Authored by Thomas Pister, Lead Solutions Architect Cloud at Qvest Media, and Zavisa Bjelogrlic, Specialist Solution Architect at AWS. The content and opinions in this post are those of the third-party author and AWS is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this post.
In the age of social media distribution, we see more and more demand for broadcast channels for events, sport tournaments, and limited duration pop-up channels. Customers need to quickly create, provision, test, and operate a channel. Customers also need the ability to decommission the channel shortly after the end of the event. These customers also want flexible distribution options, including traditional linear broadcast and digital distribution. Cloud-based production and distribution meets all of these requirements. This is why we developed the Qvest Media Event Channel Playout solution on AWS using qibb, a cloud application management and orchestration platform from Techtriq.
About Qvest Media
Qvest Media is a world-leading systems architect, consultant, ICT integrator, and developer of software products in the innovation-driven media industry. The company is headquartered in Germany with locations across Europe, USA, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Our solutions include consulting, design and software development, systems integration, managed services, and support of customers’ media technology infrastructure.
Qvest Media´s Event Channel Playout Solution allows customers to quickly launch a complete pop-up channel on AWS. It also allows customers to deploy on-premises or using hybrid architecture, providing the flexibility to migrate media workloads gradually to the cloud.
The solution uses AWS services and third-party playout products and includes the following services:
- Playout Automation and Engines service
- Storage service
- Transfer service
- Encoding service
- Distribution service
- Orchestration service
- Monitoring service
Customers can install and launch all elements of a new channel in minutes, much faster than the time needed to prepare media and schedules for an event!
As key integration component Qvest Media uses is qibb ultimate from Techtriq. qibb ultimate is a cloud application management and orchestration platform for hybrid and cloud infrastructure environments specifically designed for media companies. The playout solution uses the AWS Elemental Media Services and other AWS services to create the full playout chain.
The solution includes integration with the Makalu cloud-based playout automation system from HMS Media Solutions, or Pixel Power’s Gallium PLAYOUT scheduling and asset management solution and the StreamMaster DELIVER graphics and branding tool. Customers can also incorporate other third party products for additional functions such as quality control of the audio and video, watermarking, or to create variable bitrate formats.
The playout solution can also switch between recorded content and live ingest with support for several formats and protocols. Customers tend to prefer compressed formats with protocols like SRT, RTSP or NDI, RTMP, or RIST.
A playlist controls the playout system. Customers can import playlists from an existing traffic system, or they can create playouts manually using the playout system. The playout tool supports connections to the console using a PC-over-IP (PCoIP) solution like Teradici or Remote Desktop Protocol (RTP) on Windows instances.
With the playlist defined, the user can check and preview the existing assets, control the channel, switch to live events and back to playlist, and monitor the output of the channel.
Customers have the option to configure the playout solution to run in a single AWS Availability Zone (AZ) or distributed across multiple AZs in one or more AWS Regions for added availability. The following diagram illustrates an example of a redundant channel pipeline for OTT delivery based on Pixel Power products running in two AZs:
In this example, the main Gallium PLAYOUT instance controls one StreamMaster DELIVER component in AZ1. The backup PLAYOUT module in AZ2 remains synchronized with the main module. If a problem occurs in AZ1, the backup PLAYOUT takes over the control of the remaining DELIVER module. Both DELIVER components are connected to AWS Elemental MediaLive that runs in a redundant, Multi-AZ configuration and automatically switches between primary and backup input signals. MediaLive is a broadcast-grade live video processing service. It lets you create high-quality video streams for delivery to broadcast televisions and internet-connected multiscreen devices, like connected TVs, tablets, smartphones, and set-top boxes.
Customers can easily modify this architecture to work with different third-party playout products. If the playout system can be virtualized and has an API, qibb can manage the third-party playout system in both single and Multi-AZ, configurations. Qvest Media has the connectors and the experience to adapt to new interfaces, if needed, for specific customer requirements. We can also support the third-party product by optimizing the cloud compute services and apply the most appropriate pricing model to efficiently control operational cost.
AWS Elemental Media Services
MediaLive performs the encoding of the playout output for distribution. The service works by encoding live video streams in real-time, taking a larger-sized live video source and converting it into smaller versions for distribution to the viewers. Customers can use AWS Elemental MediaPackage to reliably prepare and protect video for delivery over the internet. MediaPackage is a highly scalable, video origination and just-in-time packaging (JITP) service that helps video providers securely, reliably and cost-efficiently package and deliver live video streams. Customers can also add multi-DRM encryption to protect content for multiple delivery formats. MediaPackage also simplifies the implementation of time-shift features like start-over, pause, and rewind, and it supports time-shifted viewing for content that’s up to 336 hours (14 days) old. Customers can also harvest a clip of a live stream and make it available as a video on demand (VOD) asset. MediaPackage supports Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) delivery and distribution to third parties like content aggregators and distributors. MediaPackage is CDN agnostic, offering customers an easy way to implement a multi-CDN strategy.
