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special report adaptive streaming

times longer than transcoding a single fixed-bitrate file of the same content. Few facilities are currently equipped to increase production by a factor of six without bringing production to a standstill. One solution to this capacity gap

would be to maintain a conventional approach to transcoding while investing heavily in new machines to run the transcode processes and in expanded data storage capacity, thereby adding a host of associated ongoing costs in areas such as cooling, energy, and real estate. While ABR provides content owners with access to a new, fast-growing market, it does not offer the multi-fold increase in revenues that would be needed to justify this approach. An alternative solution is to take a new, more efficient approach to the design of the transcoding systems themselves. At Telestream we've done that by developing an exclusive new technology, called Lightspeed, that implements parallel video processing and transcoding algorithms to accelerate video processing and H.264 encoding on parallel GPUs and also on multicore CPUs. The result is the highest possible image quality at the fastest possible speed. Solutions

incorporating Lightspeed provide the boost in processing power required to address the ABR throughput dilemma, and they do so without a

corresponding increase in hardware, operation, and maintenance costs.

The workflow context

While highly-efficient transcoding technology is a big part of the ABR solution, it's far from the only factor to


highlighting the differences between a traditional transcoding

workflow and an adaptive bitrate (ABR) workflow.

The result of Telestream's ABR efforts is a unified system that streamlines the entire process of source file decoding, video processing, parallelised H.264 encoding, packaging, encryption, quality control, and delivery.

consider in planning an effective media preparation system for high- volume use. A content preparation system must also address the assembly into an output clip of material drawn from multiple source clips (eg provider logo, main content, provider promo), ideally working from a playlist that specifies the exact content (source files, offsets, durations, etc.) for each finished clip. Transcoded files must be QCed. The components, both transcoded and externally provided, that make up the deliverable must be assembled into format-compliant packages for delivery to target destinations, in some cases with DRM or other encryption applied. Job status must be tracked through the workflow, and the quality and compliance of the final result must be verified before the materials are handed off, after which receipt must be confirmed. With such a complex overall process

it's long been evident that high- volume media preparation can only be achieved cost-effectively with a comprehensive, unified solution that addresses the entire journey of content from source to destination. Any task that can only be done manually, or that must be done more than once, is an obstacle to maximum productivity. So the imperative for vendors serving high-volume content providers has been to design these inefficiencies out of the picture, maximising quality, throughput, and control while minimising labour. Telestream's Vantage systems, which bring transcoding, media capture, metadata processing, and analysis together into a single managed process, are a prime example of this approach. So how does the advent of ABR

change this picture? The fact that the output of an ABR preparation process is a package rather than a single file does have a substantial impact on the requirements of individual workflow steps. An ABR-ready solution must be able not only to generate all of the component files that make up each package, but also to view that set of files as a single job, to track that job through the workflow, and to hand that job over to downstream recipients as a format-compliant package rather than an undifferentiated mass of separate files. Zoom out to look at the big picture,

however, and it's clear that the capabilities required of ABR-capable systems overlap almost entirely with

72 l ibe l september/october 2012 l

those of existing non-ABR solutions. And thus it makes far more sense to adapt existing systems to handle ABR than to develop, test, and deploy new workflows specifically for ABR. In most situations, the same content

will be processed into both ABR and non-ABR outputs. Industry experience has shown that when transcoding for multiple outputs it is faster to access a given source file just once and to transcode in parallel than to access the source multiple times to perform separate serial transcodes. Most non-transcoding steps in the

workflow will also apply to both ABR and non-ABR outputs. Again, it's more efficient to perform these steps just once than to perform them for non- ABR deliverables and again for ABR. Most of the technology required to

perform the needed tasks, to automate the workflow, and to track jobs through the process is the same for both ABR and non-ABR content. Purchasing, operating, and maintaining separate systems to handle these tasks for ABR is inherently less cost-effective than adapting existing systems and scaling them to meet combined ABR/non- ABR demand. The bottom line is that most of the

capabilities needed to effectively handle ABR - source-file playlists, job tracking, status reporting, and the handoff of output materials to external systems - are already available in field-proven high-throughput systems for non-ABR content, which means that there is no compelling reason to develop an entirely new framework for ABR processing. Instead, at Telestream we've taken our advanced field-proven systems, analysed the impact of ABR on every step, and created unified solutions that maintain all the advantages of full-featured video transcoding, workflow automation, and system management while also being uniquely adept at simultaneously handling ABR and non- ABR outputs. The result of Telestream's ABR

efforts is a unified system that streamlines the entire process of source file decoding, video processing, parallelised H.264 encoding, packaging, encryption, quality control, and delivery. Combining our industry- leading expertise in workflow automation and management with the power of Lightspeed technology, Telestream Vantage is the ultimate high-throughput solution to the challenge of content delivery for multiple screens.

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