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By iSIZE | edie.net | Published 19th June 2020

Episode 87 of the edie’s Sustainable Business Covered podcast focuses on the energy impact of streaming and digitization and features interviews with iSIZE CTO and UCL professor, Yiannis Andreopoulos along with former NPower Chief Executive, Paul Massara, who was recently appointed to iSIZE’s executive board.

Andreopoulos and Massara discuss the need to balance the environmental benefits of switching meetings to online platforms with the energy intensity of data centres and the online services we access.

 

 

By Maria Ingold | Isize Technologies | Published 1st July 2020

Fifty years ago, back when my father built our cabin off-grid by hand, sustainability was called environmentalism and considered hippy, not hip. In that time global energy consumption has increased 173%, in an ever-upward trend – until COVID-19. As of the 28th of April, 54% of the global population was in some form of lockdown. Global energy demand declined 3.8% in Q1 2020, with full-lockdown countries experiencing an average 25% decline in energy demand per week, and those in partial lockdown 18%.

Paul Massara, former CEO of npower and fellow Board Advisor to iSIZE, who deliver machine learning bitrate and energy reduction and perceptual quality enhancement for video, notes that, “At the same time, global carbon use has reduced around 5% as economies have slowed and airplanes have remained grounded. And yet if we are to hit our net zero targets and keep global temperature rises to less than 2%, we require a 7% year on year reduction in carbon, year in year out. The challenge is to achieve such carbon reductions without a crashing of the world economy.”

IMPACT OF VIDEO STREAMING ON SUSTAINABILITY

Traffic
Changes during lockdown could result in a new way of working. MIT discovered that 48.7% of US workers worked from home after COVID-19 (14.6% had already been working from home.) Global Workplace Analytics noted that globally 77% of white collar workers were now working from home full time (compared to 9% before.) The percentage of those who would like to work from home at least 1 day a week increased from 31% to 77%. Indeed, companies like Twitter have already approved permanent remote working, which will result in a very different use of transport and need for office space, as well as work-life balance and use of bandwidth.

With COVID-19, all the internet traffic usually across enterprise, education, consumer, public WiFi and, to a lesser extent, mobile and satellite, was suddenly consolidated to a consumer network, monitorable by Sandvine. Sandvine analysed 1 February to 19 April under these unique circumstances. They discovered that globally traffic grew by 38%, with upstream increasing by 121% and then plateauing, and downstream by 23% and rising. It makes sense that upstream grew to accommodate home workers, but steady downstream growth says they’re consuming more. Video is still almost 60% of traffic, but Sandvine predicts it could have reached 70% if the major streamers hadn’t reduced bitrates as requested by the European Commissioner.

Data Rates
Some customers noticed the reduction in bitrates, especially for AppleTV+ which reduced resolutions to 670 pixels high and compressed heavily with blocky artefacts. Netflix and AppleTV have mostly returned to normal, and YouTube was supposed to stop defaulting to SD after a month.

For an idea of Netflix’s typical data usage, Standard Definition (SD) is 0.7 GB per hour (1.6 Mbps), High Definition (HD) is up to 3 GB (6.7 Mbps) and Ultra High Definition (UHD) is 7 GB per hour (15.6 Mbps). Netflix is currently taking up 11.42% of global traffic, which, while a slight decline in share, is still an increase in global traffic. To cope with the overall rise in traffic, Netflix added four times the normal capacity in Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in April.

In 2017 when Netflix had 117.58 million subscribers, its users streamed 140 million hours per day, or 1 hour 11 minutes per day per user. In 2019, 167 million subscribers watched an average of 2 hours per day. As of Q1 2020 Netflix has 182.86 million paid subscribers. 182.86 million people watching two hours per day at 3 GB per hour is 400 exabytes of data per year.

By the beginning of May, mobile video traffic for Disney+ across North America and Europe reached 7 exabytes per month, representing 1.2%-2.2% of all mobile video traffic. Netflix is at 7%-15% which is in the region of 40 exabytes per month. That’s 480 exabytes per year just for mobile in North American and Europe.

