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Telestream Vantage HE Server Tackles Adaptive Bitrate Challenges

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[Note: This sponsored interview was recorded at Streaming Media East, 2012.]

Encoding specialist Telestream introduced the Vantage HE server at this year's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, well-timed to handle the rise in demand for adaptive streaming. During the recent Streaming Media East conference in New York City, Dominic Jackson, a product specialist for the Vantage line, sat down for a red carpet interview to explain the benefits of the Vantage HE server.

"For HE server, our plan, and what we've delivered, is a new transcoding product that is specifically targeted at making adaptive bitrate packages," said Jackson. "There are really four big challenges when you're making adaptive bitrate. First is make nice video. Second will be packaging that into the containers and doing the manifest and all of the other stuff that you need. Then you've got to encrypt it. Then you've got to actually take it where it needs to be used, origin servers and CDNs, whatever that may be. And HE solves that problem for on-demand, adaptive encode."

Not only does the Vantage HE Server create adaptive bitrate files, but it does so efficiently.

"In a traditional linear transcoding world, you would take the single source and you would transcode it to multiple bit rates and you would do that for every bitrate for every package. HE server concentrates heavily on reuse of encoded bit streams. So I will take one source, I will make multiple bit streams. I will then package a subset of those bit streams for my smooth streaming application," explained Jackson.

To view the full interview, scroll down.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: Hi, I'm Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, editor of Streaming Media magazine and StreamingMedia.com, and I'm here with Dominic Jackson of Telestream. We're here at Streaming Media East in New York City. Dominic, you're the product specialist for the Vantage line, correct?

Dominic Jackson: Yes, one of them.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: One of them, okay, great. But that's what you're here to talk about today, right, the Vantage HE server?

Dominic Jackson: Absolutely.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: All right, let's start out by just covering the basics. What is the Vantage HE server?

Dominic Jackson: So for HE server, our plan, and what we've delivered, is a new transcoding product that is specifically targeted at making adaptive bitrate packages. So there are really four big challenges when you're making adaptive bitrate. First is make nice video. Second will be packaging that into the containers and doing the manifest and all of the other stuff that you need. Then you've got to encrypt it. Then you've got to actually take it where it needs to be used, origin servers and CDNs, whatever that may be. And HE solves that problem for on-demand, adaptive encode.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: Tell us a little bit more about how HE solves the adaptive bit rate encoding problem.

Dominic Jackson: Okay, well there's two real fundamental aspects to adaptive encoding: quality and speed. Quality's obvious. Adaptive formats are progressive, so most of your source content maybe be interlaced, so you've got to help the interlacing problem and then you've got vast numbers of streams that you may need to create. You need to do that in a reasonable amount of time. Telestream developed a technology called LightSpeed. That's a combination of very advanced video processing, scaling the interlacing algorithms, and currently, the x264 H.264 codec. And then we've implemented those using massively parallel processing techniques, currently running on the GPU, but not GPU-bound, and currently only available on a specific server from Telestream. But in the future, it has the promise of being able to be deployed onto more varied platforms.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: What about the packaging requirements? How does HE server address those?

Dominic Jackson: So in a traditional linear transcoding world, you would take the single source and you would transcode it to multiple bit rates and you would do that for every bitrate for every package. HE server concentrates heavily on reuse of encoded bit streams. So I will take one source, I will make multiple bit streams. I will then package a subset of those bit streams for my smooth streaming application. I might package a different subset for HLS. I might package the lower bit rates and resolutions for a mobile server and different ones for VOD on a set-top box or whatever it might be. But the whole point is, you only make one set of video essences. And for instance, if it's HLS and DASH, you don't even need to package into containers twice. You just need to change the manifest.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: What about encryption?

Dominic Jackson: So we support standard encryption. Almost all adaptive bit rate encryption is 128-bit AES. We also handle the wider DRM key management, using technology such as PlayReady.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: What about the delivery challenges that surround getting adaptive content to the user?

Dominic Jackson: Well, particularly with HLS and MPEG-2 DASH, those challenges are huge. So with a package like Smooth Streaming, you might have a dozen files. With HLS, you'll have thousands and thousands of files. That's a nightmare to handle. So simply built into the workflow in an HE transcode is an archiving step, where all the files that are necessary for that adaptive package are going to be archived into a TAR or a ZIP or some other archive format. What you end up with is one file that can be transferred to your origin server of your local network. It can be FTPed into your CDN, whatever, but it makes the problem very, very simple.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: All right. Finally, HE server is a Vantage product. What does that mean and how does it relate to the rest of the Vantage line?

Dominic Jackson: Vantage has various functional blocks that all play together nicely. So if you buy an HE server, it can join an existing Vantage cluster. It can take advantage of the smart transcoding and workflow management tools that Vantage has available. Vantage can analyze content and make decisions on how to treat it, based on that analysis. That HE server can play into that. And also on top of Vantage we have a system management layer which brings enterprise level system management. So potentially, I could have a dozen HE server units, all with system management, all being dashboarded through the web, all being load balanced efficiently, with redundancy and fail over and all of those things that are big enterprise system needs.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: Excellent. And you can find out more about HE server and other Telestream products at Telestream.net. Thanks, Dominic. I'm Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, signing off from the red carpet at Streaming Media East in New York City.

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