NETINT Breaks Into the Streaming Media 100 List 2023

NETINT joins the prestigious Streaming Media 100 List for 2023. Recognized for their pioneering ASIC-based transcoders, celebrated for innovation in live streaming, cloud gaming, and surveillance.

NETINT is proud to be included in the Streaming Media list of the Top 100 Companies in the Streaming Media Universe, which “set themselves apart from the crowd with their innovative approach and their contribution to the expansion and maturation of the streaming media universe.”

The list is compiled by members of Streaming Media Magazine’s inner circle and “foregrounds the industry’s most innovative and influential technology suppliers, service providers, platforms, and media and content companies, as acclaimed by our editorial team. Some are large and established industry standard-bearers, while others are comparably small and relatively new arrivals that are just beginning to make a splash.”

Commenting on the Award, Alex Lui, NETINT CEO said, “Over the last twelve months, video engineers have increasingly recognized the unique value that ASIC-based transcoders deliver to the live streaming, cloud gaming, and surveillance markets, including the lowest cost and power consumption per stream, and the highest density. Our entire company appreciates that insiders at Streaming Media share this assessment.”

“Over the last twelve months, video engineers have increasingly recognized the unique value that ASIC-based transcoders deliver to the live streaming, cloud gaming, and surveillance markets, including the lowest cost and power consumption per stream, and the highest density. Our entire company appreciates that insiders at Streaming Media share this assessment.”

NETINT - Streaming Media 100 in 2023

To learn more about NETINT’s Video Processing Units, access our RESOURCES here or SCHEDULE CONSULTATION with NETINT’s Engineers. 

ON-DEMAND: Building Your Own Live Streaming Cloud

AV1 Capped CRF Encoding with Quadra VPU

We’ve previously reported results for capped CRF encoding for H.264 and HEVC using NETINT Quadra video processing units (VPU). This post will detail AV1 performance, including both 1080p and 4K data.

For those with limited time, here’s what you need to know: Capped CRF delivers higher quality video during hard-to-encode regions than CBR, similar quality during all other scenes, and improved quality of experience at the same cost or lower than CBR. NETINT VPUs are the first hardware video encoders to adopt Capped CRF across the three most popular codecs in use today, AV1, HEVC, and H.264.

You can read a quick description of capped CRF here and get a deep dive with H.264 and HEVC performance results here

CAPPED CRF OVERVIEW

Briefly, capped CRF is a smart bitrate control technique that combines the benefits of CRF encoding with a bitrate cap. Unlike variable bitrate encoding (VBR) and constant bitrate encoding (CBR), which target specific bitrates, capped CRF targets a specific quality level, which is controlled by the CRF value. You also set a bitrate cap, which is applied if the encoder can’t meet the quality level below the bitrate cap.

On easy-to-encode videos, the CRF value sets the quality level, which it can usually achieve below the bitrate cap. In these cases, capped CRF typically delivers bitrate savings over CBR-encoded footage while delivering similar quality. For harder-to-encode footage, the bitrate cap usually controls, and capped CRF delivers close to the same quality and bitrate as CBR.

The value proposition is clear: lower bitrates and good quality during easy scenes, and similar to CBR in bitrate and quality for harder scenes. I’m not addressing VBR because NETINT’s focus is live streaming, where CBR usage dominates. If you’re analyzing capped CRF for VOD, you would compare against 2-pass VBR as well as potentially CBR.

One last detail. CRF values have an inverse relationship to quality and bitrate; the higher the CRF value, the lower the quality and bitrate. In general, video engineers select a CRF value that delivers their target quality level. For premium content, you might target an average VMAF score of 95. For user-generated content or training videos, you might target 93 or even lower. As you’ll see, the lower the quality score, the greater the bandwidth savings.

1080p RESULTS

We show 1080p results in Table 1, which is divided between easy-to-encode and hard-to-encode content. We encoded the CBR clips to 4.5 Mbps and applied the same cap for capped CRF encoding.

Jan Ozer-AV1 Capped CRF-1
Table 1. 1080p results using Quadra VPU and capped CRF encoding.

You see that in CBR mode, Quadra VPUs do not reach the target rate as accurately as when using capped CRF mode. This won’t degrade viewer quality of experience since the VMAF scores exceed 95, so this missing on the low side saves excess bandwidth with no visual quality detriment.

In this comparison, bitrate savings is minimized, particularly at CRF 19 and 21, as the capped CRF clips in the hard-to-encode content have a higher bitrate than the CBR counterparts (4,419 and 4,092 to 3,889). Not surprisingly, CRF 19 and 21 deliver little bandwidth savings and a slighly higher quality than CBR.