Given that, 400 exabytes of data per year is low. Perhaps we really are at 3.2 hours of viewing per day as has been projected due to COVID-19. That’s 640 exabytes per year, which still seems low.

YouTube uses 1.1Mbps for 480p SD, 2.5Mbps for 720p HD, 5Mbps for 1080p HD and 20Mbps for UHD. YouTubers watch 1 billion hours per day, nearly twice the 585 million hours (at 3.2 hours per day) that Netflix users watch.

And UHD isn’t the end of the story. YouTube’s traffic, at 15.94%, is now more than Netflix. YouTube will also be the first major streaming provider to offer 8K on 8K TVs which support Alliance for Open Media’s AV1 hardware decoding. 8K, or UHDTV-2, is 7680 x 4320 pixels.

Energy
Netflix used 451,000 megawatt hours (MWh) in 2019, an 84% increase over 2018, compared to a 20% user growth. 94,000 MWh are direct energy use and composed of their offices, studios and telecoms that form their Content Delivery Network (CDN). 357,000 MWh are indirect energy use which includes partnerships such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and the caching servers they put into ISPs. This will have increased with the quadrupling of capacity in ISPs in April.

The exact sustainability hit of streaming video is under debate, however, with the July 2019 The Shift Project’s “Climate Crisis: The Unsustainable Use of Online Video” results being contested by George Kamiya, a digital/energy analyst from the International Energy Agency (IEA) whose article came out in March 2020, a month after Netflix’s impact report. He says The Shift Project’s figures imply that Netflix streaming consumes 370 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, 800 times higher than what Netflix confirmed above. He further notes The Shift Project’s numbers show 1.6Kg CO2e per half-hour of Netflix content, which IEA estimates to be closer to 0.028-0.057Kg CO2e. He says they overestimate bitrate, CDNs and data transmission networks, but underestimate energy consumption of devices.

CONTRIBUTORS TO STREAMING VIDEO ENERGY CONSUMPTION

Preparing
Source content is normally encoded into a high-resolution master format and transcoded into variants. Variants are tailored for the device and service level of the consumer, and typically use “bitrate ladders” of low to high bitrates and resolutions. This could range from SD for a mobile on 3G to UHD for a TV on WiFi.

Video is compressed by an encoder (usually hardware) and decompressed by a decoder (usually software but hardware can be used to optimise). Codecs trade-off between ubiquity, compression (or bits saved) and the time and power required to encode. To further reduce the bitrate and increase perceptual quality, a precoder, like iSIZE’s BitSave, may be inserted before the encoder.

Videos are usually stored, and archived, with technical metadata in a Media Asset Management (MAM) system. Metadata, such as title, synopsis, trailers and images are added to a Content Management System (CMS). The MAM and CMS can be combined alongside workflow management and other tools as a Software as a Service (SaaS) with content assets stored in the cloud.

Distributing
Content is usually delivered to a CDN and pushed to its edge servers. Akamai, one of the leading CDNs, has 250,000 edge servers deployed in thousands of locations to cache content at one network hop from 90% of the world’s users. All of these servers sit in data centres. In 2018 data centres used about 200TWh, or 1% of global electricity.

Because of the volume of its traffic, Netflix created thousands of Open Connect caches to sit within Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to increase efficiency and reduce the overall demand on upstream network capacity.

Transmission networks, which transmit the bits of data, used about 260 TWh, or 1.1 of global electricity in 2018. Two-thirds of that was mobile networks.

Receiving
The Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018-2023) noted that there will be 29.3 billion networked devices by 2023, up from 18.4 billion in 2018, with 50% being Machine-To-Machine (M2M) connections, growing at 19% CAGR. Smartphones will grow second fastest at 7% CAGR, then Connected TVs and related devices at just under 6% CAGR. PCS continue to decline at 2%.

While smartphones make up the biggest percentage of consumer devices, mobile isn’t where all video traffic is consumed. On Netflix, by month six, 70% of viewers watch on TV, 15% on laptops, 10% on mobile phones and 5% on tablets. With over 100 pay TV partnership deals and access to over 300 million global pay TV homes, TV is likely to continue to be important to Netflix.

