The average person now has access to more streamable material than they could wish to watch in a lifetime. This means viewer capriciousness is increasing alongside their expectations on quality of experience.
Unified Remix nPVR helps you deliver on these expectations when it comes to Live to VOD content, by providing a more agile approach to deal with common broadcast recording issues like uncertain programming schedules and stale ads.
At its core, Remix nPVR relies on dynamically generated clips to fulfil requests for recordings from a livestream in the most flexible way possible. Rather than defining the start and end of a clip when it is captured from the source, this is done when a request is made for playout of a recording.
So when a football match goes into extra time, or the Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) isn’t entirely accurate, the necessary adjustments can be made quickly by changing playout parameters. All without recapturing the source content, which saves you time and resources.
Not only that, Remix nPVR can be used to remove, add and replace ads as well, so that you can better monetize your content by ensuring that all advertisements you serve out are as relevant as possible.
With Remix nPVR we build on expertise developed through years of delivering Live to VOD solutions: some of the largest video streaming setups worldwide rely on a combination of our Origin Live, Origin VOD and Unified Capture products for their workflow. By adding Unified Remix we transform this kind of setup into something new entirely: more scalable, more efficient and completely customizable.
In the blog, we will first take in-depth look under the hood and then consider in more detail the many new things that are made possible with Remix nPVR.
Inside the box
Remix nPVR consists of 6 components in total:
- Origin Live,
- An ‘infinite’ archive,
- A playlist generator,
- Remix and
- Origin VOD
The whole setup can be containerized, deployed on bare metal and in the cloud. Adding it to an existing Origin Live streaming workflow is possible as well. Here’s what all of the components look like together:
As you can see, Origin bookends the Remix nPVR workflow with Origin Live serving as the source and Origin VOD delivering the recordings to viewers at the other end. If you are not familiar with our Origin software, both Live and VOD offer just-in-time packaging to all major streaming formats along with all the options, such as DRM, you would expect from a dynamic origin.
An infinite archive
The next part of the workflow, Capture, captures the livestream produced by Origin Live to store it on disk. It operates asynchronously from your livestream, safely compartmentalising the process. It also is the step where the Remix nPVR workflow begins to differ from the ‘classic’ approach. Rather than storing predefined clips of individual programs, Capture agnostically stores media in segments set to your predetermined length when deployed in the context of Remix nPVR.
The important thing to note here is that everything is stored only once; your complete livestream on disk available to generate clips. This archive being as ‘infinite’ as your storage allows.
After Capture has archived the livestream, the playlist generator is next. It’s responsible for defining the content of the clip that will be generated and served out to the viewer. It basically needs to know two things:
- At what time in the archived livestream you want the clip to start, and where it should end (do note that leaving out certain parts within that window is possible too)
- Which segments from the ‘infinite’ archive contain the media for the clip’s timespan
Because the playlist generator is a point of integration it is completely up to you where the information comes from; EPG, as-runs, scheduling system, SCTE 35 markers, whichever is the most accurate or best fit. The playlist that needs to be generated is a simple SMIL (XML) file with ‘video’ elements that contain the relevant information.
An example playlist based on our demo workflow that archives the livestream in 5 minutes segments, and which defines a 10 minutes clip, looks like this:
<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?> <smil xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2001/SMIL20/Language"> <head/> <body> <seq> <video src="http://s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/npvr-demo/scte35/2019-10-16/2019-10-16T10:15:00Z--2019-10-16T10:20:00Z.ismv" clipBegin="wallclock(2019-10-16T10:18:06Z)"/> <video src="http://s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/npvr-demo/scte35/2019-10-16/2019-10-16T10:20:00Z--2019-10-16T10:35:00Z.ismv"/> <video src="http://s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/npvr-demo/scte35/2019-10-16/2019-10-16T10:25:00Z--2019-10-16T10:30:00Z.ismv" clipEnd="wallclock(2019-10-16T10:28:06Z)"/> </seq> </body> </smil>
It’s with the playlist generator that you can really personalize Remix nPVR. The possibilities are almost endless, but one example would employ your business logic to include channel slates, or any such content, as an entry in the SMIL playlist and so to each recording that will be served out. In the same vein adding promos that showcase potentially relevant content is also possible.
