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SMW '19: Brightcove Talks Context-Aware Encoding, 4K, and HEVC

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Read the complete transcript of this interview:

Tim Siglin: Welcome back to this final interview, at Streaming Media West 2019. I'm Tim Siglin, Contributing Editor of Streaming Media Magazine and the founding Executive Director of the not-for-profit HelpMe! Stream. And today, I'm honored to have with me Yuriy Reznik. Yuriy is at Brightcove, and Yuriy, what's your title at the company?

Yuriy Reznik: Technology Fellow, and Head of Research.

Tim: Okay, and a lot of your focus has been around how to making encoding better, and there's something called CAE, what does CAE stand for?

Yuriy: At Brightcove, it stands for Context-Aware Encoding, and, what it means, it is really end-to-end optimization, where the encoding is done in a way such that they can take into account characteristics of the content, as well as characteristics of the delivery context such as distributions of network bandwidth as well as characteristics of audience, things like, how many viewers are watching it, houses are watching it, on which devices, with which resolutions are streaming for PC devices for example. So considering plurality, of all characteristics of matters that contribute to qualitive experience.

Tim: So, that holistic approach is not just the context of the video itself or the content awareness, it's the awareness of the dynamic network

Yuriy: Absolutely. It's an awareness of the entire context of the delivery of this video to the audience and to this particular operator.

Tim: Okay, so when you get to the encoding scenarios, you know obviously I've worked in that space as well, there are latencies that are sort of activated inherently by having to look at a frame or a couple frames. How does that juxtapose against low latency? I mean, is there a way to sort of do both of those, achieve low latency and get the additional benefits of it encoding?

Yuriy: Well, I'll put it this way. Latency on high-quality encoding, things in the opposite ends,

Tim: Okay.

Yuriy: If you want to do high-quality encoding, you really need to have a look at how-- if you look at a video conferencing codecs in which examples of codecs were extremely low-latency--

Tim: Sure.

Yuriy: Deliver us a case, they don't even have D-frames, for example.

Tim: Right.

Yuriy: They operate with latency at a single frame, and

Tim: Right.

Yuriy: In case of streaming we're talking about, by tens of twenty frames ahead,

Tim: Two per group of picture.

Yuriy: In some cases, it's full two-pass on multiple encodes of the entire video before it's even ready for distribution.

Tim: Having come out of video conferencing with a whole I-frame/D-frame model, you're absolutely right. The goal is get it there, as absolutely fast as possible. And obviously from the quality standpoint, it suffered significantly or you had to raise the bandwidth quite significantly. Speaking of high bandwidth, what about UHD Ultra High Definition? How is that sort of playing into some of the models that you're working at with this holistic approach to context-aware encoding?

Yuriy: Well, Ultra HD certainly needs more bandwidth and Ultra HD also brings the need to actually support multiple formats because the space of Ultra HD has multiple modalities. There is HDR, there is HDR10, there is Dolby Vision-- by the way there are several flavors of it-- for example, 5.0 that is supported by Apple devices, 8.1, which is HDR10-compatible, and so on.

Tim: Gamma log.

Yuriy: Then there is of course HLG, SL-HDR1, and so on.

Tim: So many acronyms.

Yuriy: Basically it is a complex--by the way, in addition to HDR, you most likely need to also to downconvert the same content ASDR and send it as a backup option to those clients that cannot have HDR capability. So it really multiplies the space by plurality of these formats and some of these encodes could be done as late-binding types of addition of metadata for some cases you can't do it, you really need to do signal processing operations and transport them separately.

Tim: Okay, very nice. So, okay, so will UltraHD push us towards HEVC or will we, as the industry, figure out a way to use something like H.264 to do 4K. What is your general sense on that?

- [Yuriy] Technically, if you look at UltraHD guidelines,, there is really no requirement on the use of particular codec and both HEVC, as well as H.264, have the complete same set of SAI messages and VUI type of metadata that otherwise needed to communicate to different flavors of HDR. So, in principle, there is no bias but, in practice, of course many device manufacturers only implement, for example, HEVC, and that drives the decisions down the encoding and distribution.

Tim: So I had an earlier guest on here who was talking about having HEVC encoders and contribution to the cloud that way. Having HEVC devices at the end, they can watch it, but not really having CDNs in the middle who handle HEVC very well. Is your sense that we'll get there, because it does seem like most wide-scale distribution is geared towards A - fragmented, B - H.264, Do you sense there is that limitation that CDNs aren't really handling delivery of HEVC in scale?

- [Yuriy] Well...

Tim: And you're at an OVP.

- [Yuriy] I'm a bit puzzled by the idea of sending HEVC result CDNs. If that is the case then probably it's done by means of different delivery protocols, perhaps not DASH or HLS.

Tim: Sure.

Yuriy: If we're talking about traditional HTTP streaming the cheapest and most efficient and scalable way of doing it so far was by using CDNs and the other question could be that if you have multiple formats, the plurality of same content and different versions of the content will start compete at CDN edge. And then you just have diminishing performance of CDN because of this.

Tim: Okay.

Yuriy: Well, if that is the concern, then you just need to use CDNs properly or use multiple CDNs, for example, send one content over one CDN and the other content over the other or do some other arrangements with CDN operators to make it efficient.

Tim: Okay, very good. So the one thing I started to mention before we went on air is about these articles that I'm going to be writing after you and I and Michelle, my fiancee, sat down for lunch in Amsterdam at IBC and she got this big grin on her face when you started doing a math formula, I went back to Eric and asked him if we could do a series of articles in 2020 around the algorithms that underlie CDNs, that underlie players, player performance, and the like, and he said will that be highly technical? I said, 'Well, it will involve math, which means I'll have to ask her to check my math." but we're going to try this year to sort of go back to our roots and actually do some of those hardcore types of articles around that. I'm probably going to be calling on you for some information on that at some point.

Yuriy: My pleasure. I think it's a wonderful idea. Naturally highly technical, highly detailed papers are produced in quantities by the academic community but I think there is a fantastic space in the middle to popularize concepts that are useful and will help a generation of engineers who working on this problem starting on designs systems more efficiently.

Tim: And even perhaps help, from a layman's standpoint, the marketers and the salespeople if we can explain it simply enough to understand the math itself isn't scary it's just a descriptive way to show our particular things too.

Yuriy: Absolutely, absolutely.

Tim: Yuriy, thank you very much for your time.

Yuriy: Thank you so much.

Tim: Look forward to talking to you.

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