The Importance of Cross-Platform Playback
This article was originally published in the October 2014 Streaming Media MPEG-DASH Superguide.
As more and more vendors adopt DASH, an emerging consideration is how to reach the most consumers given the range of different hardware and software in use today. In this article, we focus on browser-capable platforms from personal computers to mobile apps and casting devices, as this is where we see the future of video distribution heading.
Traditionally, vendors have had to support a variety of video formats and associated players for content to be compatible with the multitude of video-enabled devices available to consumers. Those interested in delivering content to several platforms now have MPEG-DASH to simplify the process. The importance is scalability: DASH makes video delivery easier on content providers, as only one set of assets is needed for distribution. The benefits increase when used in conjunction with Common Encryption, with which a single DASH encode becomes DRM agnostic and can be used with multiple DRM systems.
This means that when the goal is to reach the largest audience with protected content, providers are required to use multiple players, which of course can lead to associated setup and maintenance costs. The fragmented player market can also lead to trade-offs when selecting solutions as well. Do you focus only on forward-facing technology and risk excluding a portion of your consumer base? Will the choice of player technology restrict which DRM systems can be used? Will you have vendor lock-in? And of course, what works today may not work tomorrow, as exemplified by Google’s phase-out of Silverlight in its Chrome browser.
Cross-platform playback remains a barrier to entry when considering DASH adoption. As delivering secured playback remains complex, a single-player solution is then valuable for DASH to become an even more attractive format. To address this cross-platform player issue, we at castLabs have developed a solution.
castLabs simplifies the playback of DASH streams by supplying a single interoperable DASH player for devices with browser capabilities. We call it “DASH Everywhere.”
Available as an add-on for the popular video.js player, DASH Everywhere is based on open technologies to avoid vendor or technological lock-in. Developers don’t need to consider platform specifics any longer, as the player automatically utilizes the best available technology for playback. This means it uses HTML5 and MSE/EME on modern browsers while falling-back to Flash with Adobe Access or Silverlight with PlayReady for older browsers. This alleviates the burden of reaching the largest audience with protected content by accounting for those who do not, or cannot, use up-to-date browser applications.
DASH Everywhere also seamlessly integrates with our cloud-based service, DRMtoday. The multi-DRM licensing service supports Common Encryption and provides content security using PlayReady, Access, CMLA-OMA, and Marlin, as well as Widevine (both Classic and Modular). This ensures protected playback is possible across virtually all consumer platforms and devices.
DASH Everywhere takes the complexity out of player implementations as it “just works” with only a few lines of code needed to deliver seamless VoD and live streaming DASH experiences. After all, DASH exists to simplify the whole video distribution process in the first place, so a simplified player makes sense.
Individual DASH Players
We additionally provide adaptive streaming players to target individual platforms such as HTML5, Flash, Silverlight, and Android/iOS devices. We also supply a native DASH library that enables other devices, including HDMI dongles and connected TVs.
As a DASH-IF member, we are also advocates for the promotion of the DASH standard. To contribute to its adoption, we have released two open-source projects for the community: DASH.as and DASH.encrypt. DASH.as is an ActionScript player based on DASH.js for the Adobe Flash plugin. DASH.encrypt is a Java based video segmenting tool for generating DASH content and associated manifests. It also includes a feature to encrypt streams for DRM protection.