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Amazon Elastic Transcoder means anyone can rival the BBC iPlayer

A new service from Amazon means transcoding video in multiple formats is no longer just for the big broadcasters

You might know Amazon for books, CDs, Kindles or tax avoidance: but Amazon's also one of the largest companies providing services to people who make websites. Amazon Web Services offers things like hosting of static images, virtual machines (which many people use as web hosts), email services and other more complex services.

Yesterday, AWS launched a new service - Amazon Elastic Transcoder. In a nutshell, this service takes your video and makes it available in a variety of different formats. This is important, because different sizes and qualities of video are expected by users of different devices - from the iPad and iPhone to Android phones and tablets, Windows mobile, and different browsers. To generate your video in lots of different formats is highly complex.

Back in 2008, Anthony Rose, then head of the BBC iPlayer, wrote (our emphasis):

Every programme needs to be transcoded in a Flash version (for PC streaming), a WMV version (Windows PC download), MPEG2 (TV set-top box), H.264 (web browser), and a variety of other formats coming soon. To do this, we have a transcoding farm of over 50 rack-mount PCs, most of which are running really fast dual quad-core Xeon CPUs. As content arrives off tape (for pre-recorded programmes) or off-air (from our digital satellite links, for live content like news and sport), it's fed into the transcoding platform. ... The challenge is to continuously enhance that transcoding platform to support a whole host of new formats to make BBC iPlayer available in the coming months at higher and higher display resolution and quality, and on more and more devices.

The number of formats that BBC iPlayer now supports is significantly higher than in 2008 - not least, new HD versions and additional versions for mobile devices. But as is clear, the BBC had to invest heavily in their hardware transcoding farm: which has been quite a barrier for other companies.

Step forward Amazon Elastic Transcoder. Using their scalable infrastructure, Amazon will now do all the transcoding for you - complete with the presets that look best on each device (according to the company). Pricing is based on the length of the file, and the output format. You can then pull the transcoded files into your own workflow: or, alternatively, use other Amazon services (their internal CDN and streaming facilities) to stream the videos.

For video at least, this is a game-changer for the media: and once again, highlights the benefit of media companies competing on content, not on the technology behind it.

Disclosure: Media UK is wholly hosted on AWS infrastructure, and uses AWS to store data and send email. The author's personal website is also hosted on Amazon.

James Cridland is the Managing Director of Media UK, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business.
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Recommendations: 0
Calvin C
Calvin C posted

They do seem to be cleaning up and providing some VERY useful services. Just wish they might help and pay a bit more tax :)

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Credits: Photo Sean MacEntee