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Video: Encoding Challenges with Next-Gen Codecs
Bitmovin Solutions Architect Paul MacDougall discusses the challenges to encoding and encoding decisions presented by emerging codecs in this clip from his presentation at Streaming Media East.
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Learn more about emerging codecs at Streaming Media's next event.

Watch the complete video of this panel, DT102A: Managing Transition to HEVC/VP9/AV1 with Multi-Codec Streaming, in the Streaming Media Conference Video Portal.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Paul MacDougall: Some of the challenges that you're going to run into on this are particularly relevant on the encoding side. A lot of these next-gen codecs are very difficult to encode. AV1, in particular, is extremely challenging to encode, although it's getting much more efficient. As an example, at Bitmovin we did a livestream of AV1 at 1.5 megabit a little over a year ago, and that took 200 cores to do that in real-time. It's not an architecture that you can really deploy in a modern environment, but that's improving quite significantly. We also got that down to 32 cores much more recently, and that's going to continue to move down even further as the codec becomes really finalized, and it's really able to be optimized for it.

Just to be clear, that 200 cores was on a very early version of the codec, so it has lots of debug coded in it, and it's not really, by any means, a market-ready product at that point. We are getting much closer to the point that that's a market-ready product, and it's something that we can finally start really focusing on optimizing that, and making that much more efficient. Given today, it's a really, really challenging thing to do, so that's not something that you really want to do for every asset. Then, you have to really calculate out what benefit that's going to have to you.

Let's take a look at encoding decisioning. This is really where you have to go make your choices about this, based upon those challenges of those demands of that encoding, how much it takes to do that, the replication of your assets. You have to figure out what is the right choice for the assets that you have, what's the right choice for your business model.

Things to look at are, for instance, how likely is it that an asset is going to cross a threshold where it makes sense that the efficiency of these new codecs are going to give you benefit? Is an asset likely to do that already, or is it something that will do that? Then, you also want to make sure that the decisions that you've made are valid decisions, that these are things that are going to let you really benefit your business, that they're not just kind of theories that are going to potentially improve it. You want to see that actually happening.

The way to do that is really with analytics. Analytics are critical here. As we showed you on some of the earlier slides, there is a broad difference in the different devices that support these different codecs. Different customers, different sites, different media properties have very different audiences, so it's important to use an analytics tool to understand what your audience is like. Are they predominantly Android devices? Are they predominantly users who have a Chrome browser? Maybe they're iOS devices. Maybe they're Safari devices. Perhaps they're all OTT, Apple TV users, or something like that. In all of those devices, you're going to have differences of port for different codecs in the market.

You're going to want to use that as one of your first metrics to look at when you determine what your encoding profile is going to be like.

Then, the next part that's really important here is making sure that you're using that right now, because some of those codecs are really computationally expensive, that you're using that on the assets that they're going to make a big different. Content that's going to go viral, that you think is going to go viral ... that's a good piece of content that's likely to benefit from those more advanced, more efficient codecs.

Then, of course, you can also monitor your live rate continuously, see what assets are crossing that threshold after the fact. Perhaps you're looking at, for instance, an initial window when you upload an asset or release an asset onto your properties. If you see a certain velocity of popularity for that asset, that's a good indicator that you might want to very quickly dispatch an encoding job to your encoding farm, or whatever resource you're using for that, into one of those other codecs, so that you can, again, benefit from that.

You want to make sure you do that as soon as possible. It's important to have your analytics be as close to realtime as possible, so you know what that content is doing and you know how to make those encoding decisions there.

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