Thoughts After CES 2019

CES 2019 at a Glance

Every year we make our way to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas for the annual consumer electronics exhibition. Imagine over 4,500 vendors presenting new ideas and technological developments spread across an entire week — it really does give a whole new meaning to the city of lights. CES presents a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals in similar fields, or different, helping catch new ideas, contacts, and ideas – it’s wonderful here.

The history of CES began over 52 years ago with organizers showing more progress each and every year. With the main theme being innovation and information technology, the width of coverage is vast:

  • Robotics,
  • Artificial Intelligence,
  • Three-dimensional Printing,
  • Design,
  • Drones,
  • Sport Technologies,
  • Smart Home,
  • Family & Lifestyle,
  • Virtual Reality (VR),
  • Games,
  • Unmanned Vehicles,
  • Music,
  • Entertainment & Content,
  • Cryptocurrency,
  • Internet of Things (IoT),
  • and Machine Intelligence.

 

All About IoT

The beginning of the year confirmed that IoT is coming to the mass market.  Focus has shifted from smartphones to other smart devices — and manufactures are taking notice.  Improved air quality sensors, door positions, windows, just to provide a few quick examples.  There are even smart window systems being developed that can inform the home when a window is opened wider than an indicated gap, for example.

Consumers can now choose between a wide variety of smart devices and systems, putting real pressure on manufactures and companies to advance smart home ecosystems. But the problem doesn’t just end there. Consumers need a way to connect many different smart devices to a single system – easy management.  This is where Zigbee and other wireless technologies flex their strength; gateways with multiantenna and customization service suggestions come to the rescue.

Hi Computer, Talk to Me

Voice automation control becomes more the norm than the rarity.  It falls into many devices and almost everyone has them now. People want to have a voice assistant in their home, in the office, and in the car, like Jarvis from Iron Man. Project recipes from the Internet to the kitchen door by voice request?  Yes, please!  Yet, even Alexa from Amazon or Google-assistant do not always suit as a compromising option.  Artificial intelligence is poised to grow wiser and communicate with people better and faster.  Companies that once winced at the idea of software in their products are now flocking to CES.  For example, Procter and Gamble – L’Oreal, are developing mirrors that can look at your face to determine if your skin needs support or treatment.  Maybe just a care cream?  Cameras take pictures of the users face and follow changes of the face in real time.  Maybe they’ll even notice skin cancer in due time.

It is interesting that companies that are seemingly far from “software” come into the sphere of technology.  These companies expand the development zone to such wide branches like automation for pets, children, sleep, and beauty.  There are even smart leashes and collars!  People even get interested in buying devices that can distribute pleasant smells throughout their homes.  And what if you could connect a device that could command three-dimensional TV? Cars? Batteries? Spotify on your steering wheel?  The ideas and possibilities are endless.

Robotics help businesses change their models.  It is especially gratifying that companies competing in the past are starting to cooperate.  To denote such activity, the new term ‘coopetition’ has appeared.  ‘Coopetition’ should bring even greater breakthroughs in overall development.  Teamwork gives rise to new achievements.  SDKs help bring the product to market.  Quick starts are real.

Meet & Talk

DSR had a lot of productive meetings with existing and prospective clients and it was the most successful CES to date. DSR was also a proud  sponsor of the Zigbee Alliance Social – an invitation only event that was a great opportunity to bring all of the members together in one location and celebrate Zigbee successes from 2018. During this event, Zigbee Alliance announced several of the new developments and expansions of the standard and also unveil the location of the next member meeting. The atmosphere for the event was very warm and inviting and perfect for conversations and celebration.

