Vanguard Acquisition Strengthens Beamr's Market Position
On March 29, video optimization vendor Beamr Imaging Ltd. announced it had raised $15 million in funding and would use part of that to purchase encoding vendor Vanguard Video. Dan Rayburn’s article provides the details of the arrangement, and his thoughts on its impact on the industry. We were curious about how the two companies would merge their technologies and what the combined product offerings would look like. Beamr chief technology officer Dror Gill was kind enough to answer our questions via email.
Streaming Media: When you look at Vanguard, there are (at least) three potential values there: products, technology, and market presence. How did you evaluate each of these aspects in making your decision to acquire Vanguard?
Gill: The initial approach to Vanguard was done based on their technology. We evaluated their technology and found that the quality and performance of their encoders are higher than any other software encoder on the market today. And since both of these aspects of the encoder—performance and quality—are critical to our video optimization process, we decided that Vanguard Video’s technology was the perfect match for our own. I’ve visited the Vanguard Video R&D center in St. Petersburg [Russia], and found world-class video encoding experts, with years of experience in this field, including participation and contribution to the video compression standard committees, and an IP portfolio of eight granted patents. As a video expert myself, I could appreciate the level of expertise and innovation present in every development team at Vanguard Video.
Then we looked at the products. We found that their SDKs have very robust and comprehensive APIs, are optimized for all hardware architectures—x86, GPU, ARM, and even FPGA—and support all major operating systems including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, and iOS. This broad platform support means that the products can have a very wide market reach, with applications ranging from large-scale cloud transcoding to live video streaming from mobile devices. When we evaluated Vanguard’s products just as a regular customer would, we were very impressed by the level of support they provided, which is really outstanding. We’ve been using the Vanguard Visual Comparison Tool as an essential tool for comparing before/after video quality. The quality, robustness and ease-of-use of this tool impressed us very much.
And finally, we examined the business side. If you look at Vanguard Video’s website, you see some very big names from all across the video processing and distribution value chain. All of them trust the technologies coming out of Vanguard Video to power their products and services, and we found it as a very reassuring vote of confidence in the company. Also, if you consider the fact that the company is privately owned and self-funded, and managed to grow to 50 employees with no external investments, you can understand that they bring true value to the market and have a sustainable business. Following the acquisition, each company will be benefit from cross-selling solutions to the other company’s customers, and in this way grow the business on both product lines.
Streaming Media: Beamr is primarily known for its optimization technology. Vanguard also has an optimization technology (The SMART Preprocessing SDK). How will these technologies exist moving forward?
Gill: These technologies are actually complementary: The Vanguard pre-processing SDK works before encoding the video, and the Beamr optimization technology works after encoding the video. So by doing both we believe we can get even larger bitrate savings than each technology is capable on its own.
Streaming Media: Your press release says, “Together we will lead the video encoding market by far with unprecedented quality and performance.” What’s the strategy? Integrate with existing encoders and cloud services, or try to create new products and services that you take to the market?
Gill: To understand our strategy moving forward, you have to understand the technical synergies between the two companies. Beamr’s optimization process is applied to files that have already been encoded. Encoded files that have high quality are better optimized by Beamr, and therefore Beamr has always recommended to its customers to use a high-quality encoder for creating the encoded input files. Following the acquisition, Beamr will be able to offer a combined solution that includes the industry’s highest quality encoder and the industry’s best optimization solution, resulting in high-quality, low-bitrate optimized files.
By offering encoding and optimization from a single vendor, Beamr would also simplify the workflow integration and support, and enable easier and faster integration into the customer’s video processing pipeline. The combined solution will enable additional technical efficiencies by sharing information between the encoding and optimization processes, resulting in the best possible video quality at the lowest bitrates.
Streaming Media: More specifically, do you intend to release an encoder that combines your optimization technology and the Vanguard codec? You talk about working as a post process, but your IP could also work as part of the rate control mechanism in a codec, which would be more efficient from a quality perspective and workflow. Do you see that type of integration occurring?
Gill: Beyond what we’ve indicated above, we’re not disclosing our joint product roadmap at this stage since it is too early, but integrating our quality measure into the rate control mechanism of their encoder does make sense.
Streaming Media: Why now? Why is the now the right timing to move forward with the acquisition?
Gill: We think the timing is right because we are at a very unique point in the history of online video. On one hand, there are the increase in mobile video consumption, the shift to 4K and VR content, and the ongoing transition to IP video, which are driving demand for capacity. On the other hand, new and existing networks are getting more and more congested. So what the industry needs right now is a strong player that will be able to provide affordable, reliable, effective, and fully optimized encoding solutions, ready to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.
By adding automatic content detection at scale, Beamr says it can provide 4K HEVC video under 10 Mbps, and do away with the need for profiles.
The company plans to grow its business in Europe in 2017, and spur applications for its content adaptive encoding software in several industries.