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A converging software-based transcoder tailored for Live IPTV and OTT applications

This white paper is an introduction to TITAN Live, ATEME’s transcoding solution for multi-screen delivery. This paper provides an overview on the value-added features of TITAN Live to streamline content workflows and to offer live streams to TV, Tablets, PCs and Smartphones.

What is TITAN Live?

TITAN Live is a carrier-grade software-based video transcoding solution dedicated to multi-screen delivery. TITAN Live is a real-time IP-to-IP transcoder that can deliver various type of content to TV, Mobile, and PC over IPTV or OTT networks. TITAN Live supports MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 inputs over SPTS or MPTS and transcoding into multiple formats such as MPEG-2 TS, HTTP Live Streaming or Microsoft Smooth Streaming, Apple HLS, and Adobe Flash 10.5 Adaptive Streaming. TITAN Live is based on a 7-RU High Performance Computing frame, hosting up to 18 blades that embed the latest Intel chipset generation. Supported by an innovative architecture, TITAN Live is a value-added solution characterised by four areas of excellence:
  • Unmatched throughput provided with best-in-class video quality
  • Flexibility/scalability
  • Operational convergence

For over 20 years, ATEME has designed and developed all aspects of its video compression systems. Its pioneering commitment and expertise results today in high Video Quality solutions on both software and hardware platforms. This became possible by a unique R&D task force made up of 40 video compression/processing engineering experts and researchers. Hence, TITAN Live benefits from years of innovation and expertise on processing speed optimisation and video quality at all bitrates.

To achieve the highest processing density, TITAN Live embeds a series of original video processing algorithms developed by ATEME’s research team:

  • Pre-processing, including de-noising and de-interlacing
  • Up and down scaling, frame rate conversion
  • Stream complexity analysis, encoding mode decision and rate control

These algorithms have been entirely designed to match the innovative structure of the underlying platforms while maintaining a pristine Video Quality. The intelligent splitting of encoding inner algorithms are distributed and processed on different cores and processors. Thus, TITAN Live exploits the massive processing power of such architectures resulting in an unmatched transcoding density. The following table provides guidelines on the transcoding density achievable in TITAN Live.

Output Profile                          Output Resolution Max No of channels per blade (Q3 2011) Max No of channels per 7RU frame (Q3 2011) Max No of channels per blade (Q2 2012)* Max No of channels per 7RU frame (Q2 2012)*
iPhone (Low Res) 320x240 39 702 68 1224
iPhone (High Res) 480x360 19 342 33 594
Full SD 720x480 9 162 16 288
Web HD 1280x720 3 54 5 90
TV HD 1080i 1440x1080 2 36 4 72
*Projected Q2/2012 throughput is based on the combination of ongoing software optimization and hardware performance gains

In parallel to the throughput benefits, TITAN Live is designed to deliver a best-in-class Video Quality at the lowest bitrates. This unprecedented bandwidth efficiency is the result of over 100 man years of research on advanced compression tools (i.e. Motion estimation, Rate control, Decision etc.) and targeted efforts to optimise the handling of specifically challenging scenes (e.g. confettis, sports grass…).

Additionally, ATEME has developed an intelligent way to managed video over the processing time. Indeed, the picture’s complexity and the blades processing power (CPU load) are continuously analysed. Based on these metrics, TITAN Live adjusts the video quality level within the contraints of real-time. For instance, if a scene is complex (e.g. explosion) then, depending on the available processing power, the encoding toolset will be expanded so as to maintain the quality level constant. Such a dynamic adjustment of the encoding toolset allows TITAN Live to deliver the best quality irrespective of any set profile, resolution or bitrate.

Full flexibility and scalability

The multi-screen delivery market is a dynamic landscape. On top of the premium IPTV delivery, new and/or more nomad display devices emerge every year. The changes in the market can lead to new formats or dramatic increases in subscribers’ demand for content. Both aspects must be addressed as fast as possible to ensure that video content is still delivered to the broadest audience. In addition, the nature of the content to deliver has itself an impact: Operators can decide to change the processing properties (e.g. bitrate, spatio-temporal resolution) depending on the streaming event (sports or news) and the targeted audience (web or smartphones). By design, TITAN Live offers a full flexibility and scalability to meet these requirements.