In Closing

Here are seven key CES 2019 takeaways that caught our attention:

  • IoT is finally an emerging mass market (and the data it gathers has lots of financial implications)
  • Amazon and Google are in “hand-to-hand combat” driving voice technology into the Smart Home and beyond
  • 5G, NB-IOT and Cat-M1 are expanding battery-powered WAN connectivity in amazing ways
  • Drones—from airborne to underwater to John Deere—are becoming platforms
  • Robotics are creating business change
  • Artificial Intelligence is getting smarter
  • “Coopetition” is happening in lots of places

IoT is moving capabilities out of smart phones and into different smart things. People want their homes, cars and offices to have a voice like Jarvis (see the Ironman movie franchise). And not everyone wants Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant as the go-between. Battery-powered WAN connectivity in a variety of speeds is making the cloud easier by “losing the gateway.” Drones and robotics platforms are giving new capabilities to businesses and consumers. Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is changing the way products and services interact with humans. And if Apple and Samsung are teaming up, is it time to evaluate how “coopetition” might help your 2019 business goals?

Migrating Legacy Systems

With IBC fast approaching, you are probably already considering that you’ll return from the show with a list of new features and requests from your existing customers and prospects. We know that not every company has the resource pool to handle the volume of software changes necessary to secure the desired orders, and DSR is here to help. With nearly 20 years of experience in helping vendors build software, we truly understand how to listen, define and manage projects, and implement solutions that work in the media & entertainment industry.

Many companies are considering porting existing applications to the cloud in order to increase automation, enable innovation, and reduce operational costs. However, migrating legacy media services and applications poses a variety of technical issues including trouble with porting codecs and methods from a desktop environment to a more distributed, service-oriented environment. On some occasions, this can be more complex than moving from linear threading to multi-threading with worker thread separation from data sources, service identification, availability publication, and service management. Working with a company like DSR that has experience in building and porting applications to web services can substantially ease your burden.

Legacy Migration Process:

DSR acts as a partner, which sets us apart from other companies. We take the time to truly understand your existing application, and are then able to take what we learn to help you move forward. While moving forward is different for everyone, DSR has the technical expertise under its belt to address any challenges that may arise. DSR will be with you step-by-step through your unique migration.

We have extensive expertise in this industry, having worked with major clients like Sony, Quantum, and Netflix, as well as with companies like XenData, Brightcove, and many others.

Are you going to IBC this year? If so, take this opportunity to schedule a 10-15 minute consultation with one of our media and entertainment application specialists today!

Email: ecarson@dsr-corporation.com

 

 

 

The Next Wave of Media and Entertainment Consumer Experience

The coming transformations in the media distribution space provide ample opportunity for both vendors and operators to work together to improve efficiencies and increase user satisfaction on the consumption experience.

DSR believes that after the failure in uptake on in-home 3D, the media & entertainment market is primed for the success of the next wave of consumer experience improvements, which we believe will be driven by high dynamic range (HDR) video, continued over-the-top streaming distribution (including 4K video resolutions) and virtual reality. Beyond the consumer experience, the backend of media operations can be substantially enhanced and prepared for these changes by embracing IMF, IP ingest & playout and virtualization of media processes.

As a software engineering provider for media & entertainment vendors for more than a decade, DSR is uniquely positioned to provide our expertise in building applications and backend services to assist companies ready to embrace these transitions.

IMF, HDR, & 4K Video

Consuming video wherever, whenever has become mainstream, and enabling those consumption habits has increased the workload on media transformation by several times in the last 5 years. IMF (a SMPTE standard for Interoperable Media Format) finally holds a promise to simplifying versioning for this wide array of consumer consumption channels.

IMF can simply your media workflows by using a single package to hold an original version video, along with all possible substitutions and exclusions referenced by composition play lists (CPL). Since additional CPL are just XML documents and substitutions and exclusions are much smaller than creating new additional versions for each distribution point, IMF not only promises simplicity in distribution, but also a possible reduction in media storage.

BroadcastingIMF_VR_VM_BlogDiagram_pptx

Within IMF, it is also possible to handle 4K video and coming soon, high dynamic range (HDR) content, along with downmix instructions, so that a single file package can hold the true master content, as well as the recipes for creating premium and lower cost versions.

DSR has already built tools for customers based upon IMF parsing, packaging and file playout, and we can bring that expertise to your project as well.

