QoE the focus as playout move to cloud

  • By Adrian Pennington

QoE the focus as playout move to cloud

Multiplatform has moved from nice-to-have to must-have. And if OTT isn’t at least on your radar, you’re not in the game… By Adrian Pennington

Effectively monitoring a steadily increasing number of channels at a centralised operations center is critical to the success of OTT services. OTT platforms must process and deliver multiple video formats to different display devices, different screen sizes and resolutions, at different bit rates, increasing the quantity and complexity of monitoring. 

As the number of channels for OTT delivery continues to grow, monitoring these channels in a highly automated way has become paramount to ensuring a good Quality of Experience for the viewer. To deliver QoE that’s as good as linear TV broadcasts, the entire system - from ingest to multi-bitrate encoding to delivery to CDN - must be monitored continuously. 

“Until recently, the only option to handle these performance requirements was for the multiviewer to be based on dedicated, broadcast specific hardware,” says Peter Wharton, TAG Video Systems’ Director of Corporate Strategy. “Now, software based multi-viewing of compressed and uncompressed signals is a reality.”

TAG’s platform offers both the probing and multiviewing function within the same solution which provides simplified workflows for operators. Wharton explains that the software’s “robust and open API structure” allows deep integration with third party network management systems and broadcast control systems. In turn, this offer easy configured and provides operators with the critical information needed to operate and manage the facility. 

The software-defined solution provides a complete probing and monitoring application tool for all the transmission layers starting from the ST 2110/ST 2022-6 uncompressed; MPEG-TS compressed; and OTT streams all the way down to the encoded video content and its quality.

A recent enhancement is the ability for users to manually set a recording of an OTT channel, record all metadata elements of additional OTT formats, and set 32 channels to be recorded simultaneously- a significant increase in capacity.

“OTT monitoring and error event recording has quickly become a priority issue with our customers and so we’ve enhanced the platform’s capabilities and capacity to help provide information easily for an effective post-mortem analysis,” explains Pinky Maron, VP Professional Services.

Some will argue that throwing everything into the cloud is the solution. Undoubtedly, cloud-based models are becoming a more common feature of the production landscape. However, this doesn’t always make sense - either financially or operationally. 

Few broadcasters can make a complete jump to cloud in one hit. According to Pebble most customers still have functional and valuable playout facilities. “We need to be there for them to keep those systems up to date and operating smoothly,” says to Alison Pavitt, Director of Sales and Marketing. “So much is changing for our customers that Pebble’s role of being a trusted partner and solutions expert is coming very much to the fore.”

Recent introductions by the company have allowed customers to not only increase their channel counts, but also to transition to newer technologies. Pavitt explains, “In installations where split sites are used, we deliver systems that allow both cloud and on-premises channels to be controlled from one interface via our Remote Control and Monitoring application. 

“Pebble Integrated Channel devices and Pebble Automation Solutions are already available on-premises, virtualized in private data centers, or in the cloud. We find the big need is to offer our customers solution flexibility so they can move forward at their own rate without worsening an already stressful change process.”

Grass Valley has perhaps the biggest install base of playout automation in the world and has taken that deep understanding to introduce a ‘true cloud’ architecture supporting playout.

“Public cloud is great at being elastic and offering services on a pay-as-you-go basis, but cloud is hardly what broadcasters think of first when planning how to do playout,” says Neil Maycock, General Manager - Playout. “Playout is a part of the workflow that always needs to be on tap.” 

GV AMPP Playout, the latest application suite for the Agile Media Processing Platform, is GV’s solution. It delivers an elastic playout solution that increases business agility by enabling users to deploy channels, where and when they need them without requiring any additional infrastructure. Built on a microservices architecture, it gives customers “infinite scalability with the ability to provision any number of channels quickly and easily with very low latency.” 

Eurosport is among the first to deploy it. The SaaS platform allows Eurosport to efficiently deliver every minute of its event coverage across all platforms: linear television, online, streaming, and social media. Many of these were previously disparate legacy systems, but now the broadcaster can leverage content much more effectively and across the entire organization, from whichever location its teams operate. 

“Using cloud playout, Eurosport can deliver audio, graphics, scoring and every other variable in localised versions for the duration of a specific event - a strategy that would be absurd in the linear world,” Maycock says.