SOLUTIONS TO STREAM VIDEO SUSTAINABLY

Efficient Bits
Encoding, transcoding, storing and distributing fewer bits helps reduce energy use and costs. When the Competition Commission asked for help reducing internet traffic, Netflix stopped using the top rung of each encoding bitrate ladder set up for SD, HD and UHD. YouTube changed its default from HD to SD. AppleTV+ used a highly compressed lower resolution. While these reduced bits, they also reduced quality and some viewers complained.

Keeping the perceptual quality the same or better, while reducing bits, can be achieved in a variety of ways. One is with better codecs. While an older codec like AVC (H.264) has the best availability across devices and platforms, HEVC (H.265) offers a 25-50% bitrate reduction on H.264. AV1 is even newer. It provides a 17% bitrate reduction on H.265 across entire bitrate ladders, but up to 30% for 1080p HD and 43% for UHDTV-1. It’s slated to be a gamechanger for 8K encoding. The problem is the speed and power usage. AV1 is said to be 50-3000 times slower than HEVC and requires more powerful hardware to encode. That’s being addressed, including with multi-dimensional parallelism (using many CPU cores simultaneously to process multiple parts of the encode). New codecs can take a while, so some improvement methods work with existing codecs. One way is during encoding, as in per-title encoding as created by Netflix in 2015.

Another way is by perceptually optimising the bits before they get to the encoder – precoding. I’m a Board Advisor for iSIZE, who have a codec-independent machine learning precoder called BitSave. iSIZE’s precoding provides fewer bits to be encoded, which look perceptually the same, or in some cases better. iSIZE’s BitSave combines two key things to reduce complexity, save bits and save energy: preprocessing and dynamic resolution selection. BitSave’s consumer version, available as a SaaS service and API, both on bitsave.tech, includes preprocessing, which saves about 30% bitrate on average. The enterprise version, available on a trial basis for B2B users, includes both, so also enables up to a 5-fold (500%) reduction in the energy required by a video encoder.

I explain how BitSave preprocessing works in a previous article on opportunities for video streaming, including an independent analysis by streaming expert Jan Ozer, who finds the technology ‘valid and valuable’. In summary, machine learning enhances areas in the frame that are important to the viewer and blurs areas that aren’t. This reduces bitrate and improves perceptual metrics like VMAF, while balancing with fidelity metrics like PSNR and SSIM. For Full HD and UHD across a range of encoders – AVC (H.264), HEVC (2.65) and Google’s VP9 – iSIZE BitSave preprocessing saves between 8% to 52% (an average of 30%) of the bitrate, and therefore an average of 30% of the energy to store and stream that piece of content.

Dynamic resolution scaling is used on top of preprocessing in the enterprise version. This intelligently downscales the pixel footprint going into any encoder. Some frames don’t lose significant information when they are downscaled and then upscaled by a client. While iSIZE do provide an optional upscaler, players already automatically upscale based on the resolution and bitrate information presented in the DASH or HLS manifest file, so existing upscaling can be used with no change to the client.

If the aspect ratio is kept the same but the video’s horizontal and vertical resolution is cut in half, then the new frame will only take up a quarter of the pixels. For instance, Full HD is a quarter the size of UHD. A quarter of the original size would result in significant reduction in the CPU cycles and energy consumption required, typically between a 2-fold to 3-fold reduction. And, at the same bitrate, more bits of data would represent each pixel, so quality loss could be mitigated.

To choose the best resolution, each frame is scaled to several resolutions and analysed to determine which one provides the best quality result. Netflix does this, but with two key differences: one, they use a ‘brute force’ approach to select the resolution, and two, they use linear filters to produce the actual resolution. iSIZE uses neural net filters to produce the optimal resolution, and finds that optimal resolution via a process it calls ‘footprinting’. Footprinting does a potentially real time check on the rate and distortion of a set of resolutions, then selects the best using a mathematical optimisation approach. The energy required for footprinting is low and constant, and tests show iSIZE can achieve up to a 5-fold (500%) reduction in encoding time and its associated energy use.

iSIZE’s preprocessing and dynamic resolution scaling are explained in detail in iSIZE’s peer reviewed journal article, which will appear shortly in the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems for Video Technology (arXiv preprint link).