Virtual Reality

Consumer appetites for new and exciting video experiences appear to be increasing, and virtual reality experiences are poised to fulfill those desires. Several challenges exist in preparing content, however, including:

  • Camera rig creation and assembly
  • Video splicing/stitching for seamless visual experience during user pans
  • Spatial distortion correction

DSR’s wide array of experience in handling video for ingest and playout puts us in a position to help advise and create applications within the virtual reality space, particularly when dealing with video and audio layouts.

Backend Media Process Virtualization

In the last several years, DSR has helped many of our clients migrate and manage their applications from on-premise deployments to virtualized deployments, both on the cloud and in local datacenters. Our knowledge of multiple hypervisor technologies allows us to be agnostic in helping our clients migrate applications.

DSR has a wide range of expertise in refactoring applications, removing tight couplings between user interactions and data processing to enable the addition of web services. Our database expertise and API knowledge also helps speed the transition of applications from those dependent on single machine processing to those that can scale between multiple virtual machines.

Whether your organization is facing the challenges of:

  • application refactoring for virtual deployments,
  • handling multiple versions of media with IMF or HDR, or
  • needs to bring a virtual reality application online quickly,

DSR stands ready to help. We have over 10 years of experience in media & entertainment applications, working with enterprise application vendors and start-ups, with a stable team of engineers that understands video, audio, captions and containers (and English). Let us bring our engineering team to help in your next project.

Contact us at contact@dsr-company.com

Modern Media and IP Video Systems: How to Choose the Best Formats and Technologies

Today there exist two standard ways of providing video content – “video on demand” and “live streaming.” “Video on demand” assumes that a client requests static media content from a server. “Live streaming,” means that media content is generated real-time and translated through a server to several clients.
In addition, media consumers use multiple types of devices for both ways of video playback:

  • Desktop browsers
  • Mobile devices
  • Smart TVs
  • Set-Top-Boxes
  • Game consoles

To cover most media traffic accessed via different methods and by different types of devices, it is important to cover the formats and technologies that make it possible.

MPEG-DASH Revolution

MPEG-DASH is Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) technology that evolved since 2010 and was adopted by main hardware vendors and content providers. In 2016 this technology overpowered the Adobe Flash Player widely used in desktop browsers for media content playback, since all mainstream desktop browsers support MPEG-DASH.
The challenge remains for mobile devices and Apple TV that still do not support this technology well and primary use HTTP Live Streaming. Several custom MPEG-DASH implementations already exist for the main mobile platforms on the market, but it is not yet included in the native SDKs.

MP4 and WebM Formats

MPEG-DASH is format and codec agnostic, but currently the following formats and codecs are mostly used:

  • MP4 container with h.264 video and AAC audio codecs
  • WebM format with VP8/9 video codecs and Vorbis/Opus audio codecs

h.264 codec is well supported by software and hardware chips and it can be definitely the best choice today, but it imposes royalty fees if the provider charges customers for content.
VP8/9 is royalty free, but doesn’t have as wide of adoption as h.264, so it should be carefully checked if a particular target platform supports this codecs.

Choices for Desktop Media Systems

HTML5 UI that can be run from any mainstream browser is the most modern way to playback media content for desktop end-users. HTML5 standard provides special <video> and <audio> elements for native media playback support, but it works natively only for the “video on demand” approach. MP4 is supported in all mainstream browsers, while WebM is not supported in Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, and Safari.

So far HTML5 doesn’t have a standardized approach for “Live Streaming.” Before the end of 2015 Adobe Flash technology and RTMP (Real Time Messaging Protocol) were widely used to provide live streaming. Now, it is significantly changed. MPEG-DASH now supports all major desktop browsers via HTML5 Media Source Extensions and “DASH.JS” JavaScript library. YouTube and Netflix have been adapting this technology for the last several years and it seems MPEG-DASH has become a De facto standard for desktop browsers live streaming.

The important thing is that native HTML5 “video on demand” approach doesn’t support adaptive streaming. It means it cannot adopt media bitrate in accordance with client Internet bandwidth. This leads to MPEG-DASH technology being used for both “Video-on-demand” and “Live streaming” approaches.

