Akamai supports CMAF transcoding to improve OTT video workflow

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Akamai has introduced Common Media Application Format (CMAF) support for its cloud transcoding service with the aim of helping OTT video players enhance their content delivery capabilities. 

Currently under Draft International Standard status at the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), CMAF defines a common file format for segmented media delivery.

What’s compelling about the CMAF standard for OTT video providers is that it streamlines the process of creating and storing a single title to accommodate various playback formats and device types.

Under the traditional approach, content providers have to create and store multiple renditions of a single title to accommodate various playback formats and device types. This approach requires redundant processing and extra storage requirements, which introduces greater opportunity for error, increased complexity and added expenses.

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Previously, a number of technology companies, including Apple’s HLS, Microsoft’s Smooth and the DASH consortium came up with various pre-standard content formats. While these formats helped to get more video online, the drawback was that as online video started to become a revenue-generating service, providers were faced with creating multiple formats of their content.

Shawn Michels, product line director at Akamai Technologies, told FierceOnlineVideo that the advent of CMAF reflected the evolving nature of the online video services business.

“With OTT video being a multi-billion dollar business opportunity, the question is how we make this a reality,” Michels said. “CMAF spins out of that as a natural maturation process where a bunch of companies realized we can’t support a bunch of different formats and we’re going to have to become more efficient and squeeze costs out of the system as it becomes a real business.”

The evolution of CMAF dates back to 2014, when Apple and Microsoft got together and decided to figure out a way to create a single format for which the OTT video industry could create a standard. Later, Akamai also ended up contributing to the early CMAF standard.

“The goal was: Can we get to a single file format and a single underlying file that can be distributed to any device that supports HLS or DASH?” Michels said. “The idea is you have one HLS manifest, one DASH manifest, but there’s one single file underneath it instead of two single ones.”

Michel added “the idea is to cut down your content preparation costs, including transcoding, storage and your compute costs, and improves Akamai’s delivery capability because it improves our cache hit ratios.”

The CMAF standard is set on streamlining the entire process through the need for only a single file rendition that can be played back on any device.

Akamai is offering CMAF support initially available to those customers using Akamai’s on-demand transcoding services, part of the company’s cloud-based Media Services On Demand OTT workflow solution. A CMAF content preparation option is available in addition to existing support for established formats including Adobe HDS, Apple HLS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming and MPEG-DASH.

Michels said that while CMAF shows great potential as a mainstream standard technology for the OTT industry much like H.264 for broadcasters, it is still in the embryonic phase.

“It is definitely in the early days of the spectrum,” Michels said. “Apple announced their support for CMAF and then the latest version of iOS where it would be compatible, and DASH CMAF-compliant today, so you’ll start seeing that gain more traction in 2017 with broader adoption happening towards the second half of next year.”

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