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Looking at the Future of Video Encoding With Sorenson Media

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Today, Sorenson Media announced Sorenson Squeeze 10, the latest update for one of the most highly respected desktop encoding programs in the industry, as well as Squeeze Server 3.

The new feature list for both products is impressive, including the addition of HEVC and VP9 encoding and UHD presets, as well features like multi-rate bundle encoding -- which can package files for adaptive formats like HLS, HDS, Smooth Streaming and MPEG DASH -- enhanced closed caption support and support for HLS encryption. Read about the new features and get pricing information in the press release.

To get a feel for the focus of the update and explore some of the new features, we had an email exchange with Sorenson Media general manager Cathryne Robinson (right).

How have the tasks of the typical Squeeze user changed over the last five years?

As the industry evolved over the last five years, so have our customers' needs. The introduction of adaptive bitrate formats, WebM, newer MP4 codecs, HEVC, 4K, the migration away from Flash and Windows Media files to the newer formats and codecs, more robust workflow needs, more processing power and speed, and specific features such as closed captioning, time code support, and NLE advancements have all driven the demand for our product roadmaps and subsequently the enhancements included in each new version of our software.

You say in your press release that your customers are calling for HEVC and VP9. How will your typical customer use these technologies over the next 12 to 24 months?

Based on the survey we conducted in June 2014, as well as additional requests we’ve received over the last year for HEVC and VP9, it is clear that many of our customers simply want to know that Squeeze will support such outputs if and when their needs arise for such support. The adoption is and likely will be slow for HEVC and VP9 due to playback constraints and lack of demand, but if we can solve the initial need to support the output, then we are doing our job in enabling our customers to adjust their workflows to support these output formats as their demands increase.

Which HEVC codec did you include?

After carefully evaluating our HEVC licensing options, we made the decision to license HEVC/x265 from MulticoreWare, Inc.

What’s the state of DASH these days? Specifically, you say you support DASH, but what players have you tested for playback compatibility?

VLC Player will playback MPEG DASH. We plan on increasing our player support for MPEG DASH in the next 12 months because there are additional players that are available that we do not support currently.

You’ve expanded support for captions. What percentage of users are captioning for the hearing impaired as compared to for SEO or other similar purposes?

Honestly, the customer requests for captions that we’ve received have primarily been from broadcast, education, and government customers that need to provide support for the hearing impaired in order to be in compliance. We have not received any direct requests to support captioning with SEO in mind, although it can be used for SEO purposes.

Your multi-bit bundle encoding sounds like a transmuxing engine. Can you describe how that works and who will use it?

Absolutely. Multi-rate bundle encoding works by automatically packaging files for Apple HLS, Adobe Dynamic Streaming, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, MPEG DASH, and MP4 downloads by only encoding each data rate once and then packaging everything into multiple formats. We are the first ones to introduce this rapid time-saving encoding feature in both a desktop and server product. We anticipate that our server customers as well as any of our desktop users that regularly encode to several adaptive bitrate outputs will use and benefit from this new rapid time-saving feature.

Adobe Media Encoder has gotten much more capable over the years; what are the top five features Squeeze supplies that AME doesn’t?

In comparison to our competitors with similar products, Squeeze offers customers more with HEVC/x265 output, unlimited parallel processing, adaptive bitrate outputs, divide and conquer processing functionality for faster single file encoding, review and approval, and email notifications.

What does a user need to add HLS encryption to a stream (and to allow their viewers to decode the stream)?

The new HLS feature is designed to enable users to deliver the keys for decryption over a secure HTTPS connection and the encrypted video content over an HTTP connection. This functionality allows video content to be cached on the internet for faster delivery, and, at the same time, only users who have access to the decryption key can view the content, maintaining an added layer of security.

As you know, cloud encoding is growing in importance. How are you making Squeeze Server available in the cloud? Anything beyond provisioning my own cloud instance and just running Squeeze Server in the cloud?

Currently when a customer purchases a license of Squeeze Server, they have the choice of where they install it, whether it is on a physical on-premises server or a cloud-based server such as an Amazon EC2 instance. We will be introducing Squeeze Server 3.0 to the AWS Marketplace this quarter, as well, and customers can purchase instances that are provisioned with Squeeze Server and ready to begin using immediately in addition to purchasing directly from us.

Over the next two years, the streaming delivery world will move away from Flash toward HTML5, specifically the Media Source Extensions. How do you see that affecting the encoding needs of the typical user?

The typical user will likely need to evolve in order to keep up with the advancements of the streaming delivery world. We always strive to provide the tools and features necessary in our software to enable these users to stay current. For many of our existing customers operating versions of Squeeze that are three, four, five, or six or more years old, their versions have been able to do the job, but that will not always be the case as advancements intensity with respect to streaming delivery. We will continue to provide upgrade paths to our existing clientele using older or dated versions of our software and will strive to equip new clientele with our software in the form of educational messaging and documentation.

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