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Microsoft Azure at NAB Show 2017

Cloud computing is changing the world and is powering the digital transformation in the media industry.

Cloud computing is changing the world and is powering the digital transformation in the media industry. We are thrilled to see the significant momentum with which businesses large and small are selecting Azure for their digital transformation needs whether it be launching a new Over-The-Top (OTT) video service, web and mobile applications with rich media, or using cutting-edge media AI technologies to unlock insights that enhance content discovery and drive deeper user engagement.

This year at NAB Show 2017, we are showcasing why Microsoft Azure is the trusted and global-scale cloud for the media industry’s needs. At the core of it are new innovations and enhancements that we are releasing or have launched in the last few months to meet our customers ever evolving needs.

Encoding service enhancements

In our quest to be responsive to customer feedback we have made significant enhancements to the encoding service which include:

  • Reduced pricing and per minute billing: We launched a new pricing model based on output minutes instead of GB’s processed which reduces the price by half for typical us cases. Customers can now use our service for content-adaptive encoding, where the encoder will generate a ‘bit-rate ladder’ that is optimized for each input video. Learn more about our new pricing model.
  • Autoscaling capacity: Our service can now also monitor your workload and automatically scale resources up or down, providing increased concurrency/throughput when needed. Combined with Azure Functions and Azure Logic Apps, you can quickly build, test and deploy custom media workflows at scale. This feature is in preview, please contact amsved@microsoft.com for more information.
  • DTS-HD surround sound now available in Premium Encoder for content creation and streaming delivery to connected devices.

Media analytics

Adding to the growing family of media analytics which include face and emotion detection, motion detection, video OCR, video summarization, content moderation and audio indexing, we are excited to add the following new capabilities,

  • Private Preview of Azure Media Video Annotator: identifies objects in the video such as cars, house etc. Information from Annotator can be used to build deep search applications. This information can also be combined with data obtained from other Media Analytics processors  to build custom workflows.
  • Public Preview of Azure Media Face Redactor: Azure Media Face Redactor enables customers to protect the identities of people before releasing their private videos to public. We see many use cases scenarios in broadcast news and look forward to seeing how our customers can use this new service. Learn more about Azure Media Face Redactor.

Streaming Service Enhancements

In order to simplify our customers decision around configuring streaming origins, we are excited about the following:

  • Autoscale Origins: We have introduced a new Standard Streaming Units offer that has the same features as Premium Streaming Units but scales automatically based on outbound bandwidth. Premium Streaming Units (Endpoints) are suitable for advanced workloads, providing dedicated, scalable bandwidth capacity where as Standard streaming unit is operated in a shared pool while still delivering scalable bandwidth. Learn more by reading the blog post “New Auto-Scaling Standard Streaming Endpoint and Enhanced Azure CDN Integration.” In addition, the streaming team has delivered the following enhancements:
    • CMAF support – Microsoft and Apple worked closely to define the Common Media Application Format (CMAF) standard and submit it to MPEG. The new standard provides for storing and delivering streaming content using a single encrypted, adaptable multimedia presentation to a wide range of devices. The industry will greatly benefit from this common format, embodied in an MPEG standard, to improve interoperability and distribution efficiency.
    • DTS-HD surround sound streaming is now integrated with our dynamic packager and streaming services across all protocols (HLS, DASH and Smooth).
    • FairPlay HLS offline playback – new support for offline playback of HLS content using the Apple FairPlay DRM system.
    • RTMP ingest improvements – we've updated our RTMP ingest support to allow for better integration with open source live encoders such as FFmpeg, OBS, Xsplit and more.
    • Serverless media workflows using Azure Functions & Azure Logic Apps: Azure offers a serverless compute platform that lets you easily trigger code based on events in Azure, such as when media is uploaded to a folder or through partners like Aspera . We’ve published a collection of integrated media workflows on Github to allow developers to get started building codeless and customized media workflows with Azure Functions and Logic Apps. Try it out!

Azure Media Player

The advertising features in Azure Media Player for video on demand is now GA. This enables the insertion of pre, mid and post roll advertisements from any VAST compliant ad server, empowering content owners to monetize their streams. In addition to our GA announcement of VOD ad insertion, we are excited to announce a preview of Live ad insertion. Additionally, we have a new player skin with enhanced accessibility features.

Azure CDN

Building on the unique multi-CDN offering of any public cloud platform we are excited to add new capabilities including custom domain SSL and “One click” integration of CDN with streaming origin, storage & web apps.

  • Custom Domain SSL: Azure CDN now supports custom domain SSL to enhance the security of data in transit. Use of HTTPS protocol ensures data exchanged with a website is encrypted while in transit. Azure CDN already supported HTTPS for Azure provided domains (e.g. https://contoso.azureedge.net) and it was enabled by default. Now, with custom domain HTTPS, you can enable secure delivery for custom domains (e.g. https://www.contoso.com) too. Learn more about Custom Domain SSL.
  •  “One click” CDN Integration with Streaming Endpoint, Storage & Web Apps: We have added deeper integration of Azure CDN with multiple Azure services to simplify the configuration of CDN. When Content Delivery Network is enabled for a streaming endpoint, network transfer charges from Streaming Endpoint to the CDN are waived. For more information, please visit the Azure Blog.

Growing partner ecosystem

At NAB, we are excited to announce that Avid has selected Microsoft Azure as their preferred partner to power their business in the cloud. Siemens has expanded their Azure integrations with deep integration into Azure media analytics to enhance their smart video engine product. We have also expanded the partnership with Verizon Digital Media Services with a deeper integration of their CDN services with Azure storage. Ooyala has expanded their integration with Azure to include the Azure media analytics capabilities to enhance their media logistics platform.

While launching product and services is exciting, the goal we strive for is to make our customers successful. It is great to see this in some of recent case studies we have released on NBC’s Streaming of Rio 2016 Olympics and Lobster Ink.

One common theme that we hear from customers on why they adopt Azure for building media workflows is that it offers an enterprise grade battle tested media cloud platform that is simple, scalable, and flexible.

Come see us at NAB

If you’re attending NAB Show 2017, I encourage you to by stop by our booth SL6710 to learn more about Microsoft’s cloud media services and see demos from us and several of our partners. Also, don’t forget to check out Steve Guggenheimer’s blog post  and his keynote presentation on digital transformation in media in the Las Vegas Convention Center in rooms N262/N264 followed by a panel discussion.

If you are not attending the conference but would like to learn more about our media services, follow the Azure Blog to say up to date on new announcements.