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The 5 Core Components of Every Digital Video Infrastructure

You’ve read the statistics:

  • By 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic — 15 times higher than it was in 2017 (Cisco)
  • More video content is uploaded in 30 days than the major U.S. television networks have created in 30 years (Invisia)
  • According to Forbes, 90% of customers say video helps them make buying decisions and 64% of customers say that seeing a video makes them more likely to buy.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, selling to enterprises or consumers, one thing is clear: digital video is here to stay.

How does your organization take advantage of this growing trend and own the monetization, distribution, and management of your expanding digital video strategy?

It all starts with taking back control of your video infrastructure. If you’re relying on Youtube or other simplistic, one- or two-dimensional video platforms, your opportunities are limited.

You need infrastructure that can expand as quickly as the business team can ink deals.

So, what are the core components of a modern digital video infrastructure?

  1. Origin/Source – Location of digital video content
  2. Video Content Management System (VCMS) – Manage metadata, organization, and distribution of your digital video
  3. Content Delivery Network (CDN) – a CDN is a system of distributed servers (networks) that deliver video and other content as quickly as possible to end-users and consumers
  4. Encoding Pipeline – A video encoding (sometimes called “transcoding”) pipeline comprises of systems, hardware or software that compresses and optimizes digital video for distribution.
  5. Clients/Players – A client or player is a software application that allows your viewers to actually watch your video content.

Now let’s dive deeper into each of these.

#1 – Origin or Source for Your Videos

A video origin or source is where a video file is stored by an organization. For small companies, this might only be Youtube. For larger organizations, they often have custom-built or SaaS solutions to store and manage all of their video content.

Your video source or origin should be:

  • Highly scalable – Enough to handle a large volume of origin requests.  This is particularly true for live streaming events
  • Multi-regional –   Localizing an origin as close to the majority of the users that consume the content as possible.
  • Efficiently Optimized for Costs – All cloud providers charge fees for data leaving their networks.  As such, optimising efficiency in terms of cost, between origin and CDNs, is paramount to maintaining a healthy margin.
  • Located Near CDN – An origin and CDN should be close to each other.  In terms of geographic proximity to each other, this reduces latency and overall quality of service for content distribution. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.

#2 – Encoding Pipeline

A video encoding (sometimes called “transcoding”) pipeline comprises of systems, hardware or software that compresses and optimizes digital video for distribution.  It is an essential piece of video preparation and delivery that ensures proper formatting for end-user experiences. For example, it is a best practice to ensure that video is encoding into various bitrates so that users on varying qualities of connection can watch without interruption.

Encoding pipelines should have the ability to:

  • Encode content using widely supported industry standard codecs
  • Encode to different bitrates and formats to support streaming to viewers with varying quality of connection and bandwidth
  • Encode to multiple file formats for delivery to multiple end players and/or download use cases
  • Encrypt content for digital rights management
  • Detect  and preserve advertising signaling metadata so that ads can be stitched in later on advertising breaks

#3 – Video Content Management

Before your videos can be streamed, you need to ensure metadata has been set and is available to end viewers to provide sufficient context when showcasing your content. Beyond this, you need to be able to organize your content, whether that’s on your site, an OTT channel, or an MRSS feed to your partners.

Video content management systems should feature the ability to edit:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • Keywords
  • Tags
  • Thumbnails
  • Organize Content

#4 – Content Delivery Network (CDN)

According to Akamai, a CDN is “a highly-distributed platform of servers optimized to deliver content including web applications and streaming media. This network of servers is dispersed across many physical and network locations, in order to respond directly to end user requests for web content and fast, secure media delivery. It acts as an intermediary between a content server, also known as the origin, and its end users or clients.

Without a CDN, content origin servers must respond to every single end user request. This results in significant traffic to the origin and subsequent load, thereby increasing the chances for origin failure if the traffic spikes are exceedingly high or if the load is persistent.”

CDNs are typically priced in a way that allows for high-scale so organizations do not have to incur prohibitive network and computing costs to deliver content to end-users at scale. The goal of a CDN is to provide end-users with the same quality viewing experience regardless of where they are in the world.

A CDN should be:

  • Global – Make sure your CDN partner(s) can deliver high-quality video playback to where your users are with as many edge nodes geographically near your consumer base as possible.
  • Able to Optimize for Different Types of Content – A CDN should have different options for types of content like VOD, progressive media, and live streams along with a high cache hit ratio
  • Scalable – As your audience and overall success grows, your CDN partner(s) should be able to expand service alongside your organization.

#5 – Video Client or Player

A client or player is a software application that allows your viewers to actually watch your video content.

Every web-based video client or player should support:

    • The latest video codecs for both audio and video
    • Audio only playback
    • Entitlement and Paywall Security
    • Analytics
    • Support adaptive bitrate playback for different bandwidth scenarios
    • ABR (adaptive bitrate) playback
    • Casting to Chromecast and , Apple Airplay, etc
    • Multiple language closed captioning and subtitles
    • An Open Javascript API framework so clients can manipulate the player surface for their own implementations
    • Advertising support through industry standard VAST tags
    • Supported across multiple devices and/or browsers; HTML5 web player as a standard for desktop and mobile web, as well as native applications for playback on mobile and OTT/Connected TV apps and marketplaces

Video players are constantly evolving and changing, and a video player on a closed-system like Apple TV is a completely different animal than an open HTML5 browser optimized for desktop browsing.  Managing the variety of players in the wild can become daunting once a publisher moves beyond their website. Dynamic Player Technology (DPT) allows teams to scale their video without investing in various video players based on the end-point.

Deciding How to Build the Core Components of Your Digital Video Infrastructure

When it comes to expanding your digital video infrastructure to distribute your content anywhere and anytime, there is one critical question…how? Do you piece together your CDN, utilize AWS’ suite of media-specific products, and develop your own analytics? Do you utilize video SaaS providers like Zype to facilitate the entire management, distribution, and monetization of your digital video? Or, do you utilize a hybrid model where you might bring your own CDN but rely on SaaS providers for specific pieces?

However you decide to build your core digital video infrastructure, having the power to control your future without huge investments is critical to the ever-evolving digital video landscape.

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