 when the one MPEG DASH panel here had a standing-room only audience and since then MPEG DASH has really been one of the hottest and most important topics of the online video industry. For those who might not know about MPEG DASH at this point, Alex why is MPEG DASH such a big deal?

Alex: So MPEG DASH for those who are not familiar for what it stands for it is Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP. So it's an MPEG standard for doing adaptive streaming and the reason that it's important is that it's really sort of the culmination of a process that started about four or five years ago when the first adaptive streaming technologies were introduced and of course as it is with really any technology, when you have that kind of huge shift in technology in a big evolution essentially typically it is proprietary technologies to lead the charge. And so now that those technologies have been around for a few years obviously we don't want to fragment the market any more so it really became crucial to start looking at how do we standardize these technologies into something that everyone can use that will be interoperable. And that process started about two years ago, first originally in 3GPP and then in MPEG and it finally was ratified and published as a standard about a year ago or actually earlier this year. And so the interest in the industry has been I think really kind of expected to some degree because a lot of companies were not interested in continuing on the path that they were up until that point which was delivering in multiple formats encoding and storing multiple versions of the same assets using whether it was Microsoft Smooth Streaming or Apple HLS or Adobe HDS or some other possible technologies, and so really companies are mostly interested in at least reducing the number of assets that are currently like I said storing, producing, delivering and really ultimately it's lower cost I think that's most attractive about DASH really and the ability to reach as many devices as possible.

Eric: So is the ability to deliver using DASH available right now? Where is it at in sort of the deployment process?

Alex: So several companies have already announced support for DASH and encoders and support for DASH on servers as well. Several companies including Microsoft have announced plans to do it in the near future and so we're definitely getting to a point where adoption is starting but I would say 2012 has really been sort of early adopters here. I think next year we're going to see broad adoption and really I think the event that's going to allow that to happen will be the publication of what's known as DASH-264 and DASH-264 is really where we start getting into the specifics of DASH that enable interoperability. So DASH-264 is an application profile that's being defined by the DASH Industry Forum which is right now about 50 or so companies that joined together into DASH Industry Forum to help really both evangelize the standard and help adoption and also to define those specifics that will enable interoperability. So really when you get down to the specifics of what are the codex, what are the file types, and then of course, what the syntax is for transmitting it over HTTP, now you're talking about something that is actually practical and that can be adopted and that will be interoperable and so that the player that I've developed can work with your server that you've developed and back and forth.

Eric: Are there any major companies or organizations that aren't on board with DASH at this point?

Alex: There are a few companies so I wouldn't say necessarily they're not on board with DASH. They haven't joined the Industry Forum yet so notably Apple is still not a member of the Industry Forum. They were a member of the working group that defined DASH so they were involved and they did submit some technologies that are a part of DASH to it, but they are not a member of the Industry Forum and so there are still some companies out there. I think a lot of the companies are perhaps just on the fence to see whether it's going to gain momentum or not but that could possibly change in the next year, who knows, but we definitely have a lot of momentum that's growing so that's for sure. Like you mentioned we started out last year with a single DASH event at Stream Media West which was really well-attended and now I think there was about three panels or three sessions at Stream Media West this year and I just came back from Stream Media Europe two weeks ago where it was the same thing. So we're definitely seeing a lot of interest and if a company is interested and if this sounds like a good idea to them and they understand the concept behind it and the value behind it, that I don't think we need to worry about whether we're going to be able to sell it as a product. I think it's really kind of self-evitable.

Eric: Sure, so what do content owners and publishers need to know about MPEG DASH if they're interested in looking at deploying it and as you said being able to reduce the number of assets that they need to keep on hand?

Alex: So as I mentioned earlier, DASH-264 is getting pretty close to being finalized. I think that will be the crucial step really, and then at that point it's going to be important to look for products that support DASH-264 specifically and some of the technologies that exist today can be used really as stepping stones also to DASH so for example, both Adobe and Microsoft had announced their support for DASH and what it really means in a practical context is that even though Microsoft has Smooth Streaming today and Adobe has HDS, both those technologies at least from a Microsoft perspective, we look at Smooth Streaming as being really a stepping stone to DASH, a technology that once we sort of transition over to DASH will be backwards compatible with Smooth Streaming so we really like this idea that you have Smooth Streaming asset in the server but you have a DASH client our server will essentially translate basically repackage the content from Smooth Streaming to DASH to deliver it to that DASH client. So a lot of customers who are investing today in like I said Adobe HDS or Microsoft Smooth Streaming will not be left out in the cold. There will be transition paths to DASH for them.

Eric: Great and is the MPEG DASH Industry Forum probably the best place for people who want more information to start looking?

Alex: Yeah, that is the best place and they're also open to of course new members as well so any company out there that really wants to get involved with DASH and help really be among the first to adopt it and help promote it, they should definitely join the Industry Forum and then it's also good source of information for everyone else they have links to White Papers on their websites and so it's a great start.

Eric: Great. Thanks, Alex. I've been talking to Alex Zambelli, the Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Media and also someone who has been very involved with pushing MPEG DASH forward so thanks for the information.

Alex: Thank you, Eric.

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