AWS Elemental Takes Next Step Forward with Media Services Offering

Amazon Web Services today launched five new AWS Elemental Media Services that are designed to better meet the needs of a video industry that is transforming via OTT, streaming, VOD, and other distribution methods. The goal is to offer up a suite of cloud-based services that make it easier for anyone wanting to serve up an OTT channel, VOD offering, or streaming service to do so.“The convergence of video applications is happening across all markets, and while standards still have to be dealt with, Internet and mobile technologies are a unifying factor for today’s video infrastructure,” says Keith Wymbs, AWS Elemental, chief marketing officer. “We want to bring our deep expertise in video to a wider audience in terms of applications, industries, and customer accessibility and doing so via the AWS Cloud will help customer to innovate more quickly at scale while being able to adjust to fluctuations in demand.”

The new suite includes five new service applications in the AWS Management Console, comprised of:  AWS Elemental MediaLive (a real-time compression engine); AWS Elemental MediaConvert (for file-to-file transcoding); AWS Elemental MediaPackage (for just-in-time packaging and DRM); AWS Elemental MediaStore (optimized media origination); and, AWS Elemental MediaTailor (for comprehensive targeted service-side ad insertion analytics while also ensuring inserted ads match the quality of the content format).

“The five services also integrate well with third-party DRM, CMS, MAM, OVP solutions, as well as other AWS Management Console services such as AWS CloudFormation, Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon SNS, and Amazon CloudFront among others,” adds Wymbs.

Keith Wymbs, AWS Elemental, CMO

Looking at the five applications more deeply, MediaConvert can convert any video input source, ranging from high-quality studio masters to videos captured on a mobile device, and produce content ready for distribution to viewers. It also has broadcast-quality video features including static graphic overlays, audio loudness normalization, ad insertion via SCTE-35 support, manifest decoration, DRM integration, and broadcast and OTT closed captioning. It supports high-quality codecs like MPEG-2, AVC, HEVC including support for 10-bit 4:2:2 color sampling), has extensive adaptive bitrate packaging formats (HLS, MSS, DASH), and processing and conversion of HDR content (HDR 10 and HLG BT.2020).

MediaLive has similar format support and enables push-button deployment of live channels and handles resource provisioning, service orchestration, scaling, healing, resiliency failover, monitoring, and reporting. AWS Elemental says users can set up a channel in minutes as it does all the heavy lifting behind the scenes to provision and start the various resources required.

AWS Elemental MediaPackage, meanwhile, is designed to provide more flexibility compared to current CDN options for customizing content packages. It is CDN-agnostic so that a user can develop a multi-CDN strategy, it is available in multiple regions, and it also has third-party QOS tool integration with the likes of Conviva or Cedexis. It also offers highly customizable packaging options and parameters, providing flexibility for streaming protocols (including including HLS, DASH, RTMP, and RTP), segment sizes, manifest manipulation, and metadata handling, along with broad DRM support. For example, it can record all the renditions in an adaptive bitrate (ABR) stream and supports up to 4K resolution with high frame rate using HEVC, while other cloud services restrict recordings to only the highest bitrate.

MediaStore, meanwhile, provides media-specific best practices for object storage without the challenges of complex implementation and management, so customers can focus on their workflow rather than worrying about their storage infrastructure. AWS Elemental MediaStore customers can see a unified view of available object storage tiers and realize the benefits of better security management and performance. For example, when a video file is written to AWS Elemental MediaStore, it is automatically held in a replicated cache for the first few minutes after creation, and again after each update. This replicated cache gives great performance, even with the high request loads and with the frequent updates common with video files.

And finally, MediaTailor makes it easier to integrate advertising. The same video processing pipeline is used for both content and ads which removes the need for complicated ad signaling between servers and a single ad insertion network can be used for multiple consumer devices. It also offers improved client-side viewing metrics as it does not require specific player or SDK integration to work.

AWS Media Services can function as standalone services or within larger video workflows. AWS Media Services are a family of services that form the foundation of cloud-based video workflows, which offer customers the capabilities they need to create, package, and deliver video, all accessible through the AWS Management Console and APIs. Working together with other AWS services, AWS Media Services offer a complete solution for processing and delivery of live or on-demand video content to viewers around the world.

AWS Elemental sees three primary reasons for the company to bring video processing and delivery to the cloud. First, the same AWS services that video providers have become familiar with to construct IT workflows can now integrate with AWS-built video processing and delivery services that didn’t exist before. Second, the limitations imposed by rigid, costly data center video architecture have been stripped away and replaced with flexible, pay-as-you-go, elastic services. Video providers have newfound capabilities to build and maintain nimble operations that help them stay ahead of the ever-shifting video landscape—increasing the pace of their own innovation and better responding to changing consumer preferences. And, finally, broadcast-grade quality and workflow functionality that were exclusive to the major media and entertainment players who could afford them are now available, on-demand, at a cost model that works for organizations looking to bring first-rate, innovative and engaging viewing experiences to its audiences.

Amazon Prime Video is streaming 11 NFL games this season—including 10 Thursday Night Football match-ups and a special Christmas Day game—to tens of millions of customers in more than 200 countries and territories. The live coverage is available across more than 600 devices, from living room devices like Smart TVs and Fire TVs to Prime Video mobile apps on iOS and Android, Fire tablets, and the web.

“Offering live sports like NFL games globally, over-the-top on a large number of devices is complex, and we built our end-to-end platform in the AWS Cloud,” says BA Winston, Global Head of Amazon Video. “We used AWS Elemental Media Services for encoding, packaging and stitch targeted ads seamlessly into the main content, for a great viewer experience. Our end-to-end architecture was engineered for low latency to minimize time-behind-live performance, and we implemented usercentric features like viewer-selectable audio tracks. I am confident that AWS Elemental Media Services is the path to use the cloud for live streaming at scale.”

Pac-12 Networks is also on board with AWS Elemental services.

“To stay ahead of technology requirements and keep our focus on our core capability of delivering great athletic experiences — without having to spend millions of dollars on advanced video data centers — we are turning to the cloud. Our intent is to launch all seven Pac-12 Networks regional and conference networks over the top via the AWS Elemental MediaStore service this fall,” says Mark Kramer, Vice President, Engineering & Technology for Pac-12 Networks. “Only AWS offers end-to-end ingest-to-delivery workflow support, and we plan to leverage these latest services to provide live and on-demand Pac-12 Networks content for millions of viewers.”

The services are designed to meet the needs for both live events as well as OTT channels and VOD content. For example, with VOD the suite can help convert a file into different formats for distribution globally.

Wymbs sees some of the strengths of Amazon Web Services, like scalability, global reach, and the size of the support, sales, and programming teams, as being a big part of the offering.

“A company can focus their resources on their media needs and stop maintaining data centers,” he adds. “They can focus on the things that are most important.”

Pricing of the suite varies and is reliant upon different factors. For example, AWS MediaLive will be priced depending on how many formats are supported, SD vs. HD, and more.

“Services are charged based on consumption and billing is monthly,” adds Wymbs. Volume discounts are also available for those with larger service needs.

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