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How Netflix, Meta, and United Cloud Choose New Codecs and Why

Migrating to new codecs is fraught with challenges and complications for companies with massive content libraries like Netflix and Meta, or live linear providers like United Cloud. What drives change-of-codec decisions and what considerations and trade-offs complicate these decisions vis a vis legacy users and more?

Tim Siglin, Founding Executive Director, Help Me Stream Research Foundation, and Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, discusses these issues with Andrey Norkin, Senior Research Scientist - Video Algorithms, Netflix, Hassene Tmar, Technical Program Manager, Video Infrastructure, Meta, Software Coordinator, AOM, and Boban Kasalovic, Product Manager, Streaming, United Cloud in this clip from Streaming Media Connect.

Siglin begins by asking Norkin what drives Netflix to choose new codecs.

“An important factor is if it enables new applications,” Norkin says. “As in the case of 4K or HDR, you may know that you need a new codec if you want to stream that.” He also emphasizes the importance of projected device support, the particular features specific codecs may have for different streaming scenarios, such as low bitrates and live encoding, and projected device support.

Tmar from Meta says that they primarily focus on the specific benefits based on the needs of their users. “One of the examples we have seen is AV1 enabling a lot of quality for countries with much lower bandwidth,” he says. He also notes that the cost of adding a new codec, including storage and transcoding, is also a major consideration. “So we are actively working on optimizing that. And this is one of the main reasons we are moving away from AVC, because we don't want to keep yet another AVC rendition in terms of storage costs.” The number of videos they handle and store is also a major consideration. “In our use case, we deal with approximately a few billion videos a day, and we tend to try to keep all of those videos so that you can have your memories after 10 or 15 years,” he says. “If we keep them in the original state that it came through, in an AVC high bitrate stream, then we would be paying a lot for our storage. We could recompress that original video with much newer codecs, which will allow us to maintain quality at a much lower bitrate.”

Kasalovic says that three important factors exist for United Cloud to determine when to choose a new codec. “The first one is device footprint coverage because this can be directly proportional to how much savings we can get on the IP network and the CDN side. And that can be very significant for our telcos,” he says. The second factor to consider is the bitrate savings on a new codec versus previous ones. “And the third one is encoding complexity and how we are going to implement that codec,” he says. Other aspects to think of, he says, are DRM support and supporting encapsulation. “From my point of view,” he says, “the best balance between all those things we have with HEVC is [that it is] slightly more expensive on the encoding side but has relatively good device coverage.”

See videos of the full program from Streaming Media Connect February 2024 here.

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