Cracking the Code: Mastering Video Transcoding

How Video Transcoding Has Evolved in a Streaming-Centric Production Era

By Patrick Devlin | 12/16/21

With the demands of OTT services and more mobile devices bringing media to consumers everywhere and anywhere, the process of video transcoding is now more essential than ever in content delivery and presentation. How comfortable are you with the process? Do you know the best way to manage one project destined for multiple platforms? Here is a look at what all production houses and media producers should know about video transcoding and the future of content creation.

Contents

Chapter 1: The State of Video Transcoding
Chapter 2: The Raging Storm of Content
Chapter 3: A New Video Transcoding Strategy
Chapter 4: Why Video Transcoding is Essential for Successful Streaming
Chapter 5: Mastering Video Transcoding with Dalet AmberFin
Chapter 6: Taking the Next Steps Forward

From the Beginning: The State of Video Transcoding

Look back a decade and consider how far streaming has come as a technology, as a platform, and as a delivery method. 2011 does not seem that long ago, but streaming media was on the verge of completely disrupting the media industry. Today, there are consumers that only know streaming as their primary method of media delivery. While streaming media has completely changed how audiences consume media, the technology has created a new wave of challenges for content creators now looking to feature their productions across a variety of platforms from as expansive as a movie screen to as intimate as a smartphone. One of these challenges is transcoding. Now, instead of having a destination in mind and knowing which workflow to apply, content is being released across multiple platforms, each platform asking for its own set of parameters.

How do we navigate this brave new world?

To understand the challenges and demands of video transcoding, it is a good idea to understand the process from its most basic application. Raw digital video takes up a good amount of data which is why devices tend to compress the audio and video data into a format easy for storage purposes. Many of these formats you might recognize at a glance: M4V, MOV, or MP4. Video transcoding takes compressed video, restores it to a full, raw format, and then compresses it again into a format specific to a platform. At the beginning of this process, you would have video from a live broadcast in its most raw form. The data size of these files will appear somewhat daunting.

A video transcoder will take these gigantic files and compress them from their original format into smaller files that are more optimized for an editing suite like Adobe Premiere Pro®, or perhaps into a format optimized for streaming services. Video transcoding, now with the demand of the earlier-mentioned streaming services, is key in delivering content across numerous platforms, reaching the largest audience available.

The Raging Storm of Content

Presently, media production houses and studios are in the middle of a streaming and cloud technology revolution. Consumers are enjoying the luxury of consuming media from any location on a device of their choice. In Attest’s recent US Media Consumption Report 2021 study, several telling statistics showcased how streaming media has completely upended the industry.

  • For the first time in the study’s history, more people were consuming media via streaming platforms (83%) than audiences watching live television (81%).
  • Netflix continues to dominate the streaming video scene with 69.4 percent of those surveyed having an active subscription. 52 percent have Amazon Prime Video, which comes included with the Amazon Prime subscription, and nearly 37 percent now have Disney Plus. HBO Max, which the Attest survey categorized as “video on demand” as opposed to streaming, clocked in at 31.4 percent. Households with at least one child under the age of 18 in the house have higher rates of streaming subscriptions across the board.
  • Podcasting is still enjoying a sharp upward trend, 56% of respondents listening and subscribing to podcasts. This is up from the 2020 study which reported 49% of respondents listening to podcasts.

With 83% of media being consumed via streaming to different devices, cloud services have also grown in their demand and application within the industry. There is also a very high demand to take existing workflows and upgrade them to cloud-based, elastic operations.

A New Video Transcoding Strategy: Applying a New Workflow to the Old

With so many changes in the industry, the process of post-production is in flux. No longer are we seeing “one size fits all” workflows, but each individual production offering their own unique needs. Instead of post-production workflows being pre-determined and tailored for one final destination, now there are multiple destinations for one project. Productions are expected to appear in a wide variety of formats, and therefore video transcoding is so important in this age of streaming media. With today’s standards continuing to be refined for existing platforms and redefined for new and emerging platforms, the video transcoding process requires something new.

As defined earlier, video transcoding takes media files (either video or audio), restores the media to its native, uncompressed format, and then re-encodes the content into a target format. A common video conversion process starts with an MOV file that is transcoded to an MP4 file using the H.264 codec. A reliable strategy to video transcoding will do everything to preserve the picture more effectively with better compression.

