Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

28 April 2022

Bitmovin’s NAB VIP is not encoding, but Stream Lab test suite

Bitmovin was blessed with one of the busier stands at NAB 2022. The US encoding vendor has a reputation for spending more on merchandise and parties than it does on product marketing, but we definitely like where the R&D investments are being channeled. There were a slew of product updates to parade at the show, including the recently released Stream Lab feature set, which is probably not the VVC or AV1 update you wanted to read about – but is something that has raised a few eyebrows in the industry.

The company’s conundrums were evident as Reinhard Grandl, VP of Product Management, grappled with how to convey Bitmovin’s latest technical innovations to Faultline using the best possible words. This is a player, but not a player. This feature uses upscaling, but not upscaling as you know it. This encoder uses AI, but not true AI. Our whistlestop tour barely scratched the surface of where the future lies for Bitmovin, although we got a good grasp of how Stream Lab sits in the market as a proactive testing environment.

Stream Lab enables automated testing for streams submitted through the Bitmovin Dashboard on physical devices – allowing for tests of streams on Bitmovin’s test automation infrastructure, which sends back test reports on real physical devices. Grandl mentions that it can monitor 1,000 test cases on 50 different smart TVs.

This is not about disrupting the test and measurement specialists. Rohde & Schwarz springs to mind as one of the largest in this field. Stream Lab comes later in the chain, offered as part of the Bitmovin Player to do reactive testing.

Demand has been strong for an automated testing feature set that alleviates the headache of device fragmentation for video streaming companies, along with video quality guarantees. Stream Lab brings in-house development teams in line with testing real environments on physical devices – receiving transparent reporting with clear performance feedback. Bitmovin creates pre-set test cases, giving developers access to testing on the most modern and some legacy devices, including Samsung, LG, major web browsers, and more. Of course, this is not ubiquitous, with an acceptance that procuring certain older models is hardly worth the effort.

It’s about putting video engineers back in the driving seat, freeing up capacity to work on design and UX, plus reducing technical spend on testing and time spent procuring devices. Stream Lab has been created as a new feature in the dashboard, with access to 23 target test devices available from day 1 – and counting.

We touch on Bitmovin’s recent revelation about separating its encoding stack – delivering live encoding as a standalone product to the market for the first time. A dedicated internal live encoding team has been formed due to popular demand from customers. It seems like a move Bitmovin should have initiated a long time ago, essentially taking one product and turning into two, in a move that promises to generate more money, ultimately.

Bitmovin’s approach to doing the basics well is appreciated, while at the same time having a pipeline for more advanced features. The new Simple Encoding API is on show, reducing API calls for H.264. It has since expanded to AV1 for VoD and further expanded to live, in addition to adding simpler defaults and file upload features for the encoding UI. The outcome is a significantly reduced time between sign-up to first encode – slashed from 50 minutes to 20 minutes.

Using chunk-based cloud encoding, Bitmovin enables content to be delivered at up to 100x real-time. It boasts multi-codec streaming workflows, with per-title adaptive bitrate ladder optimization and implementations of AV1 and VVC.

Attempts to get a taste of the secret sauce for Bitmovin’s patent-pending AV1 3-Pass process, that reduces the complexity of video while maintaining visual quality, were unsuccessful, but is something we will revisit at a later date.