Recently a major telco, a client we’ve worked with for years, brought a problem to our attention.

During most of their programs they noticed frames were being skipped at random intervals. This was occurring during their live and nPVR services, using a CMAF muxer template from the encoder.

Now, our company has little to do with the encoder (ingest) side of the workflow. We package video after it’s been encoded.

But the client wanted help. And we’re in the business of helping customers.

(By the way, we’re also in the business of making software that improves workflows, but more on that later.)

From Smooth to not-so-smooth

It all started when the customer switched segments, pushing from the Smooth Streaming muxer output in the encoder to CMAF. That’s when they saw that frames were skipped.

And when frames get skipped for a few seconds (in other words, the screen jumps,”) that’s an issue. While streaming you want a seamless experience, not frame skips or screen jumps. Those are clearly visible (and clearly annoying).

While analyzing the hiccup, the telco’s dev team observed that, on the few assets where the issue occurred, a certain bit of information wasn’t available at all.

On all other segments, though, they saw the usually available info. They didn’t know the significance of the missing bit. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, the problem was something that the telco team didn’t deal with on a daily basis.

Characterizing the impact on their channels as very high,” with almost 80% affected, including their most popular channels, our customer the telco had to do something.

A bit of background

Operating in Europe, the telco broadcasts their programming with our help.

Using several products that we supply them — Unified Origin, Unified Packager, and Unified Remix — the telco can give their customers seamless viewing experiences. Whether people are watching live shows; video on demand (VOD); or accessing programs via cloud storage, aka Network Personal Video Recorder (nPVR), they get what they expect: high quality and stable streaming.

In the telco’s workflow, we play an important role, smack-dab in the middle of the chain. Unified Origin and Unified Packager take the encoded video and get it ready for delivery, in any format needed. Part of fulfilling this role is listening to the telco and being there for them if any issues arise and persist.

Back to the lecture at hand

The telco got in touch with their encoder supplier to see what they could do to fix the glitch.

Meanwhile, we checked what we could do for our customer. Our investigations on our side of the chain, and back-and-forth communications with the telco, pointed further to an issue with the encoder.

The encoder supplier got back to the telco, and stated that the issues with offset originated in the encoder’s own implementation of CMAF. That confirmed our suspicions. Once the supplier patched that up for the telco, the screen jumps stopped.

That extra touch

Support often poses a perennial question. When it comes to their production chain, should content companies buy it whole? Or should they build it piecemeal, connecting different parts from different suppliers?

We’ve been through this. Buying a whole, or closed” chain, with just one vendor ruling the roost, may be attractive to clients. We get the appeal. If there’s an issue, they don’t have to point fingers. They know where to look: that one company (albeit a massive one).

But Unified Streaming knows another, nimbler way.

Build your own. When you build your chain, you stay flexible. And flexibility is your friend. Operating with specialists, aka niche players, gives you more control — especially when you depend on Unified Streaming as the software provider in the middle.

Keep industry-leading Unified Origin in the center of the chain to gain leverage and stability. You can strengthen your chain with experts on both sides: your ingress (encoder) and your egress (CDN). That way, you’re not boxed in, completely dependent on a single we do it all” vendor.

Like the story about the telco at the beginning of this blog, we help customers with issues not directly related to our own software.

We can help with any part of the chain.

We don’t care if the part is our competitor’s or our partner’s. We’ll gladly lend a hand if we can. (Obviously, we can’t debug everything. But if we can spend the time and go the extra mile — or in Europe, the extra kilometer — and do right by our customers, we surely, and gladly, will.)

So go ahead, rely on us. And if you need to point fingers, we’ll communicate clearly and skilfully so that you’re done pointing soon enough.

Our partnerships with other vendors such as encoder companies and CDN providers help us streamline integration with direct (and indirect) customers. We also provide assistance during interoperability testing, to ensure all goes smoothly and according to plan the moment clients start using our products in their production workflows.

Quotes, just because

From the telco’s side:

Unified Streaming support goes way beyond just configuration support and has helped us numerous times with content preparation pitfalls,” said an engineer at the telco represented in this article.

From our side:

Working with (the telco) has worked out for both of us, I think, quite well. When they raise a ticket about any of our products, or any parts of the chain upstream or downstream of Origin, Packager, or Remix, we’re happy to investigate. And we monitor the situation. Over cups of coffee, of course.

Best case scenario, the issue is solved fast — either by us or by another supplier — and from then on, operations run smoothly. Worst case, everything breaks and the building burns down. But that rarely happens. In fact, it’s never happened.

Working with (the telco), we aim to deliver excellence in streaming, so that end users get what they expect: a high-quality, seamless experience. That actually goes for all our customers. Well, all customers except one. You know who you are,” said Arjen Wagenaar, CTO of Unified Streaming.

Info to get, products to try

For more information on how Unified can help you maximize the value of your content, and to provide seamless end-user experiences, contact sales@​unified-​streaming.​com.

To tinker with cool products, like Unified Virtual Channel, please get your free trial here. Or book a demo with one of our experts.