Giraffic AVA: Going the Extra Mile, to the Last Yard

January 28, 2015

Great breakthroughs often result from going the ‘Extra Mile’. The expression, as described in Wikipedia, refers to “acts of service for others that go beyond what is required or expected.”

In telecommunications, many have strived to go that extra mile to overcome the stubborn problem of network (especially Internet) congestion. In particular, they have tried to conquer “the Last Mile”, a phrase used by the telecommunicationscable television and Internet industries for the final leg of the network, the part that actually reaches the customer.” (source: Wikipedia).

Examples include broadband connections of 100+ Mbps and 4G mobile networks of 30Mbps and more. Giraffic Adaptive Video Acceleration (AVATM) is now proposing a term we call “the Last Yard” – that is, the network beyond the last mile, including home devices connected via Wi-Fi. While the pipes running into our homes and personal devices keep getting faster, the user experience related to online content is constantly lagging. Getting to the next level when it comes to smooth, continuous, high-quality content streaming requires a different approach.

Further improving the last mile is no longer enough. The last yard holds one of the keys that are essential to success. Giraffic’s AVA software helps optimize the last yard. Integrated into tens of millions of end-user devices worldwide, AVA overcomes in-house bandwidth competition, optimizing routing policies and managing end-to-end buffering to actually increase streaming throughput over any connection.

At CES 2015, many of the leading industry vendors highlighted and demonstrated UHD 4K and 8K products. While increasing video resolution seems to be the latest extra mile improvement, Giraffic AVA allows end-users to actually enjoy these technologies by not only addressing Internet bottlenecks, including the last mile ones, but also by solving the last yard, providing the next leap when it comes to UHD content streaming availability in the home.

AVA enables the smooth delivery of true UHD 4K content in the challenging home networking environment, which experiences constant Wi-Fi packet loss. The AVA technology has proven its ability to sustain 3-4X higher resolution in a congested home network, as well as deliver consistent throughput and quality-of-service, when the end user’s device suffers from a weak Wi-Fi signal. Overcoming the last yard bottleneck is the extra mile act needed to bridge the gap between broadcast and online content streaming; the most essential element which can bring the latest technology improvements in video resolution and quality to meet user expectations.

Giraffic’s Week at CES

January 21, 2015

We spent the last week at the world famous Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas discussing our Adaptive Video Acceleration (AVA) technology to an audience of major Consumer Electronics device manufacturers, influencers and industry executives.

Our team conducted side-by-side demonstrations to show the dramatic improvement in streaming quality with our technology. Giraffic’s suite was probably the only place at CES where one could watch true UHD 4K being streamed over real internet conditions (and not just a video playing back locally from a thumb drive).

Intel demonstrated Giraffic’s AVA in their suite, integrated in the Puma Home Gateways. Sigma Designs showed a complete end-to-end accelerated video delivery system – AVA-powered IP Set-top-Boxes and Smart TV boards, accelerating HD video delivery via their Powerline Communications (g.hn) home networking technology.

In addition to impressing attendees with true 4K viewing, Yoel Zanger, Giraffic CEO and Founder, participated in a panel discussion about UHD and 4K, presented by the Advanced Imaging Society.

The panel focused on the inevitability of 4K UHD for content creators, costs, and the impact of 4K UHD on the cable and OTT industry in 2015.  They debated the challenges of Ultra HD production, storage, distribution, and consumer acceptance.

YoelatCESPanel

 

While most panelists came from the content creators’ side and discussed the challenges around production and storage of 4K content, as well as the need for standardization and better content work flow, Yoel Zanger was able to contribute a unique perspective on content distribution. He noted that, instead of having 4K content available on the serving side and the 4K displays available on the end user’s side, what is lacking is sufficient Internet infrastructure and the means to deliver the content from producers to consumers over the web.

Carolyn Giardina, contributing editor for the Hollywood Reporter and Jim Chabin, President of the International 3D & Advanced Imaging Society moderated the discussion. Among the panelists were Chris Fetner from Netflix, Stephan Heimbecher, head of innovation and standards at Sky Deutschland, Percy Fung, production director at Film Magic, John Honeycutt from Discovery Communications, Michael Hsu, president at SuperD, Thomas Wiegand from Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, and Phil McKinney, president of CableLabs.

YoelatCESPanel2

Giraffic is showing TRUE Streaming 4K TV on Leading Devices at CES

January 5, 2015

This week at CES, we will be sharing the latest advances in our Adaptive Video Acceleration™ CES-Unveiled_no-date_clr_forweb(AVA) technology and demonstrating how it enables broadcast TV quality over the Internet.

It is probably the only place at CES where you will be able to view true 4K that is actually being streamed. You can request a demo by sending a note to ces@giraffic.com.

AVA allows device manufacturers and OTT providers to boost the video streaming performance over any Internet connection. We will be demoing with a broad range of partner products to show the dramatic improvements that AVA delivers. You will see:

Samsung Smart TV – AVA is currently integrated in Samsung’s Smart TV and Blu-Ray 2014 models and onwards. Giraffic’s suite is probably the only place at CES where you will be able to view true 4K that is actually being streamed.

Sigma Designs – We will be showcasing a new reference design and SDK developed jointly with Sigma Designs’ set top boxes (STBs) and Smart TV chipsets that significantly improve the HD and UHD 4K video experience. Joint testing on the Sigma platform showed a 200-300%, increase in average download speeds, and elimination of buffering events, with minimal utilization of CPU and memory resources.

Vuser WiPao projector – Giraffic brings enhanced high quality and HD streaming innovation to China’s over-the-top market through its partnership with Vuser.

