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Media Services Live Features Upgrades to Support Modern-Day Live-Streaming Needs

Media Services Live (MSL) is Akamai's flagship solution for preparing live streams to provide broadcast-grade streaming quality for our live-streaming customers. MSL provides purpose-built key capabilities with liveOrigin, including ingest acceleration to map encoders to optimal entry points on the Akamai cloud, low latency support to reduce the delay between online and broadcast feeds, self-healing capabilities to eliminate single points of failure through redundancy mechanisms, end-to-end SSL support, and enhanced monitoring and alerting. You can find more details on the MSL product page.

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One of the key focus areas for Akamai is to help our media and entertainment customers with consistent, reliable, and high-performing live streaming at scale to provide a best-in-class viewing experience to end users with the lowest possible latency. The product also targets easing the operational workflow for live streaming for our customers to ensure effective utilization of their resources.

As part of the 2020 Platform Updates, Akamai is introducing three major upgrades to Media Services Live.

Live Clipping: On-the-Fly Clip Generation from Live Streams

The Live Clipping feature will help customers with on-the-fly clip generation from live streams and support the integration of clip generation into their live-streaming workflows. The feature will help customers support use cases including highlight creation and event replays. The feature provides two capabilities:

  • Live Clipping: Generate on-the-fly clips within a desired time window, during or after a live stream or event is published by the customer.
  • Live Archive Management (LAM) API: List, modify, and manage live archives by generating URLs to access "clips" that can be programmatically integrated with the content management system.

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The setup for Live Clipping is a three-step process:

  • Step 1 is to set the archive duration. The maximum duration for which the clips can be archived is 31 days. Akamai NetStorage is the default storage used.
  • Step 2 is to use the LAM API to get all the archive lists for a specific live stream. This step will help verify the state of the live stream and ensure the successful creation of clips.
  • Finally, Step 3 is to construct a URL to access the live clip content using the live stream URL, the start time, and the end time of the clip to be generated.

Instant TV: Dynamically Create Live Stream Segments

Instant TV is an extension of the Live Clipping feature and allows customers to choose a desired start time for a live event without changing the encoder published manifest or restarting the encoder. 

Instant TV provides greater flexibility for fine-tuning the start time of an event to any desired time within the active archive window. This is especially useful when a live stream starts much ahead of the actual event start, or when the live stream is spanning multiple intervals and the playback needs to be limited to one specific time interval.

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As shown in the image above, Instant TV will help seek back to a desired start time of a current live program and change the start time on a program-by-program basis without disturbing the actual live stream published by the encoder.

Low Latency Support with Chunked Transfer Encoding

The Chunked Transfer Encoding (CTE) capability for MSL will enable customers to deliver reliable and consistent live streams with the lowest possible latency. Key capabilities include:

  • Akamai-qualified encoders to post live stream segments and Akamai's media delivery platform (Adaptive Media Delivery [AMD]) to download segments using CTE
  • Support for industry-leading formats: CMAF, HLS, and DASH

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The diagram above explains how CTE helps in reducing latency in a live-streaming workflow:

  • Live Streaming Without CTE: In this use case, the encoder is able to post a segment to MSL only after the entire segment has been generated by the encoder, and AMD can start delivering the segment only when it has been able to download 100% of the segment from MSL. Similarly, the player can start playing back a segment only when 100% of the segment is available. The player also buffers a few segments (ideally three) before starting playback. All these factors increase the end-to-end latency in the workflow.
  • Live Streaming with CTE: Using CTE, the video segments can be generated as a series of smaller video chunks, and the encoder can start posting these partial segments (or video chunks) the moment they are generated without waiting for the entire segment to be generated. Similarly, MSL allows for these partial segments to be downloaded by AMD for delivery. The player can also start playing back these partial segments without waiting for the entire segment. All these optimizations help reduce the end-to-end latency in the workflow.

Case Study: Ex Machina Uses Akamai's CMAF Chunked Transfer Encoding for Ultra-Low-Latency Live Streaming

Ex Machina decided on using Akamai's low-latency streaming solution. Akamai has been one of the pioneers when it comes to championing the cause for low latency and the use of Common Media Application Format (CMAF) to achieve low-latency streaming right from its inception in 2015. Ex Machina adopted Akamai's standards-based, DASH-CMAF approach to enable its ultra-low-latency interactive video solution. Refer to this case study for more details.

Summary and Resources

As of launch, these features will be made available as core capabilities of MSL and will be available to all customers who are using the product.

To learn more about Live Clipping setup, please refer to the Live Clipping User Guide, Media Services Live User Guide, and API documentation. 

There will be more opportunities to engage with us on this and more at Edge Live | Adapt. Sign up to see how customers are leveraging these improvements, engage in technical deep dives, and hear from our executives how Akamai is evolving for the future.