TITAN Live’s software-based engines enable operators to be more responsive to new trends. The full software approach allows immediate profile reconfiguration or fast updates with no hardware change in the field. In addition, the blade architecture enables providers to add and scale processing power as requested. When the processing demand increases, deployed platform can be populated with new blades to deliver extra capacity. Consequently, operators using TITAN Live can stay in synch with the end-user devices or the daily streaming events’ requirements.

Operational convergence

The multi-screen delivery market is a heterogeneous landscape where various trends, sometimes contradictory, can be confused. For example, IPTV versus OTT, streaming versus adaptive streaming, pay-TV versus free content, interlaced encoding versus progressive encoding are often difficult to separate and understand. Upstream workflows can become complex, especially if they rely on a silo-like architecture where any standalone box is dedicated to one task.At the opposite of this silo approach, TITAN Live promotes an efficient convergence of workflows and tasks. TITAN Live is positioned as an “all-in-one” solution combining multi profiles transcoding power, advanced content processing and built-in management layer.

TITAN Live as a “all-in-one” solution

From the processing perspective, TITAN addresses the established IPTV marketplace with expectations for a best-in-class video, quality experience as well as the emerging OTT landscape’s requirements for delivering adaptive streaming content. Adaptive Streaming technology has become an essential element of most new multi-screen deployments. Adaptive Streaming enables the highest possible bit-rate and video quality to reach video subscribers across constricted broadband connections. The TITAN Live platform supports the latest Adaptive Streaming technologies including Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming, Apple’s HLS, and Adobe’s HTTP Dynamic Streaming. TITAN Live is unique in its support of Adaptive Delivery in that it can segment, fragment, or chunk HTTP files directly from the TITAN Live transcoder itself or it can use one of many supported external Adaptive Delivery Origin Servers to perform the file chunking. Consequently, a TITAN Live transcoder can produce high-resolution interlaced streams for the big screen delivery and multiple low-resolution progressive profiles for web or smartphones. A TITAN Frame may also host TITAN File transcoding blades, enabling file processing for video on demand and any non-linear content delivery – it is therefore a truly convergent platform.

In addition, TITAN Lives embeds advanced content processing features such as layering with multi-audio/subtitling/closed captioning capabilities, editing or encryption. These pre/post-processing stages available in TITAN Live prevent from using additional equipment downstream. Finally, TITAN Live features built-in supervision to manage and control all hardware and software components across multiple platforms. From a single interface, operators can manage the transcoding tasks and monitors the automatic failover and redundancy management.

Cutting-edge technologies

The multi-screen delivery market is a demanding landscape where transcoding solutions must be capable of providing many flexible outputs and where overall system performance is essential. TITAN Live is uniquely future proof as it combines

  • A unique design tailored for video processing,
  • A full software-based architecture.
  • and Intel’s outstanding performance.

TITAN Live transcoder runs on a COTS platform designed for massive video processing. The TITAN Live platform utilises standard components for CPU, memory and storage, however, contrary to the general purpose IT servers, the entire platform has been configured for the video mass transcoding processing. The TITAN Live platform has the latest chipset on the market, the minimum storage/memory capacity and no extra components like USB or VGA connectors. Consequently, the TITAN Live platform offers the best ratio processing power/form factor (18 blades in 7-RU) while lowering power consumption by 30% compared to other off-the-shelf servers.

TITAN Live is a robust video transcoding solution based today on Intel’s Westmere processor. TITAN Live is also fully compatible with the upcoming Intel Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge chipsets. The usage on the Intel’s chipsets goes beyond a simple technology compliancy. The guarantee to rely on the latest available chipset generation leads TITAN Live to produce high processing and throughput performance over years. Intel releases its new generation every 18 months or so. The next chipset generation enhances performance by at least 50% compared to the previous generation. Consequently, every 18 months, operators using TITAN Live benefit from the same gain of performance for every expansion of the platform without having to update the software engines.

Conclusion

TITAN Live is a feature-rich, future-proof, operation-proof solution which makes workflows simple, efficient and scalable. Leveraging the ATEME investment into video compression research, it can produce bandwidth efficient streams for any kind of screen or network. Beyond the live workflows, file transcoding capabilities are also available. Indeed, TITAN Live blades can be combined with TITAN File blades, ATEME’s file transcoding solution for Catch-up TV and VOD. As a result, service operators and content owners using TITAN can benefit from a truly convergent platform to fulfill “anytime, anywhere, anything” content consumption.