What happened last night

Last night, at 6:08pm EDT, the Zencoder service went offline due to a database failure. We began working on the problem immediately, but unfortunately our primary approach to solving the problem was unsuccessful, and the secondary approach took an extended period to implement. In total, the service was unavailable for six hours and 18 minutes.

Here is a detailed description of what happened, why, and why it will never happen again.

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OpenSSL “Heartbleed” Security Update

The engineering team at Zencoder conducted a review to assess the impact to our system of the CVE-2014-0106 vulnerability, nicknamed “Heartbleed”. This serious vulnerability would allow an attacker to reveal up to 64kB of memory to a connected client or server. Even though many servers running on the internet were exposed, Zencoder public facing servers were not effected.

Some of our internal servers, which are not accessible by customers, were vulnerable. We fixed this vulnerability as of 8:00PM PST on Monday, Apr 7th.

Zencoder Launches Support for Advanced Encoding Formats, Brings Broadcast and Professional Workflows to the Cloud

Today, we are excited to unveil our support for advanced encoding formats. Zencoder will now support HEVC, MPEG-2, MPEG-TS, JPEG 2000 and AVC-Intra, bringing the power of cloud encoding to broadcast and professional workflows. Additionally, Zencoder will also support MXF container for conformity with DPP guidelines for European broadcasters.

With today’s announcement, Zencoder is applying the elastic scalability of the cloud to solve encoding challenges for a new segment of the production workflow. Just as Zencoder empowered publishers to rapidly transcode video to support the fragmented Web and mobile ecosystem, the service is now enabling broadcasters and professional content providers to scale their media processing operations in the cloud.

Zencoder’s support for advanced encoding formats is critically important as the OTT and streaming landscape continues to expand. The market is disparate and demands that content providers:

  • Create a video rendition for every streaming outlet
  • Create files for endpoints for international subsidiaries and distribution partners
  • Provide encoded libraries of content to support licensing deals

All of these initiatives can be costly when relying on on-premise encoders. Cloud encoding for these workflows alleviates cost concerns and helps publishers to better plan for capacity.

For our customers in the broadcast realm and within other professional workflows, support for H.265 (HEVC) and MPEG-DASH is particularly important. Because H.265 promises to deliver high-quality video at lower-bitrates – ideal for 4K/Ultra HD – broadcasters are hyper-focused on related support for this standard. Additionally, MPEG-DASH will serve as an international standard that will potentially unify cross-platform workflows. We are very excited to provide premium publishers with seamless encoding solutions that will simplify incredibly complex workflows.

Advanced Encoding Formats are now in beta. Contact us to learn more about participating in this beta program.

Dynamically generating video content using HLS

If you missed it, Casey Wilms did a three part series on the blog called Manifest Destiny. I liked it so much I started playing around with hacking together manifests programmatically and decided to do a screencast on the basics. The sceencast reiterates some of what Casey talks about, so the basics of an HLS manifest, and how to go about manually editing one. We finish by writing a short script using Node.js to take in multiple manifests and concatenate them altogether before writing a new m3u8 we can watch.

A New Year for the SF Video Technology Meetup

You might not believe it, but working at a company like Brightcove means you think about video quite a bit. For a service like Zencoder, for instance, we constantly need to keep in mind what formats our customers need now and down the road, along with the devices they will want to support. The world of video is big and a lot of the work we do affects others in our space (and vice versa), making it important for those of us working in this space to communicate. Because of this, we’re supporting the SF Video Technology Meetup, and we’d love for you to join us.

Last Tuesday was the 5th meeting, and Robert Scott, the platform engineering manager at Inkling, spoke to us about Inkling’s platform and how they handle video. He walked us through the Inkling service itself from both an editor’s and a user’s perspective, then went into the process they went through before deciding on a transcoding service. The group is usually pretty vocal, so Inkling’s use of signed Cloud Front URLs with HTTP Live Streaming led to a great discussion on the practice.

January 2014 Meetup: Robert Scott presentation

Excellent presentations from last year included J Sherwani and Faraz Khan from Screenhero, who talked about H.264 vs VP8 for low-latency video streaming, and Jon Gubman from Funny or Die, who followed up with a presentation on Funny or Die’s switch to HTML5 video from Flash and the gotchas they uncovered along the way. Robert Scott started the new year on an excellent note, so we’d like to continue the trend in the upcoming months, but the group needs your help.

Jon Gubman, Funny or Die

This month’s meetup (February 25th) is going to focus on HTTP streaming. The talks will be a bit more of a lightning talk format, with Anton Kast (Video Architect at Yahoo) giving an overview of Dash, and myself (Matt McClure) talking about dynamically generating HLS manifests. One more talk maybe added before the meetup, so keep an eye out.

Interested in talking? Please get in touch! Anyone is welcome to the floor, it doesn’t have to be long (anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes), and can consist of anything from technical demos to presentations (or both). The general rule of thumb is that it should be interesting to engineers that work with video, but other than that we’re open to any proposals.

If you’re interested in coming, please join the Meetup so we can get in touch about updates (and make sure to buy enough food and drink). Hope to see you there!

Come build the future of TV at TV Hackfest!

Brightcove is sponsoring the 2014 TV Hackfest February 5th and 6th at the Moscone Center. We think the web is the future of TV, but sometimes content still needs a little help getting to every device. We help developers build these applications by providing fast, scalable, and easy to use video or audio transcoding that allows them to deliver media to any browser, mobile or OTT device.

