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Beamr Video launches cloud-based workflow and anticipates 40% savings in HEVC OTT bit-rates

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By Barry Flynn, Contributing Editor

It is two years since Beamr Video launched its video optimization solution at IBC, promising to shave 40% of OTT bit-rates.

At IBC 2015, the company will be showcasing its cloud-based workflow in association with Amazon Web Services (AWS), and looking forward to the alpha release of a new ‘made-for-HEVC’ version. Beamr’s solution claims to be unique, in that it works by controlling existing video compression systems and manipulating the encoding process in such a way that it lowers the bit-rate while preserving quality, by detecting when artefacts are visible to the naked eye.

Somewhat surprisingly, this approach has been shown to be highly effective in practice, and Beamr Video clients now include Sony Entertainment’s OTT streaming platform Crackle, as well as M-GO, the movie streaming JV run by DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor.

Beamr’s CTO, Dror Gill, concedes that adapting this technology to an HEVC environment was challenging: “we did have to modify it to detect specifically how HEVC compresses video and what artefacts start to be visible as you lower the bit-rate of the HEVC encoder.” However, the result is that “we can now reduce the bit rate of HEVC by up to 40%,” he says, a feat which was demonstrated recently by M-GO using a beta version of the technology.

Gill describes this as “major news” for 4K/UHD TV, because currently most OTT providers seeking to distribute 4K streams require between 15-20Mbit/s to do so. Yet, he points out, reports from CDN provider Akamai suggest that only 20% of the US population have a broadband connection running at 15Mbit/s or above.

“But if you look at the number of those with 10Mbit/s or over, it’s 40% of the population. So if you can reduce the 15 Mbit/s figure to 10 Mbit/s, then you actually double the reach of your content and you double the potential size of your audience. And this of course affects the monetization of the content, which is also a big issue because 4K content is more costly to produce.”

Gill hopes that a full commercial release of the new HEVC solution will be possible by the beginning of 2016.

Meanwhile, the principal focus at IBC will be on improvements to Beamr’s offline encoding performance, and on the launch of Beamr’s video optimization cloud service on Amazon Web Services.

In the past, this type of encoding had to take place in a linear (sequential) mode – but now Beamr’s offline product comes with multi-core processing. “We can take a video stream and split it into segments and process each segment on different cores,” says Gill. “This really speeds up the processing and shortens the turnaround time for the video.”

Beamr has also added a web-based dashboard to improve management of different processing jobs, the number of which can now be rapidly scaled as required through the addition of cloud-based processing. “Now Beamr Video is available not only as on-premises LINUX software, but also as a cloud service which we run on Amazon – you can access through an API and upload files for optimization, then download the optimized versions.” This allows peaks in offline processing requirements to be managed simply by calling on more server capacity in the cloud on a pay-per-use basis. Beamr will be one of Amazon’s featured AWS partners on its booth at IBC 2015. 

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