Consume Consciously
Consumers also have a role to play in reducing their energy consumption. Consuming consciously means using energy-efficient devices, efficient transmissions and reducing electronic waste.

A 50-inch LED television currently consumes five times as much electricity as a laptop and 100 times more than a smartphone. The type of display also effects efficiency. LED-backlit LCD TVs are more energy efficient then plasma TVs. OLED is more efficient than LCD, and microLED is more efficient than OLED. It also depends how old your TV is. Consumer Technology Association (CTA) showed that LCD TVs in 2015 consumed 76% less energy (per screen area) than in 2003. Furthermore, the CTA’s sustainability work has reduced American set top box (STB) consumption by 39% since 2012, saving 29 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.

How content gets to the device also has an impact. Wireless and mobile are expected to make up more than 70% of Internet Protocol (IP) traffic in 2022, up from 50% in 2018. Streaming through 4G mobile networks consumes about four times as much electricity as WiFi, but 4G can be more than 50 times as energy efficient as 2G.

Newer devices are generally more energy efficient. The CTA notes that even with a 21% increase of electronic devices in homes there is a 25% reduction in home energy consumption. Production, however, still has an impact. Apple has taken significant steps to make energy-efficient products with renewable or recycled materials and renewable energy, but the production of an iPhone 11 contributes to 79% of its carbon emissions. Use contributes to 17%, transport to 3% and end-of-life processing for less than 1%. Electronic waste is a growing problem too with 50 million tonnes produced each year, amounting to $62.5 billion in valuable materials lost globally. Harvesting would generate fewer CO2 emissions than mining.

Use Renewables
As a result of COVID-19, coal, oil, gas and electricity demand have all dropped, with electricity demand decreasing by 20% or more during full lockdown. Increases in residential demand are strongly outweighed by the reduction of commercial and industrial operations. The impact enabled Britain to shut down its four remaining coal-fired plants in April. Renewables is the most resilient and the only one to see growth in demand – a 1.5% increase across all sectors (up 3% in electricity generation to a nearly 28% share) year-on-year in Q1 2020.

Renewables are likely to remain the only growth area, up 1% across all sectors and 5% in electricity generation in 2020. More wind, hydropower and solar projects are underway, with low operating costs, priority in the grid, and they don’t have to adjust output to match demand. So if electricity demand decreases, renewables end up with a higher share in the electricity generation mix. As a result, global CO2 emissions are expected to decline throughout 2020 by 8% to 2010 levels. Unfortunately, recovery from every previous crisis has immediately rebounded CO2 emissions, including the highest ever year-on-year increase in 2010.

Luckily, many large digital companies are reducing their energy and carbon footprints. CDN, Limelight Networks, announced in May 2020 that even with a 50% traffic increase over the last year, it had increased the average amount of data delivered per Mbps per watt by almost 80%. It did this by switching to next-generation server hardware and software that uses less energy. Streaming Media’s ‘Greening of Streaming’ initiative also notes that Limelight is proactively selecting data centres based on access to renewable energy.

Netflix ensured that 100% of its estimated direct and indirect non-renewable power use was matched with renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets in 2019. Furthermore, Google matched 100% of its electricity consumption with purchases of renewable energy and Microsoft intends to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove its entire impact by 2050. The good news is these aren’t the only large companies to reduce their energy and carbon footprint, but individual corporate effort is only part of global structural change.

SUMMARY
Demand for data will only grow. Videos, games and social sharing already account for 80% of internet traffic. The challenge will be to find new technologies that can help us grow the economy and also reduce energy and carbon. Ultimately we need many more solutions such as iSIZE’s if we are to reduce carbon emissions and bring climate change under control.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE HERE

 

By Sergio Grce | Data Economy | Published 26th June 2020

Around the world, the advice surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic is that people should, wherever possible, work from home. Thanks to the ubiquity of high-speed broadband, that seems on the face of it a reasonable request for most people.

