Learn about the Media and Entertainment Segment on AWS
By Mark Stephens. Mark is a Partner Solutions Architect who focuses on M&E.
The Media and Entertainment industry is made up of companies involved in the creation, production, marketing, distribution and monetization of content. We find that Media and Entertainment companies are increasingly taking advantage of the scalability, elasticity, and security of the AWS Cloud to enable their businesses in new ways.
Today, I’m going to recap what’s been happening in the Media and Entertainment industry, some of the AWS services that customers in particular segments use, how APN Partners are driving customer success in the segment, recent announcements from AWS that impact the Media and Entertainment space, and upcoming Media and Entertainment events.
To kick off, let’s review how we look at the Media and Entertainment industry and how we segment the workloads:
AWS Digital Media Competency Partner Solutions
AWS Digital Media Competency Partners have demonstrated success in building solutions to create, manage and distribute digital media and entertainment content. These Competency Partners give you access to innovative, cloud-based solutions for digital media projects and workflow.
Content Acquisition, Creation, and Processing: Acquisition, Editing, Mastering, VFX, and Rendering
The movie and entertainment industries are shifting content production and post-production to AWS to take advantage of highly scalable, elastic and secure cloud services that can enable you to accelerate content production and reduce capital infrastructure investment. Production and post-production companies are migrating VFX rendering and compute-intensive workloads to AWS to shorten content production times and foster collaboration with contributors from around the world. I’d like to highlight just a few ways companies can take advantage of AWS services to drive success:
- The AWS global infrastructure allows studios to globally collaborate and bring the content to the talent.
- Multi-tiered storage including Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), S3 Infrequent Access, and Amazon Glacier (now with retrieval options including expedited retrievals 1-5 mins) allows for efficient storage and cost management of large media libraries. Amazon S3 allows for massively scalable ingest and the elasticity of cloud storage can help satisfy the ever-increasing demand for storage.
- Pay-as-you-go pricing for render software along with EC2 Spot Instances can provide a new way to cost effectively render in the cloud.
- Through a multi-tenant environment, multiple in-house networks can eliminate redundant infrastructure for activities like ingest and transcode. Services including Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Cognito, Amazon S3, IAM Roles and Resource Tagging can help companies as they build for multi-tenancy. Amazon Kinesis, Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR), Amazon Redshift and Amazon QuickSight can be used for analytics or as a way to build a chargeback module.
- Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) helps companies as they look to build fault tolerant, scalable processors. FIFO queues are an addition that provides first-in, first-out delivery and exactly-once processing.
- Using AWS CloudFormation helps companies automate the deployment and management of AWS infrastructure and reduce human error.
I want to quickly call out Thinkbox Software, recently acquired by AWS. Thinkbox is extending Deadline, their render pipeline manager, to the cloud, so that any studio, large or small, will be able to seamlessly manage on-premises resources and cloud scale. Thinkbox’s Deadline software enables content creators to shorten production times and accelerate the creative process by automating the management and scaling of rendering jobs in the AWS Cloud. The Thinkbox Store allows for pay-as-you-go rendering using Redshift, Mental Ray, Maxwell, Nuke, and others.
APN Partner Solutions
Let’s take a look at some APN Partner solutions in the space:
In the content acquisition space, Sony Media Cloud Services provides cloud-based media utility services designed to help creative professionals at all levels streamline content production and work collaboratively with teams anywhere in the world to create, produce, edit, and prepare content for the world. SaaS solutions like Ci make it easier for companies to adopt new processes and focus on their core business.
Existing on-premises edit solutions often require a large outlay of capital expenditure and scaling storage, network and compute can be difficult. Powerful AWS GPU instances and Teradici, an APN Partner, can enable customers to scale to meet demand and build edit studios on the fly. Teradici gives you access to your graphics-intensive applications from the cloud across all network conditions using a software or hardware-based client for maximum performance. Think of it as a high-performance remote desktop solution optimized for graphics-intensive applications.
Sundog is an APN Partner that provides Post Production as a service in AWS. The company provides real-time review and approval, image and audio workflows, playlist mastering, stereoscopic content analysis, cloud asset management, and versioning for delivery. Sundog has the ability to control access to content on a project and user basis. We often find that companies with traditional on-premises infrastructure are limited in processing power due to the fixed nature of their hardware. With Sundog’s auto-scaling job management, you can run processes in minutes instead of days.
Content Management and Distribution: DAM, Storage and Archive, Media Supply Chain, B2B Distribution and Digital Publishing
Utilizing AWS for Digital Asset Management can help companies shorten their content delivery SLA. 4K video is becoming the minimum bar for content capture. This, in turn, leads to more demanding infrastructure requirements for media production, management, and distribution. Using AWS can help you help meet the demands of HD and 4K workflows with cutting edge technologies like remote application visualization and serverless workflow automation.