Launching a playout channel
The qibb Cloud Automation and Media Orchestrator modules control deployment of new event channels.
Customers set up and end event channel workflows and model changes in the qibb Orchestrator. The Orchestrator includes a graphical workflow design tool that is simple to be used by media professionals, yet powerful enough to enable complex and diverse business logic. An example of graphical workflow is presented on the following illustration:
The qibb Automation module triggers the workflow. The Automation module allows workflow configuration and control, and it supports interoperability with other services. The Automation module is a completely containerized microservice that is part of the qibb Core Bundle built on top of an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) cluster.
Customers should use an external traffic system or resource management system to plan event playout. This external planning system can call the qibb open API or upload the programming playlist into an Amazon Simple Storage (Amazon S3) object. As a system integrator, we can help customers implement a different interface and support other formats for description of the playlist.
An event holds a name, description, and can have multiple tags for identification and filtering. Customers can use this extensible schema and additional metadata to enrich the event description.
Using Pixel Power as the playout solution, for example:
- The customer’s traffic system sends a request to deploy a new event channel pipeline to the qibb API. This includes channel metadata like deployment time, event start time, event duration/end time, name and description of the channel, tags used, encoding profiles, output definition, and targets.
- At the scheduled time, qibb Automation starts the corresponding workflow to deploy the channel pipeline. This is scheduled ahead of the event, configured with enough time to deploy and test the full pipeline.
- The deployment includes a Pixel Power StreamMaster DELIVER instance on EC2. If the Pixel Power Gallium PLAYOUT is not active, qibb Automation will deploy it. Automation will also configure the MediaLive profiles and encoding pipeline, MediaPackage for origination, Amazon CloudFront or other Content Distribution Network (CDN), cloud storage resources, and all other AWS services required for the full operation of the channel, including AWS Elemental MediaConnect when needed. MediaConnect is a high-quality transport service for live video. The pipeline can also include additional third-party services, for example, for watermarking or quality control.
- As soon the channel is deployed, qibb verifies that all necessary endpoints are properly configured and tested between the contribution, playout, and distribution systems.
- qibb monitors the full playout chain.
- After the end of the event, the qibb Automation module decommissions all services and connections. Customers pay only for the individual services for as long as they need them.
Customers can also deploy channels in parallel, thanks to the scalability of the AWS Cloud.
Transfer of content to the cloud
Customers often have parts of their playout workflow on-premises. Customers typically upload playout content twenty-four to forty-eight hours before they go live. Our solution allows customers to optimize the transfer of the content to AWS, both by accelerating the upload and by moving only updated files. For this we use AWS DataSync. DataSync is an online data transfer service that simplifies, automates, and accelerates movement of data between on-premises storage systems and AWS Storage services, as well as between AWS Storage services. DataSync can copy data between Network File System (NFS), Server Message Block (SMB) file servers, self-managed object storage, AWS Snowcone, Amazon S3 buckets, Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), and Amazon FSx for Windows File Server file systems. Customers install one or more DataSync agents on virtual machines on-premises. Overall data transfer speed is a function of content duration, bitrate and overall network conditions. DataSync includes encryption and integrity validation to help make sure the data arrives securely, intact, and ready to use.
- The traffic or resource management system transmits to the qibb Media Orchestrator information about which data to transferred using the qibb open API.
- qibb Media Orchestrator initiates the transfer via DataSync.
- Data transfer occurs via the open internet or using AWS Direct Connect to access public service endpoints or private VPC endpoints. AWS Direct Connect is a cloud service solution that makes it easy to establish a dedicated network connection from your premises to AWS.
- Customers can also archive the content in Amazon S3 Glacier for future use.
- qibb continuously monitors all of these processes.
The playout solution can distribute content to multiple targets and destinations. A destination can be an OTT platform or a Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (MPVD), including satellite, terrestrial, cable, IPTV headends, and social media distribution platforms.
The playout system creates a high-resolution mezzanine output with a configurable bitrate. MediaLive encodes the input into the required distribution formats.
Customers can choose from a variety of solutions to distribute content, including MediaPackage for origination and just in time packaging, CloudFront or other CDN, or MediaConnect to transport content to different geographical regions or replicate content to share with multiple distribution partners. The Qvest Media Event Channel Playout solution also features an automated workflow to start and stop distribution to social media platforms. Customers can plan and schedule social media broadcast directly within the traffic system just by defining a social media target.
Speed and agility are key requirements for our customers. We designed our solution to simplify and accelerate channel playout and distribution by leveraging the AWS Cloud. Customers now have the flexibility and scale to create new event and pop-up channels quickly and easily. They can now deliver content securely anywhere in the world using traditional distribution or via OTT, D2C, and social media platforms, all from a single solution. Contact us to learn more about our solutions for broadcasting, media, and telecommunications