It seems reasonable because our use of the internet has grown far beyond emails and messaging. Even before the current crisis, video conferencing was rapidly replacing face-to-face meetings as a way of saving time and reducing carbon footprint.

In today’s unusual circumstances, online meetings are very popular. But it is not just workers who are confined to the home. Schools are also closed, so children are turning to the internet for educational material. Online fitness classes are booming. And, of course, people of all ages confined to the home are turning to streaming video services and online gaming for entertainment.

Before the crisis erupted, Cisco predicted that global internet traffic would reach 4.8 zetabytes a year (that’s 48 followed by 20 zeros). The significant point, though, is that video – in all its forms – represents at least 80% of that total.

And if we are consuming more video over the internet, whether conferencing or binge watching, then the impact on the network will increase. Openreach, which provides most of the broadband infrastructure in the UK, has seen traffic increases of between 35 and 60% over equivalent times in “normal” weeks. Vodafone says mobile broadband demand has increased by 50%.

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton commented recently that he is concerned that the digital infrastructure could collapse at any time. “Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against Coronavirus,” he said.

The nature of digital video is that it is fiercely demanding of bandwidth. The native data rate for HD television is 1.5 gigabits a second; Ultra HD is at least four times that. It is also deterministic: if your television display does not get a new picture every 40 milliseconds you see it all too clearly. Drops and freezes may be acceptable in complex video conferences, but not when you’re watching Narcos or Stranger Things.

Video streams are compressed heavily before passing through either the broadcast or broadband pipe to get to you: a premium HD channel might be four or five megabits a second to your home. That is extremely effective, but the sheer mass of traffic still makes it a challenge for the internet infrastructure.

The codecs used to encode the video signals are, of course, tightly standardized – they have to be for the whole thing to work. Any changes to these standards take years to develop and ratify. Updating the codecs to reduce bandwidth requirements is not an option.

There is the suggestion that users might accept standard definition video streams rather than HD or Ultra HD. Netflix chairman and CEO Reed Hastings tweeted “To secure internet access for all, let’s #SwitchtoStandard definition when HD is not necessary”.

That, though, must be seen as a huge commercial risk. First, consumers have got used to seeing HD quality on the large screens now found in every living room. SD will be seen as very inferior. Longer term, it deeply undermines the push for Ultra HD which the streaming businesses have advocated as giving them a clear advantage over broadcasters.

It also does nothing to limit the boom in video conferencing. Most users have no idea of the resolution of the camera built into their computers, let alone how to modify its parameters. Video conferencing will continue to grab all the bandwidth available because there is no practical means of throttling it.

With a need to maintain perceived quality and no significant reductions in bandwidth from codec developments in sight, the only solution is to pre-process the video before it reaches the encoder. Perceptually optimized video files when given to the encoder should result in smaller streams out.

For a moment, let us look back 25 years. The challenge then was to stream audio, which required a sustained data rate of 1 – 2 Mb/s. The engineers and mathematicians developing the first MPEG standard applied psychoacoustics to the understanding of human perception of sound. Although purists remain critical, the level 3 audio coding within MPEG-1 – known as MP3 for short – has become universally accepted and used.

What MP3 does is eliminate those parts of the audio signal which most listeners would not miss. It allows the data rate to be slashed down to 64kb/s.

Our work at iSIZE Technologies has found that the same principles can be applied to video. If you determine what people actually see, then you can remove from the video stream those pixels which are not important. This is a pre-processing stage, prior to encoding into one of the video delivery standards, but with less data in so less data out.

There is extensive academic work on measuring the effectiveness of such video pre-processing. The most widely used is VMAF, for video multi-method assessment fusion. Driven by Netflix – which has a big interest in efficient video streaming – VMAF was developed by the University of Southern California and the University of Texas.

Through VMAF we have reliable metrics for human visual perception, and therefore a solid foundation on which to develop machine-learning processes to identify the less important parts of the image and to reduce their significance in the video flow. We are already seeing bitrate reductions of between 20 and 40% and no compromise to the visual quality – in fact in some instances we even improve visual quality as measured by VMAF and other high-level perceptual metrics.