- AWS Snowball helps you to store HD long-form content for later upload to Amazon S3 during real-time sporting events.
- Multi-tiered storage including S3, S3 Infrequent Access, and Glacier (now with new retrieval options including expedited retrievals 1-5 mins) allows for efficient storage and cost management of large media libraries.
- AWS Lambda with S3 events allows you to process media as it arrives in a bucket; there are no servers to manage and Lambda scales automatically to handle the load.
- Amazon DynamoDB is a fully-managed NoSQL database that you can use to store digital asset metadata that supports document and key-value store models.
- AWS Direct Connect allows you to establish a dedicated, private network connection from on-premises to AWS. This can help reduce network costs, increase bandwidth throughput, and provide a more consistent network experience.
- With video, you often have transform from one format to another to satisfy customer and 3rd party specifications. AWS Elemental provides fast video transcode of broadcast quality codecs for file-based workflows with on-demand pricing.
- Software products are written with APIs for flexibility and automation. Infrastructure for that API is another overhead that you no longer need to manage. Amazon API Gateway is a fully managed service that makes it easy for developers to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at scale.
APN Partner Solutions
SDVI is a cloud-native APN Partner and their product Rally provides scalable infrastructure for ingest, processing, linear and non-linear distribution of content. Rally can integrate Aspera and Signiant to enable accelerated upload of content while Vidcheck, Interra, and Tektronix provide automated quality control. Integrated MAM solutions like Vidispine provide collaborative metadata management and workflow control. Telestream, Elemental, and Encoding.com provide scalable content transcoding in a highly parallelized fashion through AWS elastic scalability. SDVI provides pay-as-you-go pricing for media processing in the cloud.
Vidispine is an APN Partner MAM solution to facilitate the creation, management, storage and processing of content. Vidispine includes complex metadata searching even on frames and audio tracks. Vidispine comes with built-in handling of native tools for managing bins, sequences, events, and projects. This means that it is possible to build workflows where media and timelines are passed lossless and seamlessly between different tools like Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Avid Media Composer.
Wazee Digital provides asset and rights management software on AWS. The company works with a wide range of customers like USTA, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic. Wazee Digital recently migrated more than 11,000 hours of unstructured video to the cloud managing more than 18,000 interviews for Charlie Rose.
Broadcast and OTT: Broadcast Playout, OTT, OVP, Cloud PVR and Analytics
AWS can help enable broadcasters and content owners to automate media supply chains and to streamline content distribution. We find that customers are cost effectively building direct to consumer streaming and OTT solutions across live, linear, non-linear, and on-demand programming.
The powerful thing about channel origination on AWS is the ability to spin up new channels and experiment with new forms of distribution cost-effectively and with low risk.
- GPU instances help your acceleration of frame and graphics rendering.
- You can use Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS) for scalable, multi-Availability Zone (AZ), replicated pay-as-you-go storage (learn more here).
- Amazon S3 can be used for video storage. With Amazon Glacier, you can drive faster retrieval rates (1-5 minutes) so that you can get media quickly for breaking news.
- AWS Lambda provides you with the ability to run your code in a serverless and scalable way and focus on your business solution.
- You can take advantage of Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) and HDD-backed st1 volumes, which are a low cost and throughput optimized alternative to IOPS volumes.
Discovery Communications gave a talk at re:Invent 2016 about their broadcast workflows and channel origination on AWS. They talked about challenges they’d faced including bridging their primary playout region in Virginia and the backup region in Dublin, syncing frames to do a smooth cut should any issues arise. Over the next 12 months, Discovery has started migrating 150 channels and has teamed with Evertz utilizing Mediator-X, their platform for Media Asset Management, Playout Automation and Non-Linear Delivery. GPU instances are used to render the content with graphics, overlays, and ads live to create a fixed (not ABR) 50 megabit HD MPEG transport stream. After evaluating storage solutions like EFS and Lustre, the team decided that EFS was too redundant for its needs since it replicates across availability zones and they already have redundancy using multiple playout servers. They didn’t want to manage a Lustre cluster, opting instead for managed services, and integrated directly with S3 for video content. Extracting technical metadata from large 100 Gigabyte video files also proved a challenge and one the team solved for by using Lambda and Mediainfo.
