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Wowza Enters Mobile Encoding Space with GoCoder

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Wowza Media Server 3.6, which was officially launched this week, has a number of features that have come out of beta, a few more—such as the MPEG-DASH Technology Preview—that are entering a beta phase, and one very interesting new offering: Wowza GoCoder.

The GoCoder app, available for $4.99 in the iTunes App Store, is a live audio and video encoding application for a specific set of iPhones: 3GS, 4, 4S, and iPhone 5. GoCoder marks Wowza's first foray into the end-to-end solution market, as the company is adding encoding to its media server, transcoding, and reference video players.

Notes on the iTunes App Store page for GoCoder state that GoCoder can be connected to a Wowza Media Server to capture and stream live audio and video content in real-time over Wi-Fi or cellular connections (both 3G and 4G connections, such as LTE).

GoCoder can encode up to 720p video signals, perhaps a nod to the lowest-common denominator found in the 3GS iPhone, and uses H.264 video and AAC audio to generate adaptive bitrate streaming content from the Wowza Media Server.

Both front and rear cameras on the target iPhones are supported, as is "touch to focus" and "touch to expose," akin to the integrated Apple camera application.

RTP support for real-time streaming and basic RTSP authentication come baked into GoCoder, which can use either TCP or UDP transports to connect to the Wowza Media Server.

Within the app itself, a number of overlays provide feedback on bitrate settings and whether the flash is on or off (called "Torch Mode" by Wowza and not supported in the older 3GS iPhone).

The Options screen offers a variety of stream- or session-specific settings. The user can toggle on/off both video and audio, with each having a number of settings including the intended stream's bandwidth and a choice of preset video sizes.

In addition, the user can choose from a series of in-app filters offered on the Options screen, such as black & white, blur, or a combination of the two. And if the stream fails, an auto-restart option can be toggled on to allow the stream to restart with no manual intervention, assuming the app itself has not crashed.

Note that the Wowza Media Server needs to have the "live" application in its install directory (/applications/live) as well as the proper HTTPStreamers and LiveStreamPacketizers enabled (cupertino, smoothstreaming, sanjose).

Because GoCoder is a Wowza AddOn that's designed to work with the Wowza Media Server 3.0 or later, the app has several settings on a Server screen: Host, application, and login information can all be pre-set on the Server screen before a shoot. In terms of the application, this is the same "live" application noted above, and a separate stream name can be set to identify the stream coming from a specific iPhone.

Recording is straightforward from the main screen: Flip the iPhone sideways and press the red record button. If settings are correct, the stream should pass through the Wowza Media Server to a specified player.

According to Wowza's release notes, GoCoder doesn't support multitasking; putting the app in the background "releases audio and video resources to the system and the app is disconnected from the server." (As silly as it sounds, I've seen people try to check email or Facebook while recording video, and Wowza felt it necessary to point it out.)

One final warning that Wowza advises on is battery life: not only should the iPhone power settings be set to avoid timing out, but the battery drain during an encoding session "may drain your battery faster than some other apps." As such, long streaming sessions using GoCoder should be supplemented by external power if possible.

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