We’re awarding prizes for both best use of the Zencoder API and best use of Video.js. Both of these work well with other APIs and can be used in conjunction with other sponsoring services. For the the team that does the coolest work with the Zencoder API, we’re giving each team member a Twine + Breakout Board. If you’re not familiar with Twine, it’s a little sensor box that can talk to the web, similar to If This Then That for the real world. The breakout board allows you to extend Twine’s built in sensors with your own digital input. They’ve got some neat how-tos if you get to take one of these babies home and need a little inspiration.

Twine

If you’re playing back video via HTML5 in the browser, you’ll need a player! If you’re not familiar, we help maintain and contribute to Video.js, a free, open source HTML5 video player. It’s dead simple to customize and there’s a growing list of plug-ins that provide everything from YouTube playback to playlists to stereo panning. For the best use of Video.js, we’re giving each team member a 3 pack of San Francisco’s famous Blue Bottle Coffee.

Blue Bottle

We’re providing free encoding minutes to contestants, and we’re always available to answer any questions about the API or Video.js. As always, all of our documentation is available online, but you can also look for Matt, the guy in the Zencoder hoodie, or ping him on Twitter and he’ll be happy to help.

Using Zencoder on the Google Cloud Platform

With the recent addition of support for both Google Cloud Storage (GCS) and Google Compute Engine (GCE), Zencoder is breaking new ground in becoming “cloud-agnostic” — enabling customers to have control over where and how their content is processed, at scale.

Google Cloud Storage joins Amazon S3 and Rackspace Cloud Files as a supported cloud storage provider in Zencoder. Like the s3:// or cf:// protocols, you can also construct input and output URLs with the gcs:// protocol to access content that is stored in Google Cloud Storage. With a bit of initial setup, you’ll be able to ingest content from your GCS buckets and push transcoded renditions (including adaptive HTTP Live Streaming) to GCS.

We’re also pleased to announce that Zencoder VOD transcoding jobs can now be run on Google Compute Engine, which was recently made generally available. By using both Google Compute Engine and Google Cloud Storage, you can take advantage of Google’s massive network to power your video transcoding and delivery workflow.

Below, we’ve put together a quick guide on configuring Zencoder to take advantage of both GCS and GCE. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with our support team at help@zencoder.com.

Read more.

What’s New at Zencoder (December 2013)

Google Cloud Storage

Zencoder now supports Google Cloud Storage (GCS), which joins our currently supported Amazon S3 and Rackspace Cloud Files. You can now push and pull content from GCS by specifying URLs with the new gcs:// protocol name. Check out documentation on URL or base URL for more information.

Encrypted Inputs

With encrypted inputs, you can set up fully-encrypted encoding pipelines with Zencoder. This means that content is never available unencrypted at any point during the transcoding process. We’ve written a short guide on using encrypted inputs and outpus in this blog post.

Packaged Outputs

When working with adaptive streaming protocols that generate lots of small files (for example, HLS), it can be desirable to receive all of the files as a single package on your server, instead of hundreds of small segment files. To this end, we’ve added two new parameters on Outputs, package_filename and package_format.

Secondary URLs

When a live stream goes down, people notice, so ensuring reliability for live events is critical. Because of this, we do a lot of work to ensure the Zencoder Live Transcoding platform is fault-tolerant and fast. However, there can be failures (for example, if the Primary CDN endpoint goes down) at any step of the live stream delivery pipeline, and to account for these, redundancy is critical. We’ve recently added a new parameter to Outputs, called secondary_url, which works for both VOD and Live encoding jobs. By setting a secondary_url on a Live output, Zencoder will upload to both endpoints in parallel, so if the primary endpoint fails, you’ll be able to seamlessly cut over to the secondary endpoint.

Foundations of Open Media Software (FOMS) 2013

Last week was the 6th annual meeting of Foundations of Open Media Software (FOMS), a yearly unconference where engineers working on video-related software get together and discuss future standards and video technology. Topics include browser technology and specifications, video formats, and more.

Google and Brightcove were the main sponsors of the event, with the Internet Archive graciously providing the meeting space. Around 45 engineers attended FOMS, representing a broad range of technology and companies including YouTube, Netflix, Dreamworks, Internet Archive, Wikimedia, Wowza, Kaltura, JWPlayer, W3C, Apple (WebKit), Chrome, Firefox, Opera, WebM, Ogg, VLC, FFmpeg, Libav, and Brightcove.

The biggest discussions at FOMS this year were around captions and subtitles (WebVTT), adaptive streaming (through Media Source Extensions), DRM (through Encrypted Media Extensions), new codecs, and real-time communication (WebRTC).

More information and session notes can be found at foms-workshop.org, but below are some of the notes compiled from Brightcove attendees.

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Setting up an end-to-end encrypted transcoding pipeline

For many Zencoder customers, ensuring that their content is secure during the transcoding process is a top priority. Now that Zencoder supports encrypted inputs, customers can ensure that their data is never stored in the plain as it flows through Zencoder. In short, Zencoder can accept encrypted input, decrypt it for transcoding, then re-encrypt output videos before writing them to a storage location.

The importance of this workflow is that both inputs and outputs are then protected. If an unauthorized user were able to access these encrypted files, they would be unable to view them without the key and IV pair used to encrypt them. Read more.