Turner also gave a talk at re:Invent 2016 about moving their digital supply chain to the AWS Cloud. This is the backbone of a media company’s business. It includes processes such as ingest, auto-qc, metadata extraction, manual qc, transcoding, clipping and editing, DAM storage and delivery. These processes are fed by content acquisition, DAM and archive, production and post production and have outputs for playout and distribution, OTT, live-to-vod, publishing and cinematic delivery. APN Partner SDVI is providing the technology and infrastructure for their supply chain. Turner’s supply chain can now benefit from pay-as-you-go storage and the agility and flexibility of the AWS Cloud. Turner’s cloud infrastructure can help them to move quickly when new offerings such as FilmStruck from Turner Classic Movies direct-to-consumer crop up. In the future, utilizing the agility and scale of the cloud, Turner can elastically scale to meet these bursty workloads. Turner can also now utilize services including Lambda, S3 tiered storage, Glacier, DynamoDB, EBS, and EFS.
Recent AWS announcements impacting Media and Entertainment
Here are some relevant announcements that are exciting for the Media and Entertainment community:
New Regions – The newest AWS Regions in Canada and London get us closer to our VFX community and help to reduce latency with workloads like Teradici or hybrid file sync solutions including scale out rendering.
Amazon EC2 Elastic GPUs – With the current G2 or P2 instance, you are limited to a specific core/memory ratio, whereas different applications require different ratios. Broadcast playout is a case where customers need more CPU for encode/decode in addition to the GPU. Coming soon, Elastic GPUs will allow you to attach the right amount of graphics acceleration to existing EC2 instance types. AWS now offers a Graphics Certification Program for software vendors and developers to help make sure that their applications take full advantage of Elastic GPUs and our other GPU-based offerings. Learn more here.
Lambda@Edge – With Lambda@Edge, now in Preview, you can run Lambda functions deployed to our Edge locations in response to CloudFront. Example use cases include modifying HTTP headers to personalize content, custom authentication, or encryption logic and more. With your code closer to the user, you are better able to minimize network latency.
AWS Batch – Batch processing is a common use case in software. We have customers writing media processing pipelines for supply chain and for VFX video rendering. In both cases, there is a significant amount of code to write just to manage the jobs, track state, restart error processes, and more. And that’s just the software; you have to configure and manage the compute infrastructure too. AWS Batch reduces this undifferentiated heavy lifting. AWS Batch will provision and scale the optimal type of compute-based on the volume and resource requirements allowing you to focus on solving your problem. AWS Batch can execute your jobs across AWS EC2, ECS and Spot Instances. Check out AWS Batch use cases for digital media here.
Amazon Athena – Have you ever wanted to easily query that side-car XML or technical metadata that is sitting beside your video in S3? Amazon Athena is a serverless, interactive query service that easily allows you to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. You point to your data in Amazon S3, define the schema, and start querying. Athena is serverless and you only pay $5 per terabyte scanned by your queries.
AWS Snowball Edge – The latest edition of Snowball has 100TB of storage, supports local Lambda functions, can function as standalone (object or file) storage, and can be clustered to form a local storage tier. This new device is more powerful and now handles 256-bit encryption on the device itself. In Media and Entertainment, we have customers that process media during local sporting events and archive the long-form footage. Another use case is on-premises storage during video shoots. Snowball Edge will support these use cases by providing an NFS interface that can act as a single, scalable storage pool.
Amazon Rekognition – Know more about your video library and find better ways to monetize it through descriptive metadata. Amazon Rekognition is a new service that utilizes deep learning to do object and scene detection. Rekognition can identify thousands of objects like vehicles, pets, or furniture and provide a confidence score. It will also detect scenes within an image like a sunset or a beach. Rekognition will also do facial analysis and comparison to provide you a confidence score. You can add this metadata to S3 tags or your DynamoDB metadata store. Learn more here.
New instance types: C5, F1, I3, R4, T2 – At re:Invent 2016, we announced new Field Programmable instances, the F1, where users can write code that runs on the FPGA and speeds up processing algorithms by up to 30x. And we just announced general availability of the F1 instance at the AWS Summit – San Francisco 2017! Example use cases include Broadcast Playout or Just-In-Time packaging. The new R4 instances add up to 488 GiB of memory and up to 64 vCPUs for memory-intensive applications that support 20 Gbps of ENA-powered network bandwidth when used in a placement group. And there are new T2 instances, including t2.xlarge (16 GiB of memory) and t2.2xlarge (32 GiB of memory) that customers can use for app servers, web servers, development environments and continuous integration servers.
National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Las Vegas
AWS, including Elemental Technologies and Thinkbox, will be at NAB. Come see us at the South Upper Hall stand 2202.
We will be hosting a super session with NASA at NAB. Add the live stream to your calendar here. We will also be presenting a reference architecture for 360-degree video streaming using containers and Amazon EC2 Spot Fleet.
Hollywood IT Society (HITS) conference, Los Angeles
AWS will be presenting on the use of AI in media workflows.
Want to Learn More?
Learn all about AWS solutions for Media and Entertainment here.