AWS for M&E Blog

Save money on VOD transcoding with reserved pricing in AWS Elemental MediaConvert: Part 1, introduction and how to use it


When the file-based video transcoding service AWS Elemental MediaConvert launched, only a single pricing model was available: on-demand. On-demand pricing is simple and pay-as-you-go, with no long term commitment. It’s based on the number of minutes of video generated and the features used. This pricing is attractive for transcoding applications with short-term, spiky, or unpredictable workloads that require quick turnaround, or for applications being developed or tested on MediaConvert for the first time. One benefit of on-demand pricing is that customers can start small and grow based on how the media application or VOD service performs, utilizing low per-minute rates without any long term commitment or investment.

Some MediaConvert customers, however, have needs that weren’t addressed by the on-demand pricing model. For example, some customers want even lower prices, and are willing to make a commitment ahead of time to realize lower cost. Further, there are customers who process a certain volume of content every month and want to optimize for cost savings over the ability to scale seamlessly. Taking all of these requirements into account, AWS introduced a Reserved pricing model.

Reserved pricing

Reserved pricing in MediaConvert offers you access to fixed processing capacity for a set monthly rate. Capacity is acquired by purchasing one or more reserved transcode slots (RTS), in which each reserved transcode slot processes a single job at a time. For example, if you purchase five slots, you can process up to five transcoding jobs in parallel. Unlike on-demand pricing, reserved pricing is billed monthly and requires a minimum 12-month commitment.

Once purchased, reserved transcode slots are assigned to reserved queues. You can create multiple reserved queues in your account, each with a different number of reserved transcode slots. Jobs submitted to a reserved queue have no restrictions on the kind and number of outputs specified. While you can use any features in MediaConvert in your reserved slots, additional fees are charged for Dolby Audio and audio normalization usage at the per-minute rates.

As jobs are submitted to a reserved queue, they either start processing immediately or wait in the queue depending on the number of reserved transcode slots available in that queue. If all of the reserved transcode slots are busy processing jobs, then any additional jobs submitted will remain in a queued state until a transcode slot becomes available. For example, if you purchase three transcode slots and assign them to a single reserved queue, and you submit 10 jobs to this queue, only three will start processing immediately. The remaining seven will stay in a queued state until a running job finishes.

Steady-state usage costs with RTS, when computed on a per-minute basis over the course of a month, can be up to 87% lower than on-demand pricing, which is a significant savings. Part 2 of this blog series will cover more detailed examples.

On-demand pricing vs reserved pricing

On-Demand Reserved
Pricing method Pay-as-you-go Purchase reserved transcode slots for a fixed monthly charge
 Pricing based on  Minutes of video output and the features used  Number of reserved transcode slots, billed monthly
Commitment required? No Yes, minimum 12-month
Tiers? Two: Basic and Professional No, but Dolby Audio and audio normalization are extra
Number of jobs that can be processed in parallel 40, with ability to burst above that Up to the number of reserved transcode slots purchased
Recommended use cases Applications with short-term, spiky, or unpredictable workloads with quick turnaround, or for workflows being developed or tested for the first time Applications that have predictable and consistent ongoing usage, or where jobs can be queued up in favor of lower costs

Create a reserved queue and purchase one or more reserved transcode slots

Let’s take a step-by-step look at how to use reserved pricing in MediaConvert.

Using the console, the first step is to create a reserved queue. In the MediaConvert console, navigate to the list of queues, and hit Create reserved queue.

On the create reserved queue screen, enter a name (and optionally, a description) for your queue. In this example, I named my queue “Test1.”

Next, you have to determine how many reserved transcode slots to purchase for this queue.

How many reserved transcode slots should you purchase?

The first thing you should do is estimate the capacity you require and then determine how many reserved transcode slots you’ll need. In order to do this, you need to factor the ongoing transcode volume you process along with your turnaround time requirements. In the MediaConvert console, there’s a simple calculator to help determine a good starting point.

To use this calculator, you need to know how long (on average) it takes for each transcoding job to process. For this example, I ran some test encodes on the clips using my on-demand queue first, and came up with an average duration of five minutes to process a typical job. I also know that every four hours, 10 new clips will arrive, and I’d like to have them encoded and ready for delivery in 30 minutes. Entering this data into the RTS calculator, it estimates that I should purchase two RTS slots. Using Oregon pricing at $400/month for each RTS, this works out to a total of $800/month.

Agree to commitment and purchase RTS for your reserved queue

The next step is to simply fill in the number of RTS slots you wish to purchase, and hit Create reserved queue. In this case, I’m purchasing two RTS, and I need to agree to a 12-month commitment with the option to auto renew each year. When my year runs out, if I haven’t renewed the RTS purchases, jobs that are submitted to the reserved queue will not process and will simply stay in the queue.

Once you have purchased your reserved transcode slots for the queue, the new reserved queue will show up in your list.

Assign encoding jobs to the reserved queue

To encode jobs using this reserved queue, just go to Job settings and select the reserved queue that you want to use. In this example, I select “Test1” from the Queue dropdown list and I’m ready to start processing.


In part 1 of this series, we introduced you to reserved pricing in MediaConvert, gave a comparison with on-demand pricing, and showed you how to create reserved transcode slots and start using reserved queues. With reserved pricing, you can reduce your costs for steady transcoding usage, and you always have the option of submitting on-demand jobs when needed.

In part 2, we’ll cover example use cases in detail and show you where reserved pricing is compelling, and the different ways you can combine reserved and on-demand pricing to find the right model to meet your business requirements.

Finally, to learn more about MediaConvert pricing options, please visit this page.

Dan Gehred

Dan Gehred

Dan Gehred is a Sr. Industry Product Marketing Manager for Media & Entertainment with AWS.