Static or dynamic
When a playlist has been generated it’s time for Remix to do its magic. Based on your use case you can run it in one of two ways: as a command-line tool like Unified Capture, or as a dynamic server like Unified Origin.
If your recordings are not defined by interaction from viewers your workflow can rely on the command-line version of Remix, which lends itself well to more static use cases. When recordings that are served out need to be personalized with promos or if you want each viewer to be able to precisely define start and end times of recordings beyond program boundaries, the more dynamic approach of running Remix as an Apache module is the right way to go.
The choice is yours, create clips statically and Remix will need to run only once per recording, or work dynamically and personalize as much as your data allows. You decide if each consumer requires their own individualized stream.
Either way Remix takes the generated playlist and creates a Remix MP4. This is a lightweight MP4 – usually less than one MB – that references media data rather than containing it. Creating these data reference (or ‘dref’) MP4’s is a very quick process that takes less than a second in most cases, giving Remix nPVR great scalability.
And after Remix has created its Remix MP4? Well, then it needs to be handed over to Origin VOD for playout, which will ingest it like any other MP4, fetch the media that it references and generate a stream in one of its supported playout formats when such is requested.
We’ve kept things relatively simple so far, but once you understand the basics it’s easy to see just how versatile the Remix nPVR solution really is.
Because the basic premise of Remix is the same for all its use cases (take a playlist and generate a Remix MP4 from it, which can then be used as input for Origin), you can combine different Remix-based solutions with each other. One example would be to bolt Remix AVOD on top of Remix nPVR to add SCTE 35 messages to recordings, which can be used by your ad insertion service of choice to monetize recorded playback or catch-up material with current and relevant advertisements.
We’ve already mentioned adding up-to-date promos to your content. If done dynamically – running Remix as an Apache module – you could base promo choice on a consumers viewing history or other relevant information and really personalize their experience.
A dynamic setup also gives viewers all the flexibility they desire, as they can create any clip they wish from any of the livestreams that you offer. Want to record the next three hours of programming or just the next part of the current program? Fine, one request and Remix nPVR will generate their unique, lightweight Remix MP4 ready for Origin to serve.
Reading so much about the flexibility of generating clips might make you wonder about the granularity that Remix allows for. By default, Remix nPVR is GOP accurate. This means that any start or end time that is defined in a playlist will be mapped to the nearest IDR frame (on the left on the media’s timeline). If your GOP length is about 2 seconds, the start and end of the actual recording will never deviate more than this from what was specified in the playlist.
Making your recordings frame accurate can be done in two ways. Either by making sure that the start and end times of each program and ad break correspond with (additional) IDR frames, or by installing the open-source Intel Media SDK alongside Remix nPVR to take care of the necessary (and completely automated) minimal amount of transcoding that Remix will need to do.
Most importantly, the ability to frame-accurately choose your splice points greatly enhances your customers’ quality of experience, as everyone will prefer recordings that start and end cleanly over ones that contain a second or two of leftover material from an earlier program or advertisement.
But not only that. Adding frame accuracy to Remix opens up a world of possibilities. Ever need to create conformance edits for different regions? Next time use Remix nPVR as your facto editor to define and generate them. Remix nPVR really is as versatile as you are creative.
As you can see we have added some clever thinking to our existing technology to create a solution that caters to your Live, nPVR and VOD needs by allowing you to create a frame-accurate, highly customized, personalized experience for each viewer, which can be made available in every streaming format, on any platform – all with minimized use of your resources.
Furthermore, it will be encouraging to know that Remix nPVR has been battle-tested by a wide range of service providers, broadcasters and telecommunications companies across Europe and the Americas already, some of which have been running their tailored Remix nPVR setup for several years already.
These companies are seeing the benefits of an efficient, cost-effective recorded playback and catch-up workflow business side, while providing an excellent experience customer side. No more recordings that starting halfway through an advertisement or a few minutes into the actual program, no more soccer matches missing the overtime. Just, as promised, excellent quality of experience for your Live to VOD solution, provided to your viewers with the most efficient use of your resources.