With the launch of UltraViolet and the introduction of a number of new streaming video services, Hollywood studios and TV networks are increasingly looking to make their content available over the Internet. But up until now, most long-form content providers needed to either invest heavily in their own expensive encoding equipment, or farm out digitization and encoding of their films to companies like Technicolor, which could take weeks to turn around. Cloud encoding offered an alternative, but public cloud solutions weren’t built to handle the processing of ultra-high quality, long-form video files.
Cloud encoding vendor Encoding.com is looking to tackle this problem, and is making a big bet by investing heavily in its own infrastructure to do so. The startup has built out and is launching its own EDC Private Cloud Solution this morning to drastically speed up the processing of long-form video content. To support that buildout, it’s raised an additional $1.5 million from existing investors Metamorphic Ventures and other angels. To date, the company has raised a total of $4.5 million.
Up until this point, Encoding.com has relied on public cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services and Rackspace to handle video processing. That’s fine for most encoding jobs, but as the startup has begun moving up the food chain and pursuing major Hollywood studios and TV networks, it became clear that public cloud offerings weren’t sufficient to handle the size and volume of files that premium content providers were throwing at it.
The solution was to create its own private cloud infrastructure, with brand-new hardware to speed the encoding process. According to Encoding.com president Jeff Malkin, the company has spent more than $1 million building out its own cloud encoding infrastructure in a data center in Oakland, Calif. That will give it better performance and more control over encoding jobs that come through its platform. In addition, it’s struck partnerships with firms like Aspera, Dolby, and Google’s Widevine to increase the speed of file transfers, while also ensuring the quality and security of output files.
When processing high-quality, long-form movies and TV shows in the public cloud, Encoding.com faced multiple bottlenecks along the way. First, Malkin said, there was the issue of uploading gigantic, 100 GB mezzanine files to public cloud resources. Then after upload, public cloud infrastructure tended to be slow in processing those files and breaking them into multiple, smaller renditions. Having its own infrastructure will allow Encoding.com to speed up uploads from studios and other long-form content providers, with an assist from Aspera technology.
It’ll also be able to process those mezzanine files more quickly with servers that Malkin says are three times faster than those used in public cloud infrastructure. Once its private cloud machines have broken those large files into more manageable bits, they can then be burst into the public cloud for encoding into all the multiple renditions required to reach different devices and support high-quality, adaptive bit-rate streaming. And with Widevine tech, can add an extra layer of security around the whole process.
The EDC Private Cloud has been operating in beta for some months, and Encoding.com already has studio partners either using it directly, or indirectly through its video-on-demand customers. While many are excited about making their movie libraries available as part of the UltraViolet digital rights locker initiative, one big hangup has just been getting their libraries available for streaming.
With all that long-form VOD content coming online, Encoding.com sees a huge opportunity for expansion. Malkin said that after doubling revenues over the last year, it expects them to triple in 2012. Some of that growth will come from new clients at the high end of the market, but a lot of it will just come from the increase in the number and size of video files it will process.
Of course, Encoding.com isn’t alone in the cloud encoding space. Rival Zencoder was acquired by Brightcove about six weeks ago, and hasn’t stopped innovating. Yesterday it announced live streaming and instant play capabilities. Also, being a part of Brightcove could help introduce Zencoder to new media customers it might not have had.