GridVid.Me Launches Low-Cost Video Encoding To Compete With Zencoder And Encoding.com

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Online video is big. Like, really big. And getting bigger. It seems like everyone is watching video on their computers, phones, connected devices, etc. etc. But to get on all of those devices, content owners have to put their files into digital formats that can be watched, and to do that, they’re increasingly turning to cloud-based video encoders to quickly get files in all the formats they need.

GridVid.Me is kind of like other cloud-based video encoders, in that customers upload their files and get back versions in a wide range of video formats. But the service offers a huge cost advantage over competitors, thanks to an interesting approach to its cloud-based computing architecture.

The product touts a price of 2 cents a minute for the first 75,000 minutes of video encoding, dropping to 1 cent per minute after that. That’s compared to about 2 cents per minute at the low end for Zencoder, and 6 cents for Encoding.com, according to prices published on the GridVid.Me website.

So how can it afford to offer encoding at a much lower price than competitors? Its secret is that unlike cloud encoding vendors, GridVid.Me doesn’t pay Amazon or other cloud computing providers for its compute cycles. That’s because GridVid.Me is part of CPUsage, a firm that leverages the unused compute cycles of idle PCs for profit. Kind of like a for-profit SETI@Home, CPUsage gets users to install a plugin on their PCs which runs in the background while a computer is dormant or using a limited amount of processing power. It can run various commercial applications, for which CPUsage pays a fraction of the cost of regular AWS services.

GridVid.Me is the product that CPUsage is launching based on its so-called “grid computing platform.” In addition to cost, there are other advantages that GridVid.Me gets from being connected to computers with CPUsage installed, according to co-founder Jeff Martens: For one, the average CPUsage computer is a lot more powerful than the typical AWS instance. That means some files could be transcoded more quickly than through competing cloud services.

While GridVid.Me could be valuable for a number of potential applications, it might not be for everyone: Martens said the majority of video files that get encoded are about 4.5 minutes long, which is probably fine using someone else’s computer, rather than some sort of dedicated cloud-based compute engine. GridVid.Me doesn’t do anything fancy, like splitting up media files across instances to increase performance, so it might not be great for long-form content.

But that’s just fine, according to Martens. There’s enough business to go around transcoding short videos for small and mid-sized content owners who don’t want to pay the rates that cloud encoding incumbents Zencoder and Encoding.com charge.

UPDATE: Encoding.com president Jeff Malkin responded to this article to debunk GridVid.Me’s pricing claims:

We don’t charge by the minute and never have. When trying to compare apples to oranges (our per GB) price model, there are many variables that come into play including the bitrates, durations, frame rates, etc… In other words, at some variables we are more cost effective, at others the competitors might be more cost effective.