Choice for Mobile Devices

HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) still remains the best choice for both “Video On Demand” and “Live Streaming” approaches for native applications on mobile platforms. Both Android and iOS platforms support this technology with their native SDKs and the stock browsers. HLS works with h.264/AAC codecs on iOS. Android is limited by h.264 baseline level 3.0 profile, but it allows other codecs including VP8/9.

Choice for Home Device Systems

SmartTV, Set-Top-Box and Game consoles usually support a wide range of formats, technologies and codecs. Despite the fact that several technologies cover most media traffic (over 75%), there is no best choice for such devices since it usually is a universal media player for many formats and content providers. Any modern home media device should support the technologies that are covered above without limiting the wide range of device capabilities.

Server Side Choice and Requirements

Both MPEG-DASH and HLS can use HTTP/HTTPS as transport protocol. That really simplifies the server side environment. Many HTTP servers support these formats or can be used as proxies to MPEG-DASH/HLS services.

Wowza streaming engine or an exclusive one built on open source software like FFMPEG and MP4Box can be used for transcoding and repackaging.

Both MPEG-DASH and HLS technologies assume streams bitrate adoption to fit client Internet bandwidth. This means that the access point must be able to simultaneously provide streams with different bitrates.

“Live Streaming” requires several encoding processes on the server side to meet the increased sever side hardware requirements, especially CPU core numbers. It may require several modern CPU cores to provide real-time transcoding of a single HD stream.

For the “Video-On-Demand” approach, streams with different bitrates must be prepared ahead of time and stored on the server side. This brings additional requirements for storage size, since several copies of the same original media with different bitrates must be stored.

In Conclusion

Any modern media and IP video system must consider most adopted and prominent technologies. Today these include MPEG-DASH, MP4 with h.264, and WebM with VP8/9. HLS is still strong and must be supported, but with MPEG-DASH continuously increasing pressure, it is not unlikely that MPEG-DASH may replace HLS in a few years.

Adobe Flash Player should no longer be used as a main player for any web content provider and it is likely that this technology will withdraw in the near future.

MPEG-DASH and HLS provide great ways for high quality media content services, but on other hand pose increased requirements for content processing and storage on the server side as well as higher complexity of a media system.

Latest Custom Software Applications for Media & Entertainment from DSR

As part of our blog, we like to share our recent experience in various industries. Below are two projects that we have worked on in the Media and Entertainment industry.

SDI Graphics Insertion

DSR has recently worked on a project whose purpose was to combine OpenGL application graphics output with 3D video content. High Definition 3D video content was provided real-time as two video streams via Serial Digital Interface (SDI) as unpacked video frames. OpenGL graphics were generated on the fly and the current OpenGL frame corresponding to the current video frame of the 3D content. The output of the combined content was an SDI stream with the same parameters as the input.

One of the projects requirements was to not have more than 1 frame difference between the SDI input and output streams, as well as 2 frame difference between OpenGL output and 3D content.

DSR developed a library that is linked with the OpenGL library and that takes the OpenGL output and combines it with the SDI stream real-time. AJA Corvid44 card was used to work with the SDI functionality. Because this card has a powerful Mixer for video content with Alpha-channel, we were able to use hardware blending that consumed neither CPU nor video card GPU for that operation.

As the project result DSR provided the library with a convenient API, non-blocking architecture and the required differences between input and output frames. Integration of that library did not require any OpenGL application architecture or graphics drawing changes, only slight OpenGL configuration tweaks were required to allow the library to get content in the format it needed.

Automated Datascraping

Another recent project DSR worked on required automation to analyze the online stores TV content for presentation and cost validity. All analysis data, including screenshots of a web page with a particular TV show, had to be inserted into the database to be reviewed by an operator later via an already existing system UI (this is where all analysis work was performed manually in the past).

For this project DSR proposed Selenium technology that allows a web browser to run in a controlled by program environment. Having this technology, a software engineer can emulate TV show searching and its web page analysis, and accessing web page document object model that browser operates using code.

Such an approach can be scaled by having several instances of analysis script with Selenium running, so that can optimize the total analysis time when many TV shows and web stores must be processed.

If you any of this experience is interesting to you or if you have any questions, connect with us at contact@dsr-company.com