What is Cloud Transcoding and Why Does It Matter?

Jan 25, 2021 | Live Stream Platform, Live Streaming, Multi-site

Cloud Transcoding

Cloud transcoding is the process of converting a video file into additional formats entirely in the cloud. More specifically, transcoding means creating new files in different sizes, resolutions, and bitrates from a single encoded video file. This approach allows broadcasters and streamers to ensure compatibility for audiences that view video content from numerous devices and with varying network conditions. 

As more viewers stream from a wide range of devices like laptops, smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, and more, compatibility has become challenging for many broadcasters. When a video is first recorded by cameras, it’s encoded using a codec that may or may not be suitable for playback, depending on the device. Cloud transcoding can take nearly any video file and convert it using a number of new and legacy codecs to ensure compatibility. Some broadcasters choose codecs like H.266, AV1, and VP9, but the most widely supported by both video players and devices are H.264 or MPEG-2.

While video compatibility is crucial, the most common use case for cloud transcoding is Adaptive Bitrate Streaming (ABS). Many streamers offer multi-bitrate streaming by providing viewers several different bitrates to choose from, but ABS takes this a step further by adjusting the bitrate in real-time based on the viewer’s Internet bandwidth and the processing power of their device. That means ABS can greatly reduce buffering and optimize the playback experience for viewers using transcoding, segmenting, an adaptive bitrate selection algorithm, and other techniques.

ABS has been made possible by cutting-edge streaming protocols like MPEG-DASH (MPEG  Dynamic Adaptive Streaming of HTTP). This protocol is the first adaptive bitrate solution to become an international standard because it’s vendor-independent and codec-agnostic. While it’s similar to the HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol in many ways, MPEG-DASH is compatible with nearly any video content format beyond just H.264.

Streaming Protocols 2021 Compared Featured Image

When it comes to live streaming, transcoding is also critical. During live broadcasts, the stream is often encoded using the RTMP protocol. The problem is that RTMP is only compatible with Flash Player out-of-the-box, which isn’t supported by newer web browsers. That means most broadcasters will need to transcode their stream either locally or in the cloud to a more modern delivery protocol like HLS or MPEG-DASH.

Transcoding video in the cloud is different from local transcoding because the processing takes place on a streaming platform’s servers rather than a local computer. That means cloud transcoding doesn’t require additional bandwidth at the broadcasting site, which can be critical for live streaming. The cloud-based approach is also more scalable because the transcoder can quickly increase its available resources to handle more videos when necessary.

At the same time, cloud transcoding can lead to cost-savings as well. Instead of planning for peak loads by installing additional on-premise hardware, cloud-based solutions can scale up when necessary and back down again when there’s less demand. This inherent elasticity of cloud transcoding means that streamers only pay for the resources they use.

Along with the cloud-based video transcoder included with Resi’s Live Stream Platform, users can also push video files to social media platforms that handle transcoding themselves. In addition, Resi designed its Resilient Streaming Protocol (RSP) to mitigate the loss of video data while it’s being transmitted to cloud servers. This is crucial for ensuring cloud video transcoders have a complete source file to use as the basis for each transcoded rendition of the video content. That means RSP-enabled cloud transcoders are a scalable option for offering the highest quality video to viewers across all devices.

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