At CRF 23, things get interesting, with an overall bandwidth savings of 16.1% with a negligible quality delta from CBR. With a VMAF score of around 95, CRF 23 might be the target for engineers delivering premium content. Engineers targeting slightly lower quality can choose CRF 27 and achieve a bitrate savings of 43%, and an efficient 2.4 Mbps bit rate for hard-to-encode footage. At CRF 27, Quadra VPUs encoded the hard-to-encode Football clip at 3,999 kbps with an impressive VMAF score of 93.39.

Note that as with H.264 and HEVC, AV1 capped CRF does reduce throughput. Specifically, a single Quadra VPU installed in a 32-core workstation outputs 23 simultaneous CBR streams using CBR encoding. This dropped to eighteen for capped CRF, a reduction of 22%.

4K RESULTS

Many engineers encoding with AV1 are delivering UHD content, so we ran similar tests with the Quadra and 4K30 8-bit content with a CBR target and bitrate cap of 16 Mbps. Using four clips, including a 4K version of the high-motion Football clip to much less dynamic content like Netflix’s Meridian clip and Blender Foundation’s Sintel.

Table 2. 4K results for the Quadra VPU and capped CRF encoding.

In CBR mode, the Quadra VPU hit the bitrate target much more accurately at 4K than 1080p, so even at CRF 19, the VPU delivered a 13% bitrate savings with a VMAF score of 96.23. Again, CRF 23 delivered a VMAF score of very close to 95, with 45% savings over CBR. Impressively, at CRF 23, Quadra delivered an overall VMAF score of 94.87 for these 4K clips at 7.78 Mbps, and that’s with the Football clip weighing in at 14.3 Mbps.

Of course, these savings directly relate to the cap and CBR target. It’s certainly fair to argue that 16 Mbps is excessive for 4K AV1-encoded content, though Apple recommends 16.8 for 8-bit 4K content with HEVC here.

The point is, when you encode with CBR, you’re limiting quality to control bandwidth costs. With capped CRF, you can set the cap higher than your CBR target, knowing that all content contains easy-to-encode regions that will balance out the impact of the higher cap and deliver similar or lower bandwidth costs. With these comparative settings, capped CRF delivers higher quality video during hard-to-encode regions than CBR, similar quality during all other scenes, and improved quality of experience at the same cost or lower than CBR.

DENSER / LEANER / GREENER : Symposium on Building Your Own Streaming Cloud

Seamless Client Onboarding – Hardware and Software Synergy – interview with Kenneth Robinson

A crucial aspect of NETINT’s value proposition is its proactive and holistic customer support, from the pre-purchase phase to onboarding and the post-purchase journey. NETINT streamlines this transition with seamless hardware installation facilitated by compliance with U.2 and PCIe standards and intuitive software integration via tools like FFmpeg and GStreamer, and an SDK.

A recent conversation with Kenneth Robinson, NETINT’s Manager of Field Application Engineering, detailed how he and his team support NETINT customers through the buying, onboarding and implementation process and beyond. By way of background, Robinson joined NETINT in January 2023 and brings substantial expertise from his prior tenure at a video gateway development company. During the conversation, he described how his team’s adeptness with scripting and debugging simplifies and accelerates customer deployments.

The discussion also spotlights the efficiency of NETINT’s transcoder management, GStreamer’s increased usage among NETINT customers due to its hyperthreaded efficiency, and several strategic recommendations for potential server buyers. Robinson’s insights solidify NETINT’s reputation as a client-centric enterprise, leveraging both its technological prowess and dedicated human capital.

From Jan Ozer

This interview is with Kenneth Robinson, NETINT’s manager of field application engineering. We discussed how Kenneth and his team help get NETINT customers up and running, including hardware and software installation and the operation of software like GStreamer and FFmpeg.

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
Kenneth, tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background, and how long have been with NETINT?

Kenneth:
I’ve been with NETINT since January of this year (2023). Prior to that, I worked for a company that developed video gateways for big MSOs for installation in hotels and other uses. I ran a team of quality engineers and managed the support team there as well.

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
So, you’re comfortable with video and video-related technologies?

Kenneth:
Oh yes. And familiar with a lot of different ways to deliver video, like streaming and multicast.

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
What’s the typical skillset of your FAE team?

Kenneth:
They are software people. They understand software and debugging software and write scripts to help customers test or debug different issues. So very good communicators. They work with our customers to make sure that NETINT cards benefit them in the way that they are supposed to..

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
What do you see as your role in the company?