In the long term, saving 30% of the 80% of the internet that is video traffic could result in data savings close to 25%. In the short term, proven video pre-processing algorithms are ready to roll, and could keep the internet alive during a period of unprecedented threat.

 

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE HERE

By Digital Innovation Staff | Digital Innovation | Published July 2020 Edition

iSIZE Technologies was interviewed by Digital Innovation to talk about its “New Phase of Growth” with two new members recently joining its executive board: Paul Massara, ex-CEO of NPower, and Maria Ingold, ex-CTO of Disney-Sony joint venture, FilmFlex Movies.

iSIZE is quickly gaining traction with several of the giant technology companies, social media companies, telecom companies and cloud providers, all currently evaluating BitSave precoding technology to be licensed and used within their streaming services or that of their clients. Today, the technology is available on iSIZE’s SaaS platform bitsave.tech, but they are in the process of getting it to cloud marketplace, making the products more readily available to the wider streaming community.

In addition, iSIZE’s BitSave, BitClient and BitMind products have huge potential to revolutionize the way that video streaming content can be interpreted, processed and viewed in a sustainable and energy-efficient way on any device anywhere in the world. Part of the BitClient technology solves the problem of being able to view content seamlessly and without loss of quality while the device is in the power saving mode, allowing for further bitrate saving and quality optimization. The first demos and pilots have already been delivered to clients, with the product expected to hit the market later this year.

Having gone from strength to strength since its launch four years ago, iSIZE Technologies aims to break new ground in 2020, hence the appointment of two new, highly experienced members to its executive board. Commenting on the news, Sergio Grce, CEO at iSIZE Technologies, said, “We are very pleased to have both Paul and Maria on board here at iSIZE. With years of commercial and technical experience under their belts, these appointments demonstrate our accelerated growth trajectory as we continue to expand our corporate horizons in 2020.

“With Paul’s impressive business acumen and Maria’s technical credentials on side, we are confident that iSIZE will continue to flourish as we look to make our mark in the streaming sector in 2020.”

By Digital Innovation Staff | Digital Innovation | Published July 2020 Edition

iSIZE Technologies was interviewed by Digital Innovation to talk about its “New Phase of Growth” with two new members recently joining its executive board: Paul Massara, ex-CEO of NPower, and Maria Ingold, ex-CTO of Disney-Sony joint venture, FilmFlex Movies. Here Paul Massara talks about what attracted him to join the iSIZE team.

What is it about iSIZE that first attracted you?
I invest in companies that I feel can play a role in the transition to a low carbon economy, and iSIZE clearly meets that criteria. In addition, the deep tech has the potential to create a number of innovative products that can reduce bandwidth, which is an ever increasing challenge, and something that has only grown due to Covid-19, with more people working from home.

How is your previous experience proving valuable in your new role?
Having invested in a number of energy-tech businesses, I have seen many of the challenges that start-ups experience; from developing a clear digital roadmap, to winning that first contract, to hiring a sales team and financing. What all start-ups share is that they need to focus, focus, focus! They are all short of time and money, and those issues are linked, so they need to focus on traction on a commercial product ASAP. In addition to bringing that experience, I have also helped to open doors with C-suite executives, which often speeds up the sales process.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on the business?
In reality, it has had both a positive and negative impact. In the short term, it has been more difficult to get people’s attention to look at something new, when they are focused on getting their core business stable. However, Covid-19 has led to a significant increase in video conferencing, streaming of games, socal media and videos. These are all likely to lead to a long-term sustained increase in demand of bandwidth. iSIZE solutions have never been more relevant than today.

How important is sustainability for iSIZE Technologies?
Sustainability is critically important to the company for many reasons. We recognize that demand for data and streaming is likely to increase, and so being able to play a part in companies reaching Net Zero is critical. All the big digital companies – Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, Google – are committing to plans to reduce their carbon footprint, and we are approaching all of them.

