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Encoding.com Report Offers Insights on Codecs, Formats, and Configurations

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Encoding.com produces video for more than 2,000 video publishers, including companies like Bloomberg, Variety, and MTV. This puts the company in a great position to tell which formats, codecs, and configurations are actually used by their customers in their day-to-day encoding. For the first time, Encoding.com has released a report on this, entitled the "Global Media Format Report," which you can download for free. 

According to Gregg Heil, the company's chief encoding officer and author of the report, Encoding.com produced the report to present the best practice realities followed by the mid-to-upper end of the encoding market that it serves. However, in many instances, he said, the report highlights a disconnect between technologies most talked about and what’s actually being used.

The most prominent example, according to Heil, relates to DASH and HLS. Specifically, though DASH is getting most of the headlines, it only accounted for 5% of all adaptive files produced by the company in 2014, and the number is not growing all that fast. In contrast, demand for HLS output accounts for 75% of the company’s adaptive output and is growing, primarily because HLS use has expanded beyond its iOS origins. Most notably, the report points towards HLS support among popular commercial OTT devices, and its expanding use on computers via off-the-shelf players like the JW Player.

The Encoding.com report offers insights in all these categories.

In addition, though Smooth Streaming gets very little attention, it constitutes 25% of all streaming files produced by encoding.com. The report notes that Smooth is primarily used with the PlayReady DRM to target desktop Silverlight players, with an uptick in usage as a result of the Xbox 360 launch.

Another disconnect related to the resolutions used to encode for delivery to mobile. Though many mobile devices support resolutions higher than 1080p, and sources like Apple’s TN2224 recommend 1080p presets for mobile, Encoding.com’s customers produce very little content larger than 720p for delivery to these devices because 1080p streams are challenging for many publishers to deliver. Similarly, while 4K dominates the headlines of many streaming, broadcast, and television-oriented journals, it constitutes less than 5% of Encoding.com’s output, and most of it is still in the experimental phase, Heil says.

Beyond highlighting such discrepancies, the report, which is presented in a very accessible infographic format, offers a range of intriguing compression-related nuggets. For example, though not surprisingly, H.264 is by far the most popular codec with a 69% share, WebM was second with 9%, while Ogg was fourth with 5%, a statistic that Heil couldn’t explain. Also interesting was the dominance of the Widevine DRM, which constituted 69% of all content packaged by encoding.com for DRM, compared to 17% for PlayReady and 5% for Adobe PrimeTime.

Another impressive factoid was that, at its peak, encoding.com utilized 13,600 simultaneous cores producing files for its customers. Heil noted that due to its high-volume relationship with Amazon and access to its own private cloud, the company has never run into computing supply issues. This instant scalability also enables the company to guarantee its enterprise-level customers that no file will ever site in a queue for longer the two minutes.

Obviously, any historical report can only show where the market has been, not where it’s going. In this regard, Heil notes that Encoding.com plans to update the report every six months or so, and expects that the trends revealed will be interesting to watch. In the meantime, Heil says that “the report represents an interesting and fresh take on the actual encoding practices of a very relevant cross-section of the encoding market, and presents the current realities of ABR delivery.”

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