Kenneth:
I see it as ensuring that our customers get the support they need in a timely manner and making sure the transition from their current transcoders to NETINT transcoders happens smoothly, quickly, and efficiently. And that any roadblocks are removed in a very timely manner for them.

Supporting New Customer Installations

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
How’s the typical process work? Do you start when customers are evaluating NETINT products, or after they decide to purchase and deploy them?

Kenneth:
Both situations. Often the sales team will include me in a customer call to learn exactly how they want to use our products and to make sure we can deliver what they need. And then the other half is usually after a customer buys one of our products.

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
How does that work? When a customer buys a product, what happens? It gets shipped, and they receive it. How do they get the software and documentation?

Kenneth:

We know they’ve received the product based on the tracking number. Then we’ll reach out to the customer and send links to our documentation portal with the software SDK. This has the installation guide, integration guides, application notes, and everything they need to install and get up and running. And then we’ll usually follow up every couple of weeks or so just to make sure the process is going smoothly.

But, if at any point the customer has a question, they can reach out to us, and we will be happy to help them

Hardware Installation

Figure 1. NETINT offers products in two form factors, U.2 and PCIe.
Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
What’s the hardware installation like?

Kenneth:

So, the hardware is very simple. We have two form factors. We have the PCIe form factor, which is just like any network card or GPU that you just install. And then there’s the U.2 form factor, which is the same as a hard drive. So, there’s nothing special required or special tools or knowledge; if you’ve worked on a computer before, you should be able to install either form factor.

 

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
In the nine months you’ve been here, what types of incompatibilities have you seen with the servers in the field?

Kenneth:

We haven’t seen any incompatibilities. Our products have worked on every server that we’ve tried because we follow the different standards for the U.2 and PCIe form factors.

Software Installation and Operation

Figure 2 - The Quadra Server - software architecture for controlling the Quadra Server
Figure 2. You can control all transcoders with FFmpeg, GStreamer, or the API (libxcoder).
Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
So, the hardware installation is straightforward. What’s the software installation like?

Kenneth:

The software is relatively easy. We work with FFmpeg and GStreamer, but our software code is not pushed into the repository. So, part of our SDK is a patch that you apply and then compile FFmpeg or GStreamer, though we have installation scripts that will automate that process for you. If you just want to run a quick test, the installation scripts are very good and will get you up and running in a matter of minutes.

We also have an API, so the customer can access the cards directly and not rely on FFMPEG or Gstreamer.

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
If you install multiple cards, how does the software distribute jobs among those cards?

Kenneth:

There are two ways. You can specify the exact card you want to use as the encoder or decoder. Or, you can allow a resource manager to manage that, and it will send each job to whichever decoder or encoder has the capacity.

FFmpeg, Gstreamer, or API?

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
In terms of software control, what’s the typical customer doing? We’ve got GStreamer, FFmpeg, and the API. What percentage are using each alternative?

Kenneth:

The majority is FFmpeg and, after that, the API. Then there’s a small number that use GStreamer, although GStreamer is slowly getting more popular.

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
Why is that?

Kenneth:

We found that when FFmpeg scales multiple files simultaneously, like when creating an encoding ladder, it sometimes would bottleneck. While the capacity was good, it wasn’t great. If we tried Gstreamer, the capacity increased significantly enough that it made sense to use GStreamer for that workflow.

Server vs. Individual Cards

Figure 3. NETINT offers two servers populated with ten Quadras or T408s.
Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
Let’s switch gears a bit. What’s your experience with the server? What would you advise someone to buy a server fully loaded with Quadras or T408s versus buying the cards and installing them themselves?

Kenneth:

If you need a custom architecture, like adding GPUs for cloud gaming, you should buy the cards and install them yourself. If you intend to perform high-volume file-based transcoding or live streaming, you should consider either server.

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
So, if you’ve got a set application and you just want to get a device in and start working, the servers are a good option. If you’re going to customize your servers, buy the cards.

Kenneth:

Yes, that’s correct.

Seamless Client Onboarding - Hardware and Software Synergy - Kenneth Robinson from NETINT

Jan:
That’s all I have. Thanks for taking the time today.

Kenneth:

Thanks for having me.

Watch on-demand: Symposium on Building Your Live Streaming Cloud

Cloud services are an effective way to begin live streaming, but once you reach a particular scale, you may realize that you’re paying too much and can save significant OPEX by deploying your own transcoding infrastructure. The question is, how to get started? 

Build Your Own Live Streaming Cloud symposium was a huge hit, with many insights from industry insiders on how to build a live streaming cloud. Here are replays of the event. (For the best viewing experience, please watch from your desktop.)