Optimizing the Viewer’s Playback Experience

The player is the most important contact point for viewing experience, and is also integral to effective monetization and other commercial factors.

– Dr. Yang Cai, CEO VisualOn

Discussions around content production and consumption dominate the rapid development of streaming services worldwide. But in the excitement around these new platforms and services, it’s clear that some critical technical issues have been overlooked – none more so than the role of video players.

The current generation of streaming services is often being undermined by poorly performing video players. But luckily, more and more streaming service providers realize the importance of optimizing the performance and capabilities of the video player.

“There has been a tendency towards de-valuing the role of the video player with commoditized options and vendors that throw in players as a value-add,” says Cai. “This short-sighted perspective on the player’s impact can hurt cross-platform functionality and viewing experience for growing and advanced video services.”

Cai notes: “The most immediate and tangible way for a service to make an impression on subscribers is through the playback experience. Instead of being an afterthought, streaming services must optimally design the playback experience to match the goals for consumer usage. So we have focused on creating an unparalleled portfolio of playback solutions able to play any content reliably on any device.”

Support New Ways to Engage with Video Content

MultiStream Sync, with features to allow viewers to select multiple camera angles, has been quickly deployed in the past three years. It has been devised to optimize the experience regardless of device or platform and adjust to various conditions (including network speed or device capability) to deliver low latency streams. It also provides frame-accurate video and audio synchronization across devices. The solution offers a revolutionized viewer experience and helps articulate the value of premium services.

To date, the enhanced video solution applies multistream capabilities to three-dimensional space. The solution lets viewers switch between camera angles while the video is playing without delay and buffering. It brings a new level of interactivity to the viewer, meaning viewers can decide when and what to watch, and it is evident that this has great potential to increase engagement among users.

The latest streaming solutions are designed to change how viewers engage with video content. And co-watching is one of them. It allows viewers to enjoy real-time text, audio, and video chat while watching live and VoD with friends and family. Although the pandemic accelerated the use of co-watching applications due to restrictions on gatherings, co-watching will remain a part of viewing behavior after the pandemic.

Cai suggests that co-watching will become even more mainstream as the number of innovative use cases for the technology continues to increase. He gives several examples: “Producers could use the technology for sports, esports, musical, or cultural events. You could watch a movie with the director, and while you’re watching, they can make comments and tell stories about shooting the movie.”

Bandwidth Saving While Maintaining the Video Quality

5G will ultimately have a transformative effect on the quality and capability of video services, which means increased bandwidth and very low latency. In turn, operators can support ultra-high resolutions, high frame rates, immersiveness, and interactivity.

Improving the quality of the viewing experience (QoE) is very important for operators such as OTT video service providers. QoE is related to the quality of the video and smooth playback. While the video quality is increasing with the adoption of high-resolution videos such as high definition (HD) and ultra-high definition/4K, the volume of video data is also growing, and the cost of bandwidth and CDN transfers associated with video consumption is increasing every year.

However, the headwinds are making it difficult to grow in 2023, and operators are looking for ways to save streaming costs. Thus, for video delivery service providers, reducing the cost of bandwidth and CDN transfer while maintaining or improving the quality of the viewing experience is critical to maximizing profits.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are increasingly being applied to perfect the streaming service and increase delivery efficiency. Video compression software leverages AI and ML to automate video compression. An ML-based algorithm that efficiently, automatically, and optimally configures the encoder to achieve the best results based on the input contents.

Pushing and maintaining high-quality video services can be frustrating. It requires significant testing and troubleshooting to discover what is causing playback issues. ML-powered automation tools can pinpoint the moment an issue occurs and flag potential problems. It analyzes where rebuffering, frame drops, or other errors occurred.

We are still in the early stages of applying AI and ML to video streaming, especially live video streaming. Classifying, recognizing objects, and recognizing faces are tasks that AI and ML should manage in the future, which can help solve problems, from protecting privacy to improving the quality of user experience.

Dr. Yang Cai
Dr. Yang Cai
Co-Founder at VisualOn

Dr. Yang Cai is a startup veteran with a passion for developing leading-edge technologies. He is an expert in algorithm design and optimization and with a reputation for delivering “best in class” products. Prior to co-founding VisualOn, he was the Senior VP - Engineering of MedioStream and pioneered real-time high-quality software MPEG-2 encoding with performance twice as fast as its closest competitors, according to an independent study by the PC World Magazine. Prior to MedioStream, he was a founding technical member of two EDA startup companies. He has considerable first-hand experience in product management, general corporate management, financial planning, and sales and marketing. Dr. Cai has more than 20 technical publications and holds multiple US patents. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of Texas at Austin, his MS degree from the University of Kansas, and his BS degree from Peking University, China.

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