Broadcom – We accelerate Broadcom hybrid IP set-top-boxes and other media streaming devices, and will show side-by-side HD video streaming with zero buffering over regular home Internet connections.

Intel Media Gateway –Giraffic’s AVA accelerates video performance delivered to all consumers’ home devices via integration into the Intel Puma Home Gateway

Mobile –Giraffic will be unveiling its AVA mobile solutions, which accelerates OTT video apps, delivering throughput of over 10 Mbps HD and UHD videos. It also speeds large mobile-to-mobile file transfers over Wi-Fi and provides fault tolerance to network disconnects.

Giraffic Network Insights (GNI) – A set of monitoring and reporting tools that help CE device manufacturers identify and improve streaming experience.

Giraffic’s Distributed Adaptive Streaming™ (DAS) –Highperformance delivery of video, games and software updates, while offloading over 70% of CDN bandwidth.

Cracking MPEG-DASH: How to Optimize Performance for this Evolving Standard

December 11, 2014

By Rotem Epelbaum

Once upon a time, the video streaming world was HTTP progressive download-based. But then the need for multiple video resolutions for different screen sizes and network speeds spawned adaptive streaming protocols, and the standards war began.

This quickly turned to chaos, as Apple players choked on Microsoft Smooth Streaming content; Microsoft players failed to stream HLS content; and YouTube and Netflix went their own ways with proprietary players and content.

Enter MPEG-DASH, the new kid on the block, which promised to solve the standards war via myriad advanced streaming features that run on all platforms.

To support these options and supply content encoding flexibility, the MPEG-DASH manifest was designed to contain switching and selectable streams (for multiple camera angles, audio streams, and subtitles), recursive and fragmented manifest, segments with variable durations, multiple base URLs and much more.

But developers found it quite challenging to support MPEG-DASH properly. I’ve noticed some limitations with various video players I’ve seen lately:

  • They fail to get to the highest bitrate of the content – so the end user can’t enjoy the high bitrate video that the content provider offers.
  • The bitrate switching policy of each player is not optimal, and together with constantly changing network conditions during playback, the end user may experience very jumpy video streaming with massive bitrate changes.
  • Each player supports only partial MPEG-DASH content – some may not work with the player, and it simply fails!

Together with my amazing R&D team, we decided to solve these issues:

Step 1:
We developed, as part of our AVA (Adaptive Video Accelerator) product, different modules such as a WAN throughput maximizer and bitrate prediction algorithms. Synergy between these modules maximizes the MPEG-DASH playback bitrate.

Step 2:
Our network shaper module dramatically reduces the jumpy bitrate change problems. This module is a great alternative for custom-developed players.

Step 3:
In order to address the critical need to support all kinds of MPEG-DASH content, we’ve followed a very detailed research and implementation procedure:

Since the standard technique for MPEG-DASH is based on the 3GPP’s Adaptive HTTP-Streaming (HDS) protocol, we’ve follow the AHS 3GPP standard – TS 26.234 version 9.9.0 Release 9 (Published 2012-07), and only after that, we’ve started the implementation of the MPEG-DASH international standard, version: ISO/IEC 23009-1:2012 (Published 2013-06-01).

The combination of these steps enables the promised MPEG-DASH features and guarantees a state-of-the-art video streaming experience, as can be seen in the graph below.

Bitrate experienced by MPEG-DASH user, with and without Giraffic

MPEG-DASH

 

 

4K Hype Has Consumers Focusing on Wrong Things

December 3, 2014

Samsung-4k-TV4K has been hyped as the next big thing in video, but unless you are an A/V geek, it is all too easy to get confused about what it means. Of course, everyone is already talking about 8K, but that’s just marketing – people like counting the pixels (like in digital cameras, previous displays, storage, etc).

Size can matter, and more pixels are better, all things being equal. However, just like the above examples, it is not the only factor to consider when it comes to a quality experience.

As explained in The Ultimate Guide to 4K and 8K Ultra HD, “Ultra HD is an umbrella term selected by the Consumer Electronics Association…to describe a new high resolution video format… In fact, the term “Ultra HD” actually refers to two different resolutions: 4K Ultra HD (3840 × 2160 px) and 8K Ultra HD (7680 × 4320 px).”

Looking beyond resolution, UHD includes substantial visual and audio improvements such as higher frame rates, color gamut, and audio surround effects. The last may be surprising, but research shows that audio quality impacts the users’ experience far more than picture quality.

The march of technology continues, and some may wonder when it is going to end. Do we really need ever higher resolution, faster frame rates, etc.? TVs are constantly getting better, but watching even the most advanced ones is not the same as looking out your window at the real world.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re watching an HD movie the sky is usually white and not blue?

Do you still get annoyed when watching action or suspense scenes that are occurring in the dark and you can’t seem to figure out what is going on there?

So what do we indeed need in order to make our TV viewing experience come closer to looking out of the window into the real world? More than 4K pixels? Probably not.  But better contrast, coloring and audio features would certainly be a step in that direction.

We believe that these are some of the specs you should keep an eye on that will take us closer to that experience:

  1. HDR (High Dynamic Range) – Techniques to reproduce a greater range of luminosity, or brightness, by capturing multiple images of different exposure levels and combining them, thus gaining back some of the loss of detail in bright or dark areas of the image.
  2. Higher Frame Rates – This is the frequency that frames change. Higher frame rates are important for fast moving motion pictures – e.g. sports, action
  3. Higher Color Gamut – This is the range of colors that are represented.
  4. Wider Bit Depth – Bit depth is the same as color depth; the number of bits used to represent a color of a pixel.

We recommend getting past the fixation on resolution and pixel counting, and paying more attention to the above specs and especially HDR, which we believe is the next big thing. What do you think? We welcome questions, comments and feedback.