The many advantages of dynamic packaging over static content

No large scale video streaming setup can be successful without supporting multiple playout formats. Such is the law dictated by the wide variety of end user devices, many of which have their own playout requirements for video. There are two ways to solve this problem: by prepackaging and statically storing each playout format or by working with one source that's dynamically packaged into whichever format is needed for playout, on-the-fly.

Dynamic packaging is not a new technology. Unified Streaming has been working on video packaging for ten years and Unified Origin, our dynamic solution, is used by companies like BBC, Foxtel and RTL. Still, some in the video streaming industry keep serving static content. Whether it's because they work with legacy setups or because they believe it's a better approach. To convince those who are still in doubt, this blog posts presents 10 ways in which a dynamic solution is superior to static content.

Reduced storage costs

The clearest advantage of using a dynamic packaging solution like Unified Origin, is the vast reduction in storage costs. The variety in requirements of end user devices make it impossible to serve all devices with one single static file. To ensure compatibility, Unified Origin supports playout in the following formats:

  • Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG-DASH)
  • HTTP Live Streaming (HLS)
  • HTTP Smooth Streaming (HSS)
  • HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS)
  • MP4 File Format (ISO/IEC 14496-14)

If you want to work with a static video streaming solution, you will have to store many instances of the same video to ensure compatibility. Needless to say, this is a rather costly endeavor, as video files tend to take up a lot of storage space.

Using Unified Origin, storing more than one source isn't necessary. Starting from a single source, the Origin will generate a range of formats on-the-fly to make a single source compatible with (almost) any device. As the playout formats are generated on-the-fly, no extra storage space is used, thus making it possible for you to save significantly on your storage budget.

Future proof: No need to change or repackage your stored content for new playout requirements

One of the main problems with static content is a lack of flexibility. Every time a software update is released, it brings with it the possibility of new playout requirements. Take the massive roll-outs for big new releases of Android or iOS as an example, or an update to the player that you use within the setup of your video streaming platform. Or the launch of a new format for video streaming, like CMAF.

A minor incompatibility issue can break playout on a range of devices.

If your content is static, chances are that you will need to make changes to the entire content library on disk to keep up compatibility. This can take up an enormous amount of time and a lot of resources. Unified Origin on the other hand, is able to apply the necessary changes on-the-fly. Thus, repackaging or re-encoding your original content won't be necessary.

Unified Origin will translate each video from your content library into a stream that is compatible with the device on which a user chooses to play it, without altering the original content on disk. The only two things that may be necessary to ensure compatibility with new options or devices, is to update the server manifest of each video (an XML file generated by the Origin) or to update the Origin itself.

Furthermore, Unified Origin's features improve with every new release. The features relevant to your content will work without altering the content itself. This enables you to provide a better experience to your customers without making any definite changes to the content library that you keep stored on disk.

In the past year for example, Unified Origin has gained support for Download to Own for HLS, streaming VP9 encoded videos with MPEG-DASH, the possibility to use a wider variety of DRM tools with MPEG-DASH (Latens, Adobe Primetime and Irdeto Protection System) as well as the option to make streams (un)available to specific users for a specific time, amongst others.

Use your existing stored content (ISMV, MP4, CFF, UVVU, PIFF) without repackaging

When working with static content, you may run into compatibility problems if the content in your library is formatted or packaged in a wide variety of ways. It's more than likely that not all devices that you want your stream to be compatible with, support all formats found in your library. Unified Origin takes these problems away, as content does not need to be repackaged to a format that's compatible with the player on the client side before you can start streaming it.

As long as the Origin supports a format as ingest, it will be able to stream it and repackage it on-the-fly. This does not only make it easier for you to set up your video streaming service. It's beneficial to the end user as well, as the Origin will ensure compatibility with (almost) all devices, regardless of the way in which the originally stored content is packaged.

Create download-to-own versions of your presentations

One of Unified Origin's features is the option to offer your customers a download-to-own version of your content. You can enable this feature for all of your content, or for a carefully selected sub-group.

Just like with normal streaming, Unified Origin's download-to-own option doesn't require you to download the full file before you can start playout. Assuming a fast-enough connection, a customer will be able to begin watching the content shortly after the download has started. Needless to say, this greatly enhances the user experience in comparison to old fashioned progressive video downloads, which need to finish downloading before playout can start.

Encrypt your stored content just-in-time for playout, stream PIFF to CENC and use TransDRM

Unified Origin also offers the ability to encrypt content on the fly. This offers you the flexibility of not having to actually encrypt the stored content itself, which allows for quick and easy changes to the encryption (e.g. to keep up compatibility or to further increase security).

When working with static content, similar changes would involve re-encrypting all of the stored content, which calls for a lot of resources. Using Unified Origin makes this but a small change in the command that you use to generate a server manifest.

Similar to Unified Origin's ability to add encryption on-the-fly, it's also possible to change the particular kind of digital rights management (DRM) of a pre-encrypted video on-the-fly. This is practical when the stored content has been encrypted with varying types of DRM, while all of the video content that is streamed to the user should have a uniform variety of DRM.

In such a case, Unified Origin will stream the content with this uniform variety of DRM, regardless of the kind of DRM that was used to encrypt the original stored content (of course, certain limitations apply, as some types of DRM may not be supported by Unified Origin).

Fix any anomalies in your originally stored content before playout

In case there are any changes you would like to make to the content you are streaming, Unified Origin can do so without altering the original content. This makes it possible to easily cut a certain part from the content, like a pause in a recorded livestream or a block of ads that's part of the original recording but not relevant to the context in which it will be streamed.

Support for older protocol versions of HLS to ensure compatibility with certain devices.

Without the need to prepackage separate video files, Unified Origin can stream content to older Apple devices that call for a legacy version of HLS. Regardless of the original content, the Origin can create such streams on-the-fly. To do so, simply use Unified Origin's option to force the use of a certain version of the HLS protocol.

Support multiple playout formats for subtitles (WebVTT, Smooth Streaming text, MPEG-DASH SMPTE-TT) from a single source

Because the content is fixed when using static files, adding subtitles can be a hassle, especially when different devices call for different kinds of subtitle formatting. Unified Origin takes care of this because it's able to stream several subtitle formats from a single source, ensuring compatibility with a wide-ranging variety of devices without any downside for the end user.

A single source for metadata. Automatically translated to MPEG-DASH events, HLS ID3 tags

Similar to the way Unified Origin takes on subtitles, general metadata can come from a single source and be translated to several formats to ensure compatibility, whether you're streaming to an Apple device using HLS, or to a player requesting MPEG-DASH.

Add Unified Remix to playout remixed content from various sources into a single stream

As opposed to a situation in which static content is served directly to a user, a Unified Origin can take content from various sources and combine them into one stream, if the Origin is combined with Unified Remix. Because Remix serves all of the content as part of the same stream, the player on the user side will regard these different kinds of content as one, thereby ensuring compatibility and ease of use.

Another benefit of the ability to remix content from various sources, is the possibility to add content like pre-rolls and end-rolls without the player on the user side identifying these as such. This makes it possible to present the user with an advertisement that is part of the actual video stream, which makes it near impossible for an ad blocker to identify and block the advertisement.