Most broadcasters are launching OTT channels on Free Ad Supported TV (FAST) platforms or on their direct-to-consumer apps. There is some form of OTT offering in every broadcaster’s channel bouquet today. As a result, one of the challenges that broadcasters are facing, while making their buying decisions, is the duplication of their broadcast workflows for traditional cable distribution and OTT. 

“Those planning to reinvest or upgrade their playout systems, in addition to looking at cloud-based platforms, should be able to adopt cloud platforms that unify broadcast workflows,” says Srinivasan KA, co-founder, Amagi. “One should be able to run pay TV and OTT distribution from a common platform.”

He adds, “The flexibility and scalability of the cloud allows for more experimentation and trial and error in all aspects of the broadcast, including branding and visual style. I think broadcasters will look at systems which deliver such feature-rich live production that can match their on-prem output, but on cloud.”

At a time when OTT wasn’t very evolved, Amagi had invested much of its cloud playout capabilities to deliver broadcast-grade quality for traditional broadcasters looking to migrate workflows to cloud via Amagi CLOUDPORT. KA says the versatility of its cloud solution and its architecture design today allows broadcasters to unify workflows and create live linear channels that can then be distributed to not just pay-TV, but to FAST platforms and DTC apps. 

Amagi has also strengthened its Dynamic Ad Insertion solution with advanced analytics for OTT ad monetization.
Amagi ANALYTICS offers viewing metrics such sessions, average viewing time and content load time. The platform also highlights advertising metrics such as ad breaks, ad requests, responses and ad drops. 

When it comes to live production, Amagi LIVE, “enables the operator to control break durations and slots, insert graphics in the live feed, extend live playout, switch between input sources and so on with live controls on the platform.”

2021 looks set to be the year in which remote working becomes an integral part of many broadcasters’ lifestyle, even if only as a standby option. This in turn is likely to accelerate demand for systems capable of operating under full web/IP-control and in the IP domain.

Secure web/IP remote control allows PlayBox Neo customers to manage broadcast TV channel presentation and playout from whatever location they chose. This allows secure remote-site system operation regardless of distance, plus the ability for channel managers to work from home if necessary. Programmes are delivered to the server as a video data files, each packaged with audio channels in one or more languages plus relevant metadata such as open or closed subtitles.

“Broadcasters are looking for the greatest possible freedom to attach third-party hardware and software rather than be constrained to specific brands,” explains PlayBox Neo CEO Pavlin Rahnev. “We are seeing greater than ever use of the Media Object Server protocol. MOS reduces the need for device-specific drivers and so gives broadcasters the ability to source from multiple vendors. It is fully supported by ProductionAirBox Neo-20, which provides content playout for news, live shows, studio screens, video walls and live broadcasts.”

Content localisation is another increasing trend, including digital programme insertion and audience-specific advertisement targeting. Its AdBox Neo can be integrated into clients’ traffic systems to enable traffic and billing to provide “the complete one-box solution” that includes automation, video server and switching. 

No media company wants to deal with technically complex processes if streamlined solutions are available that allow them to focus on their core creative competency of producing, distributing and monetizing content. 

As a pure SaaS playout and streaming solution Techtriq’s q.air meets these requirements. According to Techtriq’s CEO Jürgen Schmiezek, q.air does so by providing an adjustable number of required channels, uptime-hours, data volumes, stream sources and destinations, that also include social media platforms. 

“The q.air business model is simple,” he says. “Clients choose between two tailored packages and the calculation is based on the number of needed streaming or playout channels. This allows them to scale up and down quickly and flexibly to meet individual and changing requirements.”

The platform offers the latest cloud-powered tools out-of-the-box for video formats up to UHD, broadcast-compliant streams, progressive IP-based protocols (e.g., SRT, adaptive streaming, etc.) as well as features like asset and stream transcoding, ad triggering for dynamic ad insertion, Dolby and loudness control.

Versio is Imagine Communications’ microservices-based media workflow ecosystem, offering everything required for complete channel creation - from ingest and media asset management to playout, master control, and graphics.

As a fully software-based ecosystem, Versio can be deployed on-premise, in the public cloud, or in a hybrid environment. The technology enables operators generate content for broadcast, OTT, linear, nonlinear, mobile, or any other platform from a single playout ecosystem. As part of Versio, Imagine offers a Master Control Surface (MCS) modular playout suite. This provides a touchscreen-based master control surface designed for either fully manual operation or combined with automation. It enables full control of switching, graphics and automation.