Depending on the strategy you decide to implement, whether you are using a computer running an open-source, command-line interface or a SaaS editing suite offering a more robust UI, video transcoding needs a computer with plenty of processing speed as this process is considered “computationally intensive” by media professionals. In short, video transcoding benefits from substantial hardware and system resources, like generous amounts of system RAM, graphics acceleration, and higher-end CPUs; but video transcoding can still tie up powerful desktop machines, sometimes for hours at a time depending on the running time of projects.

This is why it’s unlikely to easily transcode 4K video to a quality HLS or DASH stream with a Chromebook.

Why Video Transcoding is Essential for Successful Streaming

Video transcoding is a key in making adaptive streaming successful for a project. This workflow is a step in preparing your content for a delivery protocol that can reach the widest possible number of display devices. In order to assure the best quality viewing experience for the project you’re working on, adaptive streaming is the preferred approach. Video transcoding is the essential step in moving your best content from the capture device to a high-quality streaming output such as HLS or DASH. These adaptive streaming formats are the best for reducing buffering and playback issues, delivering the sharpest possible picture continuously and with no interruptions.

Video transcoding in a streaming workflow takes a video asset from a capture device, and the incoming video and audio data encoded in a file or streaming format by the camera and then sent off to some sort of media processing software like Dalet AmberFin. The encoder will make sure whatever original data will be recompressed into a format suitable for internet streaming. Modern video encoders should also offer to create multiple stream renditions that transrate and transsize to different bitrates and resolutions. The final files are then sent to a media server to be packaged into an adaptive streaming format (like HLS) and served via HTTP over the “last mile” to viewers. As described, this will create multiple options for content delivery, from HD output on a smart TV or desktop to a suitable size for a tablet or smartphone screen.

Media and how it is being distributed continues to change and evolve, with new devices, applications, and input sources being introduced regularly. While new cameras like 4K POV cameras and even on-board smartphone cameras, new data feeds, and innovations in streaming improve the quality and variety of content being produced, they also inevitably create new challenges in content delivery.

Mastering Video Transcoding with Dalet AmberFin

With the global disruption of streaming services across the media industry, the ability to produce many content packages for a variety of platforms is essential. The sound strategy is one workflow yielding multiple files all optimized for a variety of delivery platforms from IMAX to smartphones. At Dalet, we offer Dalet AmberFin, a transcoder and workflow engine ready to meet these new demands for media conversions, available on-premises, in a Dalet-managed SaaS environment, or inside a personal, secure VPC.

Dalet AmberFin has been trusted by major media organizations to handle standards conversions for over a decade. As 4K resolution, HDR, and immersive audio are expected in modern media productions, regardless of the presentation platform, Dalet AmberFin offers video transcoding for all types of viewing screens while assuring the original image quality is preserved for audiences to experience as intended.

Whether it is a multi-tenant SaaS or single-tenant customer-managed VPC cloud environment, the Dalet AmberFin workflow engine offers complete control of on account of its API, a real benefit when Dalet focused creative options and solutions for cloud-based production studios. It is this forward-thinking strategy that allows Dalet AmberFin to quickly adapt to new and existing video transcoding workflows easily and efficiently.

Taking the Next Steps Forward: What’s Your Video Transcoding Strategy for Tomorrow?

While the need for a video transcoding strategy is abundantly clear, something else that remains clear is the disruption sparking the demand for this strategy is far from over. Now, media productions look to the next frontiers of engagement and interaction, inspired by the live streaming events that initiated the disruption to begin with. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are only the beginning, and are two new delivery methods that, while hardly new, are now becoming more and more accessible to the public.

When searching for your own next step forward in keeping your video transcoding workflows updated, efficient, and effective, consider Dalet AmberFin as the reliable solution to a uniquely powerful transcoding and media orchestration platform, perfect for ensuring that the right content is available at the highest quality, properly wrapped, and all as part of an automated and dependable process.

As the market and the media landscape continues to evolve after an incredible disruption, remote teams are now launching video transcoding strategies with implementation of Dalet AmberFin. Working with other solutions, such as the powerful, cloud-based media logistics, asset management and content production solution, Dalet Flex, content providers are achieving success with their media projects. The change, however, is far from done; and with so many options to consume media, it could appear daunting. It comes down to the video transcoding strategy in place, and how ready productions are for the new and incredible technologies coming that make their audiences part of the production itself.

Featured in: Dalet AmberFin | Multiplatform Production | Post-Production | Transcoding | Video Transcoding |

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By Patrick Devlin

Patrick Devlin has over a decade's experience in the media processing space specializing in transcoding and workflow orchestration. Starting out as a video editor before delving deeper into the technical aspects of production, delivery and asset management with a keen interest in the burgeoning world of cloud technologies.

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