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Videon EdgeCaster EZ (w/ LiveEdge Core 8.5)

This review will highlight Videon's EdgeCaster video encoding appliance and explore its unique LiveEdge Compute technology for encoding and delivery, as well as how it works with popular video streaming platforms. I'll also discuss why many video production and remote production teams will likely move to a tool such as this in the future for streaming delivery.

Video Profiles

To deliver streams using EdgeCaster, you’ll also need to create and configure Video Profiles. You can create a new profile by clicking the +Add Profile button in the Video Profiles window. After you click the button, a new profile will appear in the profiles list and read New Profile with an auto-generated number (Figure 8, below).


Figure 8. Creating a new profile

Now let’s go over some of the adjustments you can make in your new profile. You can adjust the video scaling and encoding mode as well as choosing whether to the limit the frame rate to 30fps. Your encoded resolution also appears. Note that if Limit to 30 FPS is enabled and your source video is 59.94 or 60fps, your video output will have a lower frame rate than your input.

Under Video Scaling, the following options appear: Passthrough, 3840x2160p, 1920x1080p, 960x540p, 720x576p, 854x480p, 640x360p, 480x270p, 320x180. These settings are all great, but I would have loved to see an option to add my own custom value of 416x234 for my encoding ladder. Instead, I chose another value.

For encoding mode, the options are Variable Bitrate or Constant Bitrate. A great addition to the current options would be including options for advanced users where they could set their own custom values for the Peak and Buffer.

Under video encoding, you have the option to use H.264 (AVC) or H.265 (HEVC). Only one profile option is available under the HEVC Profile, but the H.264 Profile options are High, Main, and Baseline.

MBR Group Settings

The way users connect their video profiles together for adaptive bitrate streaming is by using configuring the MBR Group settings. When MBR Group Member is enabled on a profile, it encodes with the adaptive streaming group so your streams are switched at the keyframe interval selected. It also uses the same Quality/Latency value for all profiles.

Audio Profiles

To create a new audio profile click the +Add Profile button in the Audio Profiles (Figure 9, below). A new audio profile will appear and you can choose Constant Bitrate or Variable Bitrate for your Encoding Mode. There are also several values to select from for your audio bitrate, ranging from 64 Kbps up to 512 Kbps. Also, the Advanced drop-down menu allows you to turn on channels.

Figure 9. Setting Audio Profile parameters


Under Outputs, users can choose options such as RTMP, HTTP Push, HTTP Pull, Multicast, Unicast, SRT, RTSP, and Recording to FTP.

Testing EdgeCaster

When I was testing EdgeCaster, first, I was interested in learning how well the various Quality/Latency features worked at reducing latency. Second, I wanted know how well the Streaming Providers integrations simplified use for customers. Third, I wanted to learn how well the EdgeCaster Dashboard worked for users. For my testing, I used Streaming Providers Mux and YouTube.

First, I create my encoding ladder using the following four profiles: H264_1080p, H264_720p, H264_360p, and H264_270p. Then I connected all profiles for adaptive streaming by adjusting the MBR Group Member setting and enabling it on all profiles.

For my highest in the encoding ladder, I used Passthrough and Limited to 30 FPS on all profiles since my source was 60 fps. I choose constant Bitrate and selected my Video Bitrate in all profiles (Figure 10, below).

Figure 10. Settings for my highest H.264 1080p profile

I selected the H.264 (AVC) codec on all profiles and for the H.264 Profile, High was selected for H264_1080p and H264_720p. While Main was selected for H264_360p, and Baseline for H264_270p. In testing I alternated between 1 and 2 for my KeyFrame Interval and tested all of the Quality/Latency Settings.

I created an RTMP output for Mux and selected it under my Streaming Providers (Figure 11, below). Other available providers are Generic RTMP, Akamai, Wowza Cloud, Wowza Streraming Engine, AWS IS, YouTube, and Facebook.

Figure 11. RTMP output for Mux

I was able to select and add sources under my profiles, so I choose my 1080p profile and my only audio profile. I connected my Mux account and YouTube account by using the pairing option in EdgeCaster for both YouTube and Mux. Setup was straightforward and the EdgeCaster Help within the Streaming Dashboard proved extremely helpful.

Once, my account was working with Mux, I adjusted my latency setting (Figure 12, below). The Reconnect Window is set to 60 seconds by default, so I kept that. Videon supports only the Public Playback Policy, so no adjustments were necessary there. Reduced latency is supposed to get latency down to a range of 12–20 seconds. The Low option is supposed to improve it to 4–7 seconds.

Figure 12. Additional Mux output settings

In my testing, I used both my GoPro Hero 5 and a Sony Cybershot RX100VII (4K). Using the GoPro Hero 5 and the 1080p source 1080p profile from earlier, the latency modes worked as mentioned. Using a Key Frame Interval of 2, Normal Mode latency was 20 seconds, Reduced was 14 seconds, and Low was 7 seconds.

With the Sony Cybershot RX100VII (4K), the same source, and a Key Frame Interval of 2, latency for Normal Mode was 29 seconds. For Reduced it was 15 seconds, and for Low it was 6 seconds. The latency modes worked as intended based the Help documentation in the EdgeCaster Dashboard as well as what’s mentioned in Mux’s help. You should expect latency to be reduced to within these ranges mentioned for Reduced and Low modes.

Closing Thoughts

In testing the YouTube and Mux Streaming Providers, EdgeCaster setup was straightforward for both options. Users can find how-to tutorials on the setup of these and others in the Help documentation. The benefit of using EdgeCaster’s Streaming Providers integration is that you can save the setting for your provider for future use, so you configure once and you’re done. In addition to saving time on setting up future streams, it also prevents users from having to understand all the features, options, and setup in the various Streaming Provider platforms.

For the Mux integration, it would be helpful for users to know what the Refresh button does. It seems like it to refreshes the stream list or removes idle streams, but it might be helpful to have a tooltip that explains the button. I like the Mux video stream status feature because it shows the active stream, and the ? button provides more details. The Playback URL is also helpful and worked reliably during my testing. Users would benefit from having a ? button next to the Playback URL option so they’ll know when it gets updated.

YouTube integration also works great and makes configuring live streams extremely simple for users using YouTube Live. However, it might be helpful to update the documentation with an image that shows users where to paste the pairing code.

For the EdgeCaster Dashboard, I believe even novice users will find it straightforward to use and find many of the features they’re accustomed to. The Dashboard works reliably and allows users to easily make adjustments to streams. I passed along some minor technical issues I encountered while testing the Streaming Dashboard and noticed one item has already been resolved. It’s great to see to their responsiveness!

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