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  #1  
09-20-2011, 01:29 AM
HapaKLM HapaKLM is offline
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Hi there! I will need to encode and stream high quality video live
over the internet to over 400 individuals for over a hour. Should I buy a hardware encoder like the Niagara 7500 or should I buy a really high end workstation and place encoder software on it?

If I purchase a hardware encoder, do I also need to buy software like Wowza or Flash Server? What's the difference?

My boss would like me to look into purchasing equipment that will last us in the long run (at least run for 5-10 years).

If you do live streaming video, what is your workflow and equipment used?

For instance right now (I think) the workflow we have is: camera to hardware encoder, hardware encoder to software encoder, software encoder to server, server to www, www to customer. All of our equipment is outdated (over 8 years old) which is why I am looking into purchasing new equipment.

Thank you for your time.
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09-20-2011, 05:46 AM
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Quote:
Should I buy a hardware encoder like the Niagara 7500 or should I buy a really high end workstation and place encoder software on it?
For live streaming conversion -- keyword being "live" -- there's really no way to avoid hardware if you're seeking high professional quality. High quality software solutions are mostly going to require after-the-fact conversion. Online live streaming is essentially the same as broadcasting, from the point of view of the video technology.

Technically speaking, there are some software solutions out there, but I would suggest that much of it is geared towards low-end consumer webcam quality, or "good enough" type quality (frame drops, deinterlacing issues, degraded audio/video quality, etc). I try to follow the trends of the broadcast industry (which now include web and mobile video), and I've not seen anything but hardware discussed in the past -- not from the broadcast industry.

Free software example: http://www.adobe.com/products/flashm...hmediaencoder/

The 7500 uses SDI input -- do you need or want SDI input?
There are other options for appliances. Niagara has the 2120: http://www.visiblelight.com/mall/pro....aspx?pid=1228
VBrick and Digital Rapids are two more I can think of off-hand, without pulling any magazines off the shelf.

Quote:
My boss would like me to look into purchasing equipment that will last us in the long run (at least run for 5-10 years).
Honestly, in this era of video, you're going to be hard-pressed to find anything that will last 10 years, aside from physical delivered media. Something like DVD (maybe Blu-ray) has a guaranteed long-term presence in facilities, or even standardized broadcasting specs (DTV), but all bets are off when it comes to mobile and streaming. That tech is still in a high state of flux, from formats to encoding to delivery. They can't even agree on a format right now; while I'd like to think H.264 is the "winner" in that arena, several competing formats are making serious efforts to dethrone it (WebM and VP8, for example). Some of the big players like Google (Youtube) will have a say in that, too.

Quote:
If you do live streaming video, what is your workflow and equipment used?
All of our work is non-live conversion, when it comes to streaming video. The source is a master file of some sort, a mezzanine format like MPEG, MXF, DV, AVCHD or ProRes. Do note, however, that I still have a good bit of knowledge in this area -- I just don't necessarily get to exercise that muscle very often. It's a costly process, and there's not a lot of demand for third-party services. Most users are going to be content producers, doing the work in-house, and will own their own gear.

Quote:
For instance right now (I think) the workflow we have is: camera to hardware encoder, hardware encoder to software encoder, software encoder to server, server to www, www to customer. All of our equipment is outdated (over 8 years old) which is why I am looking into purchasing new equipment.
What is the format of video created by the current hardware encoder? Are we talking MPEG-2 here?
That sounds like a standard legacy process, or a standard process done on a low budget.

Quote:
If I purchase a hardware encoder, do I also need to buy software like Wowza or Flash Server? What's the difference?
It really depends on your delivery method. Are you using a CDN like Edgecast or Akamai, or a streaming service like Ustream.tv or LiveStream, or are you running this from your own server? If your own server, then you'll need some sort of software to power the streaming service. Aside from having a stupid name, I don't really have an opinion on Wowza.

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09-20-2011, 11:06 PM
HapaKLM HapaKLM is offline
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Thank you so much for the reply!!

Your answer made my day! I thought I wouldn't be able to get around purchasing a new hardware encoder, but wanted to make sure I had done enough research and spoke with others on justifying buying a new encoder vs buying a high end workstation. 5 to 10 years is definitely pushing it I agree.

I will need an encoder with SD/HD inputs so your suggestions totally appreciated. I had been looking at Digital Rapids before, but kept thinking of Niagara since its what my company tends to buy. Since a lot of people in our video group got laid off, I haven't been able to ask anyone why Niagara was chosen.

>>What is the format of video created by the current hardware encoder? Are we talking MPEG-2 here?
>>That sounds like a standard legacy process, or a standard process done on a low budget.

Currently the hardware encoder is taking in video an osprey 100 card and has the ability to create .ram, .wmv and .avi files.
It seems like a decent encoder; it has 2.8 Ghz Intel R Xeon with 1 Gig of Ram but it seems limiting with it only having the ability to do three formats, but then again I guess that's where having Adobe Media Sever comes in handy right?

We will be running this from one of our dedicated servers or possibly in the future, off of a VM.

Thanks again for your help!
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09-23-2011, 07:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HapaKLM View Post
Thank you so much for the reply!!
Glad we could help.

Quote:
I haven't been able to ask anyone why Niagara was chosen.
In my experience, you'll rarely get a good answer. Somebody probably told them it was best, and they went on that recommendation alone. If you don't the reason, it's safe to assume there isn't one. And if that's the case, thoroughly look into all options equally, without giving any weight towards Niagara. Don't potentially repeat the mistakes of the previous generation.

Quote:
Currently the hardware encoder is taking in video an osprey 100 card and has the ability to create .ram, .wmv and .avi files.
I had a good giggle at that.

I remember the days of WMV vs QT for online "high quality" media. So it's somewhat hilarious that Microsoft and Apple both lost the fight for streaming video to another format entirely: H.264. Both of them now have their own H.264/AVC/VC-1 derivative formats (Silverlight from MS, and a truly crappy H.264 version from Apple).

Nobody misses RealMedia. It was the hallmark of bad quality for most of the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. It served it's purpose long ago, to bring us into the age of video/audio streamed online, but that format just needs to go away now. It's completely useless.

Quote:
It seems like a decent encoder; it has 2.8 Ghz Intel R Xeon with 1 Gig of Ram but it seems limiting with it only having the ability to do three formats,
That does seem weak. Probably far, far too weak for encoding modern H.264. Of course, that's why an appliance will come in handy.

Quote:
but then again I guess that's where having Adobe Media Sever comes in handy right?
Does it encode, or merely present? I need to read more about it. I'm behind on the times, too, just a wee little bit though. Come to think of it, maybe I'm misreading the statement/question. Is that a single CPU Xeon 1GB for the server? (Even then, to be honest, that's really weak and behind the times. I'd suggest more RAM for a server.)

Quote:
We will be running this from one of our dedicated servers or possibly in the future, off of a VM.
I would be careful about using a VM for streaming media. Maybe if you have a high end server that's only being split into a few VMS, then it would be fine. And on a 1Gbps port. But you don't want to share a virtual machine (VPS, VDS) with strangers, and not know what else could potentially be eating into CPU or disk I/O.

Quote:
Thanks again for your help!
Remember not to leave us hanging. It will be excellent o hear about your setup, after it's been purchased and/or put into actual use.

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