For Promotion of MPEG-DASH

First Live MPEG-DASH Large Scale Demonstration

Introduction

During the 2012 London Olympics, VRT is offering its audience the chance to experience the Olympic Games broadcast on their personal devices via MPEG-DASH. The public trial allows for a maximum of 1000 concurrent viewers to watch their favourite sport events on a laptop, smartphone or tablet.

The commercial deployment of the MPEG-DASH (dynamic adaptive streaming over HTTP) standard is one step closer with the first live public trial, presented by Belgian public broadcaster VRT. The DASH Promoters Group, supported by the European Broadcasting Union, is facilitating live MPEG-DASH streaming of the 2012 London Olympics, with DRM content protection, to demonstrate the benefits of this unifying standard for adaptive streaming.

As a public broadcaster, VRT is challenged with trying to reach to maximum number of media users, without compromising the quality of user experience. An optimized streaming experience is key in meeting both of these requirements. Therefore, VRT was eager to participate in this trial.  “As a public broadcaster, VRT is concerned with how to deal with the complexity and diversity of formats, combined with ever-increasing user expectations for video quality,” said Wim Wauterickx, Manager Operations at VRT. “Standardization of the technology behind these services is key, in order to keep operational cost under control while maintaining the expectations of current and potential users.”

This trial is supported by a number of DASH Promoters Group members. Encoding is provided by Elemental, Harmonic and Media Excel; streaming origins are courtesy of Wowza and CodeShop, who is also providing encryption; web clients for PC and Android are supplied by Adobe; and BuyDRM is providing applications for iOS and Android, which incorporate its DRM solution.

This proof of concept was initiated by the European Broadcasting Union, which strongly supports the development of MPEG-DASH as it is a key enabler allowing broadcasters to use a single file and streaming format to deliver content to multiple devices on multiple platforms. “The EBU strives for open, efficient and interoperable broadcast services and we believe MPEG-DASH is a means to these goals,” said Lieven Vermaele, EBU Director of Technology & Development. “On a daily basis, our members face the challenge of distributing large libraries of audio and video to an audience that uses a multitude of devices and technologies. MPEG-DASH is a comprehensive solution for them.”

This demonstration is another contribution of the DASH Promoters Group towards the adoption and deployment of the MPEG-DASH standard. The DASH Promoters Group is working toward recommended interoperability and deployment configurations for DASH, informally called DASH-264. This would enable a minimum set of DASH requirements for the industry and help enable further commercialization of devices that support it.

The MPEG DASH trial will be available for the duration of the London Olympic games on the VRT Sporza website, located here: http://www.sporza.be/cm/sporza/2.21297. Due to copyright restrictions this content is not available outside the Belgian territory.

Supported Devices

VRT offers users the following choices for viewing the London Games:

  • PCs and MAC running Adobe FLASH
  • Web browser for Android provided by Adobe
  • iPhone / iPads from iOS version 4.3, with a special app from the iTunes store. The app is currently pending Apple approval.
  • Android smartphones from version 4.0, via Sporza Olympic Games available from theGoogle Play store.

Used MPEG-DASH Profile

The demonstration features a live video stream encoded using  the MPEG-DASH ISO Base Media File Format Live Profile, delivered through Belgacom’s Content Delivery Network to a range of device categories including tablets, smartphones and PCs running iOS, Android and Windows operating systems. This represents the first large-scale multivendor deployment of MPEG-DASH. The demonstration is based on an early version of the DASH-264 interoperability guidelines, specifically developed by the DASH Promoters Group for interoperable deployment of the MPEG-DASH standard. DASH-264 provides a general interoperability framework aligned with the HbbTV 1.5 specification and other consortia recommendations. HbbTV 1.5 will be widely used by European broadcasters for interactive services on connected televisions.

DASH details

  1. File Format : ISO BM FF
  2. Profile : Live
  3. Template : Time based
  4. Codec : H.264 Baseline (ABR) / Audio AAC LC (SBR).
  5. Encoding settings

The video consists of 6 different streams that can be chosen by the player to adapt the video playout automatically to the available bandwidth. The highest quality is 1500 kbs for the video quality, and there is also an audio-only stream available when there is inadequate Internet speed for video.

The settings of the various adaptive switchable streams in this proof of concept have not been defined for optimal audiovisual quality. Simplicity was the key driver in selecting the Baseline profile for H264 encoding and 64 kbs audio bitrate limitation. This will ensure that switching between the different streams will run smoothly.

PROFILES VIDEO CODEC VIDEO BITRATE (Kbs) RESOLUTION FRAME RATE (FPS) AUDIO CODEC AUDIO BITRATE (Kbs)
1 H264 Baseline 1500 960×540 25 AAC-LC 64
2 H264 Baseline 750 640×360 25 AAC-LC 64
3 H264 Baseline 500 480×270 25 AAC-LC 64
4 H264 Baseline 250 320×180 25 AAC-LC 64
5 H264 Baseline 128 320×180 12.5 AAC-LC 64
6 NA NA NA NA AAC-LC 64

Logic Flow

The logical flow of online distribution based on MPEG DASH is very similar to what is currently deployed in adaptive streaming systems. One needs only an encoded/packaged stream and an HTTP server to get the job done and play out video to a player that supports MPEG-DASH natively.

The simple part of the workflow is demonstrated by the chain starting with the Elemental Live encoder from Elemental Technology, which captures the audiovisual content from the SDI feed at the VRT premises. The Apache server located at the CDN of Belgacom picks up the data packages via HTTP GET from the encoder and makes it available by a URL and an MPD file describing how the packages should be interpreted by the player. The Adobe player reads out the MPD, buffers the packages and plays out the video on a device of the end user.

It gets more complicated when one involves dedicated applications that play out video to devices that do not yet support MPEG DASH natively. Additionally, to secure premium content, content protection using DRM technology needs to be implemented in the server and the client. In this trial, a group of equipment suppliers are working together to make this happen.

The Harmonic ProMedia Live encoder encodes the IP feeds. The Wowza server, also located at the VRT premises, acts as an origin server, making the packages available for the Wowza cache server in the CDN. This content is then played out by the BuyDRM Android and iOS players.

In order to also showcase the Common Encryption support for MPEG-DASH with Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM, another distribution chain is set up in which the Media Excel HERO encoder works with CodeShops’s Unified Streaming server acting as an origin to produce live encrypted content. For proof of concept purposes, the BuyDRM Android and iOS applications in this distribution chain switch seamlessly between protected and unprotected content.

Contact Details

This trial was only possible thanks to the collective work of the companies listed below. You can contact any of the listed people to enquire for more details on their respective products.

NAME
EMAIL
ROLE
COUNTRY
Tullemans, Bram
tullemans@ebu.ch
EBU coordinator
CH
Stefaan Clycq
stefaan.clycq@vrt.be
VRT coordinator
BE
Thierry Fautier
thierry.fautier@harmonicinc.com
Harmonic coordinator
US
Chris Knowlton
chris@wowza.com
Wowza coordinator
US
Kevin Streeter
kstreete@adobe.com
Adobe coordinator
US
Filip Timmermans
filip.timmermans@belgacom.be
Belgacom coordinator
BE
Tom Gilman
tomg@elementaltechnologies.com
Elemental coordinator
US
Andrew Popovs
andrew@buydrm.com
BuyDRM coordinator
CA
Arjen Wagenaar
arjen@unified-streaming.com
Codeshop coordinator
NL
Nikos Kyriopoulos
nikos@mediaexcel.com
Media Excel coordinator
US