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Tuesday 27 February 2018

Students studying the Formats and Workflows unit were joined today by graduate James Williams for a demonstration of cloud video distribution and a talk on the related technologies.

James graduated from the Media Technology programme four years ago and has since worked for a couple of major players in the content distribution arena. He has already accrued a vast amount of experience in this rapidly evolving field and he was keen to share some of his knowledge with the current third years.

Students configure the real-time encoder to stream content into the cloud

We started off in our video lab where we took a live feed from our studio cameras and encoded it to be streamed to a distribution server using RTMP. The students were able to configure the software encoder and James discussed the formats and options available. We then span up a packaging encoder on Google’s Compute Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud platform. This involved creating a virtual Unix PC that was able to receive the input stream and package it for distribution using Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) format. It was interesting to note that we weren’t able to configure the devices to produce exactly the right audio format so we had to include some additional software to transcode it on the fly and embed it within the HLS output. This is representative of the challenges faced in real installations and the kind of engineering that modern designers are likely to be tasked with solving. Once completed the stream could be viewed via a web-browser, Android tablet and via an Amazon Fire TV stick. It was exciting to be able to configure an end-to-end workflow using a public cloud and see the results using a consumer Over the Top (OTT) receiver. The total latency wasn’t bad either at around ten seconds.

After the lab session, James gave a more detailed talk around some of the protocols in use and the practicalities of employing them within real systems.

Many thanks to James for sharing his experience with us; it’s great that graduates want to remain part of our learning community and help our current students to understand the rapidly changing world of media technology.

Students admire themselves live on Amazon Fire TV!