15 Jul 2016

Unified Content Across Platforms, Are We There Yet?

tl;dr; For content that doesn’t require DRM, we’re there. If you need DRM there’s still some work ahead.
At WWDC 2016 Apple had some big news for the video streaming community. They announced two big changes that move us closer to a world where media files can truly be shared. Announcement one was that the HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) specification would be expanded to allow for use of fMP4 (fragmented MP4) media segments. The second announcement was that FairPlay would support fMP4 segments that are encrypted with CENC. Unfortunately as is often the case, the devil is in the details.
Let’s start with the good news. fMP4 support in HLS means that content libraries that do not require DRM can use a single set of content to serve most (if not all) clients. You will need an MPEG-DASH manifest and an HLS manifest, but the segments referenced by those manifests can be shared. This is huge! This has a major impact on the cache-ability of assets and on storage costs for media libraries. The open question here is what versions of iOS will support this new version of HLS? Will there be an update to old versions of iOS or will this be an iOS 10+ feature?
Now for the news that turned out to be a pretty big letdown. Apple announced “Sample encryption uses part of ISO/IEC 23001:7 2016” (that specification is for Common Encryption, a draft version can be obtained from mpeg). The next line in the slide says “MPEG standard—“Common Encryption”, this is looking great. However that was followed by “‘cbcs’ mode” which made it clear something fishy was going on. The language they used should also have made it clear something was up “uses part of” is not a good sign for implementing a standard.
To understand what is going on here we need to understand the CENC spec and the new HLS spec a bit better. The new versions of the CENC spec define 4 separate protection schemes for content. The 4 protection schemes defined in section 4.2 of that specification are ‘cenc’, ‘cbc1’, ‘cens’, and ‘cbcs’ (yes, one of the schemes has the same name as the overall spec). Of these 4 protection schemes only the first, cenc, is required for implementors to support. The other three are optional.
Now we need to better understand what was added to HLS. The new spec in section 4.3.2.4 says “fMP4 Media Segments are encrypted using the ‘cbcs’ scheme of Common Encryption”. They’ve added support for the optional ‘cbcs’ protection scheme, without adding support for CENC spec required ‘cenc’ protection scheme. This means that if you need to protect your content with DRM you cannot use the same fMP4 fragments for FairPlay as you use for PlayReady or WideVine.
Why would Apple choose to “use part of” the CENC spec and not implement the one required protection scheme? We don’t know all of the answers, but one key point that Roger Pantos drove home in one of his presentations “Content Protection for HTTP Live Streaming”[4] was that battery life is king. He even said “every choice we made was predicated on giving you good battery life”. So what does the ‘cbcs’ protection scheme have to do with good battery life?
Of the 4 protection schemes defined in CENC the first two (‘cenc’ and ‘cbc1’) are Full Sample Encryption. As the name implies these protection schemes encrypt the entirety of the protected segment. The two newer protection schemes (‘cens’ and ‘cbcs’) use Subsample Encryption. In subsample encryption only a portion of the protected segment is encrypted. The spec says “Each Subsample SHALL have an unprotected part followed by a protected part”, so about half of the segment ends up being encrypted. This means that there is less work that needs to be done on the client as only about half as much data needs to be decrypted. In addition the ‘cbcs’ protection scheme treats each subsample as an independent encrypted block, this means that subsamples can be decrypted in parallel allowing for faster decryption of streams.
The ‘cbcs’ protection scheme is a great approach allowing for faster and more efficient protection of content, however the lack of support for ‘cenc’ within FairPlay means that DRM protected content must still be fragmented. We’ve come much closer to an ecosystem where we can use a single set of content files to deliver high quality protected video content, but we’re not quite there yet.
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16 Sep 2015
26 Aug 2015

Using JMeter to Load Test Live HLS Concurrency of Wowza Streaming Engine

When I was tasked with determine the max users that an m4.xlarge AWS instance running WowzaStreamingEngine delivering HLS content could reliably handle; I found out quickly I had a fairly difficult task ahead of me. Luckily I found a few blog posts that pointed me in the right direction and provided the base JMeter test plan to work with.

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09 Jul 2015
06 Jul 2015
19 Feb 2015

Using PHDS/PHLS/PRTMP? A case for updating to AMS 5.0.7.

Using the PHDS, PHLS, or PRTMP feature of Adobe Media Server is reliant on some certificate files provided with the installation. From time to time these files are set to expire and new files are provided by new AMS install versions. With the release of AMS 5.0.7, it has been noted in the release notes that these certificate files will need to be replaced again before April 6th, 2015:

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05 Feb 2015
30 Jan 2015

Why we love Wowza

Wowza has been growing up as a product well placed to take over the streaming media world. As a result of their attention to focusing on ease of use and an ability to reach every screen they have created the new industry leader in streaming media technology. Because of this we have come to see the Wowza Streaming Engine (WSE) as the most future proof option you can purchase.

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18 Nov 2014

Varnish Software releases three new products to increase website scalability and performance

Released today (Nov 18, 2014) are three new products to add to the Varnish Plus application; Unlimited cache sizing, increased caching performance and customized cache optimization support content-heavy, high-traffic sites.

“For most consumers, websites are now the pivotal point of interaction with companies. If information and content isn’t delivered instantly, they will seek alternatives that are just a mouse-click away,” – Per Buer, Founder and CTO, Varnish Software.

Product details:

Unlimited cache sizing with Varnish Massive Storage Engine
The new Varnish Massive Storage Engine tackles the problems of content-heavy sites by allowing the Varnish caching layer to handle multi-terabyte data sets. This makes it possible to cache almost unlimited objects while the website performance remains stable over time. The Varnish Massive Storage Engine is targeted at business with large data sets such as online retailers, image banks, video distributors or Content Distribution Networks and enables them to deliver high quality content within their current infrastructure while pushing the bounds of modern web experience delivery.

Increased caching performance and resilience with Varnish High Availability
Varnish High Availability is a high performance content replicator that eliminates cache misses (when an item looked up in the cache is not found) and ensures the stability of the Varnish Cache set-up. By protecting the backend infrastructure from overload caused by cache misses, it increases website performance and minimizes the risk of frustrated visitors leaving websites. Varnish High Availability is for Varnish Cache users whose sites are business-critical. It can be installed with any multi-cache Varnish Cache setup, including two/three node CDN POP installations.

Customized cache optimization with Varnish Tuner
Varnish Tuner automates customized cache optimization in both the Varnish and operating system environments. It recommends configuration options for the Varnish Cache set-up including how the operating system should be tuned, which cache parameters should be changed or replaced and also explains these recommendations. Varnish Tuner makes it possible for businesses to find the specific set-ups that best matches their resources and needs, resulting in better website performance.

Availability:
Varnish Massive Storage Engine, Varnish High Availability and Varnish Tuner are all available from today with a Varnish Plus subscription

Contact us today for all your Varnish purchasing/training/configuration needs!

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23 Sep 2014

HTML Video – Changes to Alternate Audio Track Access in iOS 8

Since iOS 8 went live on the 17th and I updated a few of my devices over the weekend, I decided to do some quick testing of web video playback. I wanted to see if there were any little, undocumented changes that would affect our custom, cross-platform video player, or our general approach to working with HTML video – like the changes to exiting fullscreen video that came in the update from iOS 6 -> iOS 7.

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