AWS Elemental showed a raft of new workflows for content creation and distribution at IBC. Among the demos were several enhancements to its MediaLive, MediaConvert and MediaConnect services.
Amazon acquired cloud-based video encoding and transcoding software from Elemental Technologies four years ago. What Elemental got – in addition to $296 million – was the unprecedented scale of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Elemental underwent changes in engineering and process to become part of an organisation where thousands of new features are rolled out each year; but it retains some identity. “It’s been a gradual absorption,” said Mike Callahan, Head of Media Solutions Marketing, AWS.
In any case, the synergy released by this acquisition – Amazon’s fifth largest at the time – have held up. One IBC demo that underscored the power of combining innovative encoding and cloud infrastructure involved 720p video streamed at under 400 kbps. On one side of the screen was AWS Elemental AV1 video using Quality-Defined Variable Bitrate (QVBR) encoding, an enhanced and efficient rate control mode. AWS Elemental launched QVBR last year in MediaConvert and MediaLive. On the other side of the screen was AVC (H.264). By several metrics – and the plain eye – AV1 with QVBR was significantly richer.
“Especially for VOD workflows, the ability to use the power of the cloud and spread the transcoding workload across multiple computing nodes is a game changer,” said Callahan. “It is enabling much faster codec technology deployments compared to the historical situations where the computational optimisations had to be completed before a new technology could be deployed.”
AWS Elemental also highlighted several machine learning (ML) solutions, another area in which cloud computing can augment video workflows. One solution, which Callahan said represents “the art of the possible,” is real-time transcription, caption creation and multi-language subtitling with dubbing. Already in production, it can benefit users across the spectrum – from major broadcast networks to resource-constrained public, educational and governmental access (PEG) channels.
Another new (though yet-to-be released) feature in MediaLive implements statistical multiplexing in the cloud. Enabling primary distribution of live video, MediaLive StatMux could appeal to customers looking to streamline their media processing and related operations. In particular, Callahan said it delivers flexibility (add or retire channels in minutes), reliability (through a resilient architecture) and cost savings (pay as you go, built on Amazon).
“A content owner with many channels,” said Callahan, “could move their encoding, including stat-mux, to the cloud with MediaLive and then use MediaConnect to bring the content back on-premises for their traditional satellite distribution.”
A more centralised implementation of MediaConnect also now enables a content owner to bring their live content into AWS and then easily and securely share it with distributor partners. “You just send up one stream,” said Callahan. “Previously, you had to put equipment into all the data centers.”
Other AWS Elemental features showcased at IBC included ultra-low latency live video, studio capabilities in the cloud, source-to-screen live OTT streaming, server-less channel creation and media-to-cloud migration.