Buyer's Guide to Media and Entertainment Video Platforms 2016
The market for a media and entertainment video platform (MEVP) is divided into two parts. The first, internal-facing, part is primarily for creation of media content, with the second part being focused toward managing and securely distributing the content.
To help assess the criteria you should use to compare the various MEVPs on the market, this buyers guide breaks down the two parts into several different areas.
The content creation part of an MEVP is distinctly different from almost any other type of online video platform. For instance, most enterprise OVPs offer a lecture or rich-media capture option, but few offer robust multiparty editing or visual effects (VFX) in the cloud.
For the average video editor, the idea of being able to collaborate with multiple editors in the cloud for a variety of tasks—from signal acquisition and video editing to VFX and rendering for postproduction—might seem impracticable. Yet recent advances on the MEVP front have seen the simple editing options of last year’s MEVP give way to more complex editing and VFX options.
All MEVP offerings allow uploading of unadulterated original content, and most will handle .mov files or .avi files, and a few will handle MXF container formats and plain vanilla MP4 files. Several also provide dedicated desktop application options for bulk uploading, with at least one transcoding the content on-the-fly to a specific H.264 resolution and data rate.
For most MEVP offerings, the next step is to create a proxy file, which is a lower-resolution, lower-bandwidth version of the original content. In this way, many assets can be viewed on less robust bandwidth connections, to use for timing and logging. Any comments or logging data associated with the proxy file is also associated with the original file.
COUNTING THE COST
One reason for this move toward online collaboration during the postproduction process is the advent of higher-resolution acquisition formats. While we’ve not seen a significant uptick in 4K content viewing, mainly due to the limited potential viewer base for HEVC (H.265) on mobile devices, the uptake in 4K acquisition and production is quite another story.
For traditional postproduction facilities that serve high-end clients, there’s a fairly simple break-even path to upgrade to 4K, since bread-and-butter customers will cover the cost of 4K editing equipment and workflow enhancements. For the rest of the world, though, there’s the never-ending question of money. Or, to put it in business terms, capital expenditure (capex).
When it comes to buying production gear for 4K workflows, there’s a large upfront capex cost in buying on-prem equipment. While in the long run, overall operational expenses (opex) might go down, the initial outlay can be significant. Media and entertainment firms would be wise to write out their use case—in other words, how they typically perform a production workflow, from acquisition to final product prepped for delivery—and then extrapolate that use case against a number of months, including both capex and opex, to truly understand the total cost of ownership (TCO) and associated costs of buying a media production platform versus renting an online solution.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost of simultaneous users, since online solutions can either charge by the location, the company, or the number of concurrent collaborative users of the MEVP.
Once the content is packaged in its final archival-quality format, it’s time to get into the heavy lifting: repackaging for web or over-the-top (OTT) distribution. There are four key areas to consider here: content management, security, search, and storage
After the postproduction process, but before the content can be delivered to web and OTT viewers, a series of steps are necessary to prepare the content. Since the content will expand from a single, very high-resolution version to potentially hundreds of versions, a content management system is a critical step in the process.
Oftentimes the first step is transcoding of formats or creation of multiple derivative resolutions for use in adaptive bitrate (ABR) solutions, followed fairly closely by the packaging of this content for HTTP-based delivery. Transcoding and transrating will yield a few dozen different files, one for each delivery codec at a distinct resolution and bitrate. Packaging for HTTP-based delivery, though, can yield hundreds of thousands of potential files that need to be managed.
Whether it’s the Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) or standards-based MPEG-DASH, the concept is the same: Parse a long piece of content into many smaller pieces of content, known as segments, and then deliver those pieces of content sequentially to a browser or OTT device. If the end viewer’s bandwidth fluctuates, segments from a higher- or lower-bandwidth version of the content will be delivered in lieu of the original segment. The segments are typically 2–10 seconds long, and each bandwidth and resolution require a separate set of segments.
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