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NAB 2018: Encoding.com Talks Real-World Use of HEVC and VP9

At NAB, Jan Ozer met with about a dozen companies with stakes in HEVC and/or AV1. This is another in a series of video interviews he conducted with them.

Jan Ozer: Jan Ozer here from NAB. It's Day 3. I'm here in the Encoding.combooth, with Greggory Heil, co-founder and CEO of Encoding.com. Every year, Encoding.com puts out a Global Media Format Report that's been very useful for all of us tracking which formats their installed base is using, and what the customer was using for the previous year. You can read an article about it now on StreamingMedia.com. I wanted to talk to Greg a little bit about his findings.

Who are your customers and how do they represent the industry as a whole?

Greg Heil: I would say our mandate and strategic focus from the perspective of Encoding.com is helping media and entertainment companies migrate on-premise workflows to the cloud. We are not, by any means, servicing the top end of the market that's at economies of scale like Netflix, or Facebook, or Vimeo, that are doing transcoding on their own. We're bringing the infrastructure that a Netflix or a Vimeo has built in-house and making it available to media and entertainment companies.

Jan Ozer: To the extent that HEVC is used primarily for 4K by really, really big companies, I guess your results are a little bit misrepresentative of overall use, though, obviously, representative of your customers. What did you find in the report? Give me an overview of the codec side.

Greg Heil: That's right. From an HEVC perspective, what we thought was interesting is that it was a watershed moment for HEVC in terms of Apple's announcement of support for the codec and HEVC in HLS. What we saw was a big uptick in 2017 in our customers’ testing and putting plans in place to refresh libraries in HEVC. However, we didn't see any major production workflows move to that codec yet.

Jan Ozer: What's your sense of why? 

Greg Heil: In this migration from on-premise workflows to cloud, there are a lot of heavy lifting that these companies are doing, migrating pieces of the media processing workflow to the cloud. Storage was the first one with multi-petabyte commitments to cloud storage providers. Basic transcoding was the next to move, which we were a big part of. Now, other ancillary components of the media processing workflow, like standards conversion or QC, are now moving to the cloud. 

They’re focused on moving that infrastructure to the cloud and getting the optimization and economies of scale from doing so. Once they do, they will focus in more precisely on fine-tuning their ABR stacks and codec stacks to save money and time. Things like per-title encoding are further out on the horizon than moving that basic infrastructure to the cloud.

Jan Ozer: What were the numbers for HEVC usage, VP9, H.264?

Greg Heil: H.264 still has the lion's share with over 80% of the codec volume and we saw an uptick in '17 in HEVC from 7% to 9%. Again, mostly testing, some small workflows out to smart TVs and HEVC today. But in terms of major production, with direct-to-consumer workflows, they're predominantly sticking around in H.264 for a little while longer.

Jan Ozer: What about VP9? 

Greg Heil: For our customer segment, VP9 has really never taken off. We’ve seen a lot of VP9 DASH implementations in production and a lot of bifurcations I should say from a pure HLS workflow to an HLS DASH workflow. In that case, most of them are sticking with the H.264 codec for both DASH and HLS. 

Jan Ozer: I saw the headline on Streaming Media and I believe it talked about HLS still being the ABR format of choice.

Greg Heil:Absolutely, three out of four users. Predominantly, the biggest choice in an ABR stack.

Jan Ozer: Any predictions or projections for 2018? 

Greg Heil: I really think we're going to start to see some HEVC and HLS library refreshes towards the second half of 2018. We're really excited about that. We have the technology in place to support those workflows and happy to work with customers to get proof of concepts going and to make that a reality to their production workflow.

Jan Ozer: In my mind, there’s still a lot of confusion about the best way to approach HEVC and HLS. What's the ladder look like? Is it H.264 at the bottom and HEVC on top? Is it dual layers of H.264 and HEVC like Apple has? Do you have any sense of that? Is that something you’ve worked through? 

Greg Heil: We haven't really worked through it, to be honest with you. I think that we will do so in the latter half of this year and we'll come up with some kind of best practices. You've identified a good point, and I think the reason that hasn't been fleshed out is that there's really not a lot of big production volumes going through that codec.

Jan Ozer:We're standing in your booth and we've got a background of grass. Can you explain that?

Greg Heil:Absolutely. This is a live wall that we built and it was my vision with this booth to try to do something a little different. I think that there's a lot of bright colors and billboards here at NAB and sometimes at the end of three weeks, you want to go to a little bit more soothing atmosphere to talk about media processing in the cloud. We're giving away live fresh coconut water and our Format Report. We have kind of a little more relaxed environment than the other booths.

Jan Ozer: Is the Format Report easy to find on your website? 

Greg Heil: It is. It's under the White Papers section under Resourcesof our website and it's also on Streaming Media.

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