Evaluating Cloud Encoding Solutions? Consider This

Evaluating Cloud Encoding Solutions? Consider This

If you follow cloud-based video transcoding, then you have likely heard of Amazon’s recent foray into the market. The company's Elastic Transcoder service enters the space where Brightcove Zencoder is an established provider. And if you're evaluating cloud encoding solutions right now, you're probably wondering, "What's the difference between the two?"

Rather than share our take (we're biased, we know), we wanted to share the independent evaluation of ScreenLight’s Chris Potter, a user familiar with both technologies. Studio Daily recently published Chris' assessment. Chris' bottom line? For video publishers with specific and sometimes complex needs--i.e. closed captioning or live streaming support--Zencoder is your current best bet. Why? Below are Chris' specific evaluations.

Encoding Speed and Wait Time
One of the most frequently asked questions that we field is "What are your encoding times?" Manageable video processing time is an incredibly important factor for organizations considering an encoding partner. As Chris mentions in his post, we work to keep our queue times short. We accomplish this by:

  • Once a video is uploaded, Zencoder begins to encode the requested output formats all at the same time
  • If we are experiencing high volume and require more servers to process videos, then we work to secure additional server assets automatically

It appears that Amazon hasn't fully publicized its queue processes, though the company has announced that it will grant each account a maximum of 4 pipelines--selecting one specific pipeline for each individual job. With Amazon, users can run up to 1,000 jobs per pipeline, dependent upon resource availability. Currently, Chris hasn’t yet had an opportunity to compare our Zencoder timeline to AWS'. We're confident that our encoding speed and queues will hold--as our current queue time is approximately 10 seconds.

Format Support
Chris notes:

For people that want to offer adaptive bitrate streaming, the that fact that Amazon's service will not create segmented output files for HLS streaming to iOS devices could be a problem. While you can still output all the files you need and run them through Apple's stream segmenting tool, this will take more steps than using Zencoder, which can automatically output optimized MPEG-TS segments for HTTP live streaming.

Input and output codec and format support are critical to making a cloud encoding vendor decision. Our complete format support list can be found here.

Cost
Cost should be a function of value that is delivered to a customer. As shown above, we believe the Zencoder service provides the best performance and format support.

Given Amazon's cloud foothold, they are indeed able to offer low pricing. Amazon is charging users $0.015 per minute of SD video encoded, and roughly $0.03 per minute of HD video.

While Zencoder service starts at $0.05 per minute of SD video on a pay-as-you-go basis, if you are a high-volume user and make a commitment of $2,000 annually, our pricing is $0.02 per minute of SD video encoded and $0.04 per minute of HD. Further price breaks are available at volumes above our published rates.

For a narrow set of use cases, there are cost benefits to Amazon’s service--but, as Chris highlights, for users with even higher volume and complex needs, our Zencoder service provides superior value and very competitive pricing.

What Else Matters?
Beyond pricing, format support and speed, Chris' post for Studio Daily includes insight into some other critically important factors to evaluate when selecting a cloud transcoding vendor. For example:

  • Closed captioning: in compliance with FCC rules that require online video to provide closed captioning, we offer this support automatically. At this juncture, Amazon does not support closed captioning needs.
  • Live transcoding: Zencoder currently offers this in beta; it is not yet a component of Amazon's offering.
  • Digital rights management: We integrate directly with Widevine so that DRM is a seamless process. Amazon's DRM support is currently a separate offering. 
  • Customer support: The entire Brightcove ecosystem places tremendous emphasis on customer support. For our Zencoder product, we offer free email and chat support. For enterprise plans, phone support is also available. Amazon’s support functionality is paid, in conjunction with support documentation and forums.

In our view, the Zencoder cloud encoding solution is the only offering that makes sense for video publishers with high-volume and multi-faceted encoding needs. But, don’t take our word for it. Consider Chris Potter's view instead; you may also be interested in this user perspective.