Adaptive Monitoring Keeps An Eye Out For Quality While Saving Cost

As the number of channels for OTT delivery continues to grow, monitoring these channels in a highly automated way has become paramount to ensuring a good Quality of Experience for the viewer. To deliver QoE that’s as good as linear TV broadcasts, the entire system—from ingest to multi-bitrate encoding to delivery to CDN—must be monitored continuously.

If broadcasters and master control suites are to keep up with this massive quantity of channels, they have to find high-density probing and multiviewing solutions that are both reliable and cost-effective. The latter is most important to effectively monetize OTT for VOD assets. That’s why many media organizations have implemented some type of “Monitoring By Exception”, that is, quickly identifying a problem in a specific channel among thousands of channels in a video distribution service.

Adaptive Monitoring To The Rescue

This is where Adaptive Monitoring can take over, allocating resources where they are needed and reducing the level of monitoring and analysis when they don’t to save cost. If the content’s value doesn’t dictate the need to monitor it thoroughly, the user might be willing to trade off full real-time monitoring for a more sample-based monitoring, at a reduced frequency in exchange for increased channel / format at the same CPU price.

Addressing this affordability challenge, TAG Video Systems offers its MCM-9000; a software-based (on COTS hardware), multi-channel monitoring platform for all the transmission layers starting from the TS packet header all the way down to the encoded video content and quality. The system, with more than 300 probing features, can monitor thousands of audio and video signals and creates a visual mosaic with data overlay, giving the operator with a strong tool for error detection and alerting. This mosaic can be HD or UHD video streams, encoded and transmitted as ST 2110 and standard H.264/H.265 SPTS, which enables remote monitoring, mobile device access and a variety of topology installation possibilities.

With support for HLS and MPEG-DASH, the system provides a complete monitoring and multiviewing solution for OTT platforms. It combines the traditional MPEG-TS support with the unique monitoring requirements of OTT, including the ability to decrypt and decode the content in the secure zone. The platform, which can operate in the cloud or on premise, monitors complete ETR-101-290 compliance with a rich variety of parameters that include video freeze, black video, audio silence, audio levels, color space, resolution change, service bitrate, packet latency, jitter, and packet loss. This makes it possible for service providers to introduce complete quality monitoring solutions, including video monitoring at the CDN data centers and at edge locations.

Eyes Focused On The Penalty Box

TAG has included many specification thresholds in the software for audio and video and users can set them to anything they want. From these notifications for audio and video analysis can be set as well.  The system’s alarming features include a “Penalty Box”, where problematic channels are flagged and displayed for further analysis. So instead of trying to peruse hundreds of channel feeds, a video or transmission engineer could simply watch the Penalty Box.

The system allows users to set thresholds in the software for a certain time period in terms of what artifacts your business model can tolerate. For example, you can tell the system that if the channel is black for 30 seconds, don’t do anything. But if it’s black for over 30 seconds, the system raises an alarm notification and throws it into Penalty Box view. This helps focus the operator’s eyes to that particular feed and takes their focus from the big screen of pictures and moves it to something that’s more important in that moment. These Penalty Box views are crucial in any video quality assurance operation, because there are just too many things going on overall.

Different Modes Of Monitoring

When any given source experiences a problem, the user then gets visibility on every parameter they have set up. They can have full mode monitoring, whereby they are looking at every pixel of frame, in addition to fulltime monitoring of the associated transport, and that utilizes a fixed number of resources to reduce CPU usage and reduce cloud instance costs. TAG also allows for Light and Extra Light monitoring, whereby the frequency of monitoring is reduced, which lowers the compute requirements, and therefore overall channel cost. So, instead of every video frame, you might look at every other frame or a short series of frames.

This is where Adaptive Monitoring comes into play. You can be in a lighter mode of monitoring, and upon exception, such as an alarm, the system can automatically adapt to a higher level of visualization and full monitoring only when required—neither of which you had in light or extra light mode.

The channel configuration determines how much monitoring is applied. As soon as you tell the system what to look for, it does so automatically. When the alarm goes away, you are then out of the Penalty Box.

In The Cloud

Cloud-based monitoring is extremely efficient as it works like a virtual machine that can be moved to any place within a particular network. This makes it easier to store, manage and process data, thereby saving a lot of time, effort, and money. Virtualized monitoring also allows video analysis in geo-restricted streams and regions as well as scaling up monitoring, particularly with server-side ad insertions.

Users can have TAG monitoring systems in the cloud as well as on-premise and they can work together as a virtual overarching monitoring infrastructure. To the user it looks like one big system. There can be one Penalty Box and any system (cloud or on-prem) can throw a channel into the Penalty Box if there is an issue. So the Penalty Box can be a source in the cloud or on the ground. Light and Extra Light modes are ideal for those using the cloud for monitoring, as it can save users money on usage. Once the Penalty Box goes off, we can put the channel into full monitoring mode immediately.

Users always want more channels, but compute instances in the cloud are not big enough. So the user has to rent multiple instances as their channel count grows. For playout and distribution, the cloud performs best. Traditional distribution is typically located on the ground. OTT is cloud only, as there are a vast number of things to monitor. Live production uses full monitoring all the time. Adaptive monitoring accommodates requirements in all ecosystems.

Capacity vs. Cost

Customers have to make tradeoffs, balancing their resource costs versus the number of channels they have capacity for. By implementing Adaptive Monitoring, the system provides the capability to monitor three channels in the space of one (by making the choice to monitor less critically). But they can still retain the same functionality if something goes wrong and get full visibility of the channel—as though the system was in full monitoring mode the entire time.

Monitoring As Traffic Cop

Some have likened multichannel video monitoring to a traffic cop, who watches over a particular street and warns those who are speeding. But they don’t make changes to the negligent person’s actions, they simply issue a warning (if you are lucky!).

The amount of media consumed over OTT is growing at a staggering pace, and people’s viewing habits are rapidly moving towards a unified multiscreen experience. These rapid changes demand a strong comprehensive monitoring solution that takes care of all the aspects in the OTT chain and makes it easy for people at various levels in broadcast operations to monitor the entire system.

The good news is that, with a software-defined monitoring platform, users have choices that will either save compute resources or increase the number of channels they have capacity for, based on what they want to do with that alarming information. The success of their technical operations and business model depend upon it.

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