NAB and CAE and CMAF and AV1. Acronyms, Oh My.
Remember that one Christmas morning, years ago as a child? There you sat in front of the tree, presents open, wrapping and ribbon scattered everywhere. You were more than happy with the gifts you received, delighted with all these wonderful gizmos, gadgets - even the sweater Mom gave you. But there was something missing. There was some special thing you expected to see and unwrap that year. Welcome to NAB 2018, folks.
NAB is the annual convention where new technology and solutions for the delivery of video (and many other things) are showcased. While there were a few notable developments, it felt like this year’s show was lacking any significant announcements or technologies. In recent years, it has been host to many rollouts you’re probably familiar with. From the advent of the high-definition (HD) television standard through to 3D television and beyond to 4K, NAB has been the place to look for and see these innovations first hand. For OTT, NAB has also served as a premiere stage too. It has been the origin for technologies like adaptive streaming (now known as HLS), MPEG-DASH and cloud DVR, just to name a few. For some reason, NAB 2018 seemed to be in search of that one key trend or an interesting new piece of broadcast technology for attendees to discover. There was plenty to see and take in, but that next big thing seemed to be absent.
Back to what was interesting and what was missing in a moment.
And the Award Goes To…
This year, NAB was our stage at Brightcove to introduce the world to context aware encoding, or CAE. This technology helps to significantly reduce the costs of storing and delivering video across every screen. CAE takes into account both complexity of the video itself, in addition to the audience where the files will be consumed. It has been working ‘in the wild’ as part of the production workflow for a handful of our customers and they have saved between 30-50% in their costs of video storage and delivery. We were delighted to be recognized at the show with two awards. Streaming Media recognized as one of the Best of NAB, while VideoEdge Magazine also called CAE an NAB Best of Show. Both honors are very rewarding and a testament to the continued spirit of innovation that lives at Brightcove. It is also evidence that we’re making progress along the path our Manifesto for Media has laid out.
The Road Through Vegas and Beyond
Again, it seems that there were no blockbuster themes at 2018.. I suspect that the influx of new technologies and ideas from the past few years has left some organizations scrambling to implement those innovations. From 4K to 8K, UHD to HDR, AR and VR - perhaps many felt overwhelmed by all the rapid change, whether they broadcast, consume, or provide technology.
This isn’t to say that there weren’t some great innovations. One I saw was a virtual master control that is entirely cloud based. Think about seeing every live signal - from cameras to live trucks, backpack remote encoders to even smartphones - all organized on one pane of glass, where they can be routed and processed as the operator needs. This is a tremendous leap forward in dense signal management and could be immensely helpful to assist in live signal monitoring (as an example) as our Brightcove Live product matures.
Another new offering that caught my attention was related to CMAF, the common media application format. This specification will help reduce the amount of file manipulation that happens as part of the encoding/transcoding, muxing/demuxing process common to many video workflows today. CMAF enables one set of files to be prepared and delivered to multiple disparate targets using a variety of codec and digital rights management (DRM). We think this is a great step forward in a direction where we will as an industry innovate and make media delivery to a universe of devices more effective and efficient, using fewer files overall. Brightcove is a member of the ecosystem organization overseeing the specification and implementation and we continue to work toward finalization and deployment.
Augmented Reality (AR) also had a co-starring role this year at NAB and I saw some very cool applications, specifically from our partners at Accedo. AR continues its march toward mainstream use daily in our lives. It won’t be long before we look back at Pokemon Go like we did with black & white television sets. I really dated myself there.
Lastly, NAB 2018 hosted some spirited and passionate dialog about the coming codec wars. From AV1 to H.265 to JVET, the path to future video coding and the compression gains they provide will be one to watch. The key differences in the two specifications involve how well each compresses video and audio, relative to its predecessors as well as how they are licensed. There is no right or wrong answer in the debate, but varied opinions on both topics I mentioned above. Brightcove is fortunate to have one of the industry’s experts on compression and video coding on staff, and we’ll be following developments and debates closely as we continue to make innovation part of our daily work at Brightcove.