Sustainability is also important in attracting and retaining the best team possible. There are many people looking at AI and ML, but often go into either fintech or mediatech, where they struggle to see the direct impact they are having on addressing one of the biggest societal challenges that we face, i.e. climate change.

Any final thoughts?
I am very excited to join iSIZE Technologies. Having dedicated much of my career to furthering the environmental cause, I am very much looking forwards to taking iSIZE low-carbon, sustainable technology solutions to new heights in 2020.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE HERE

By Digital Innovation Staff | Digital Innovation | Published July 2020 Edition

iSIZE Technologies was interviewed by Digital Innovation to talk about its “New Phase of Growth” with two new members recently joining its executive board: Paul Massara, ex-CEO of NPower, and Maria Ingold, ex-CTO of Disney-Sony joint venture, FilmFlex Movies. Here Maria Ingold explains her reasons for accepting this role and the potential she sees in iSIZE.

What is it about iSIZE that first attracted you?
A number of years ago, I started evaluating bitrate reduction as a solution for OTT delivery for the lower living standards measure in South Africa. At the time, there were minimal fixed line broadband connections and mobile phones were predominantly used for viewing. Downloading video via BitTorrent was the most popular consumption method until the data rate got high enough to make streaming possible, then YouTube dominated. We needed to figure out how to keep data rates low and quality high.

At the time, there were limited options, but I’ve kept track of innovation in this space. I was impressed with iSIZE’s openness, including (what they said in ) their 2019 talk and paper on how they achieve bitrate reduction while increasing perceptual quality.

How is your previous experience proving valuable in your new role?
As a recognized expert in the VOD and OTT space, I’ve shared how iSIZE’s bitrate reduction can help with the increase in traffic we’ve seen since Covid-19. I was part of the panel for the DTG Webinar: Covid-19 – Transforming the TV Industry: The Resiliency of the Internet. I’ve also written an article on Covid-19 and Beyond: Opportunities for Video Streaming. I explain the impact Covid-19 has had on traffic and video streaming, the long-term opportunities, and how to cut costs but maintain customer satisfaction using a bitrate reduction product like iSIZE, which I had independently vetted by streaming expert, Jan Ozer.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on the business?
Covid-19 has impacted the entire industry and iSIZE’s BitSave product is more relevant now than ever. Akamai, a leading content delivery network (CDN), saw global internet traffic increase by 30 per cent in March. that’s an entire year’s growth in a few weeks. Sandvine, who regularly analyses this space, discovered home consumer traffic grew by 38 per cent globally. Video still took up about 60 per cent of that traffic, but Sandvine predicted it would have taken up 70 per cent if the major streaming providers hadn’t taken steps to reduce bitrate by about 25 per cent. Netflix stopped using the highest ‘bitrate ladder’ combination of bitrate and resolution for a given tier like Standard Definition (SD), High Definition (HD) or Ultra High Definition (UHD). YouTube set its defaults to SD. Users really noticed with AppleTV reduced resolutions and heavy compression introduced blocky artefacts.

While they’ve mostly returned to normal quality, this means they also returned to normal streaming costs. They could keep lower streaming costs and give customers the same quality perceptual experience by using bitrate reduction that also increases perceptual quality metrics, like iSIZE’s BitSave.

(Read more in Maria’s article Learnings from Lockdown: Sustainable Streaming)

How important is sustainability for iSIZE Technologies?
Sustainability is the vision for iSIZE: “Enable sustainable online entertainment by leading video AI technology”. Sustainability is essential to the video streaming industry. Netflix’s 2018 environmental impact noted that they used 451,000 megawatt hours (MWh), an 84 per cent increase over 2018, compared to a 20 per cent user growth. While Netflix is using some renewable energy and matching non-renewable power with renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets, expending less energy in encoding or during distribution would save the energy from being used in the first place.

Any final thoughts?
I’m thrilled to be part of iSIZE at such a relevant time. With nearly 30 years of technical expertise in the entertainment and media industry, I am well-placed to see the potential iSIZE has to revolutionize the sector, and I am delighted to be part of its future.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE HERE

By Kitplus Staff | Kitplus Daily | Published 9th April 2020

Earlier this year at the KitPlus Show, Richard Payne hosted a session about live streaming and esports with experts-in-the-field, Jon Pratchett and Alex Pettitt. They discuss the use of their favourite gear and we’re delighted that Intinor and our solutions are featured at 17.05 where Jon Pratchett states:

“For our higher end stuff we use Intinor which is a high end encoding hardware solution and arguably, in my impression, one of the best, probably THE best encoder out there for this.”

Also discussed in the video:

  • Image, resolution and frame rate and the impact of different frame rates for players over viewers
  • Audio and comms, such as commentators feeds, sound from game, chat from players
  • Graphics, game overlays, countdowns, brackets and PiP’s
  • Networking, gamers network, streaming and production network
  • Streaming solutions, encoders and third party streaming distribution options

Jon Pratchett is an award winning live streaming specialist with a strong IT/Networking background. He is also an accomplished DOP, Live and Production Sound engineer and Production Gallery designer and is sought after by production companies to “make things work and solve technical problems”

Creative Technologist, Alex Pettitt, is an esports live streaming expert and a certified YouTube professional advising on full broadcast quality multi-camera live streams and scalable broadcast solutions from small outside broadcasts to full studio setup. He’s covered live streaming projects such as the Kick Off, Lion’s Den, Call of Duty World League and the first 4k esports stream over 5G

 

By Kitplus Staff | Kitplus Daily | Published 8th May 2020

Special guest on KitPlus Daily 8th May was Anna Hurd from Hitomi: chatting about life in lockdown, lip-sync and Hitomi's solutions, focusing on our latest product, MatchBox Glass. There's also a great cut-away video demonstrating how Timeline TV are using Glass.

Life in lockdown was the first topic of conversation. Anna explained how Hitomi's team are used to working remotely, with team members spread throughout the country whilst the base of operations is in Slough and Anna herself being based in Scotland. She did say, though, that it was strange getting dressed up for work and then just walking into her garden office!

Matt of KitPlus then asked about the recent launch of the iOS app, MatchBox Glass. Anna spoke about how the date of the launch happened to be the same day as the start of lockdown in the UK and how it's been well received, especially with the option to request a free trial licence for existing MatchBox Analyser users.

KitPlus showed a video of Glass in action at Timeline TV. 

FULL ARTICLE AVAIALBLE HERE

 

By Hitomi Staff | Hitomi | Published 11th May 2020

Timeline TV use MatchBox Glass to check their audio and video feeds are in total alignment before going ahead with their live broadcast. Russell Johnson of Hitomi Broadcast visited the Timeline TV team at Ealing Studios where they were preparing for a Remote Production broadcast of the Barclay’s FA Women's Super League.

In the video below you’ll see the MatchBox Analyser in the studio measuring the misalignment of 25ms that was soon corrected to 0 much to everyone’s delight:

 

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE HERE

By IABM Staff| IABM TV | Published 18th May 2020

 

Hitomi Broadcast Director, Russell Johnson, discusses the solutions Hitomi offer for lip-sync and beyond and the launch of the Matchbox Glass app with Ben Dales from IABM.

Russell talked about the different alignment solutions that Hitomi offer - not just audio to video but also audio to audio and video to video. This is achieved by a special Test Pattern Generator with text or audio idents to identify individual feeds along with the MatchBox Analyser for accurate measurement of differences between input feeds. Hitomi "measures when it's wrong and proves when it's right" which can be very useful especially for high profile live events to avoid any potential disputes.

The ease of use of the technology was discussed. For example, the MatchBox Analyser overlays colour-coded visual representation of the alignment matches so that operators in the Master Control Room can quickly respond to misalignment issues if necessary.

Ben was interested to know about the latest member of the Hitomi MatchBox family of products, Glass. This is a free iOS app, Russell explained, that allows lip-sync tests for camera mics remotely and feeds back into the MatchBox Analyser. To help people get started, Hitomi are offering a 30-day free trial licence for MatchBox Analyser customers.

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