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Enabling the HD live streaming revolution

Overview

NGCodec (acquired by Xilinx in 2019) was a Silicon Valley-based startup that was founded in 2012. The company aimed to develop the next generation of video encoder technology for high-quality, low latency live video streaming using a programmable hardware (FPGA) which was available in public clouds. The company used a SaaS-business model. 

Traditionally, most encoding providers relied primarily on pure software solutions that could not fully meet their real-time, live transcoding performance requirements. E.g the encoding costs and bit-rate reduction were significantly worse for live video vs file based. NGCodec’s holistic approach merged software and hardware encoding using AWS F1 Instance. The team developed unique video encoder algorithms which ran on programmable hardware (FPGA) and dramatically reduced the bit-rate by around 25% whilst keeping the visual quality the same. This saved Millions of dollars in bandwidth cost and improved the consumer user experience.

  • Developed a software encoder and admin console for video encoding and playback.
  • Encoded video can be played from the admin panel with different bit rates.
  • Developed infrastructure that enabled simultaneous software and hardware encoders 
  • Demonstrated a successful live demo of encoding H.264 to H.265 while halving the bit rate 
  • As a result of this demo, NGCodec closed a major deal with Twitch

The idea

Live streaming has now become an integral part of the online experience. A few years ago, however, latency and quality issues undermined what the format could do. While NGCodec was working on the new encoding standard H.265/HEVC, Amazon approached them and asked if they’d like to be the first team to demo their work on their brand new Amazon F1 Instance in less than three weeks. As a small startup, NGCodec needed a partner who could help them be ready to deliver in record time.

Software engineering solution - NGCodec

Project

NGCodec and Star had to work fast. However, two significant technical challenges stood in their way. First, they needed to master a new encoding format and demonstrate its capabilities to perform in real-time environments. In short, they need to provide the backbone for live streaming. To do so was a breakneck speed collaboration between Star, NGCodec and Amazon. 

The solution would show how we could live transcode H.264/AVC to H.265/HEVC video compression standards and halve the bit rate at the same quality using the brand new AWS F1 instance. Even if you are not familiar with them specifically, these standards are foundational for how we transmit and access video online making them a fundamental part of the modern internet experience. 

The project involved collaborating with these teams in three different locations in front of a live audience. From the stage in Las Vegas, the presenter would record in the H.264/AVC standard from an iPhone, then transmit that data to the “’us-east-1′ server (e.g., across the country), which would transmit back in H.265/HEVC using a decoder in real-time and with minimal latency. Simply put, this was a huge technical breakthrough and was fundamental for allowing HD quality live streaming to succeed on a global scale. 

Testimonial

CEO & Co-Founder at NGCodec
Oliver Gunasekara
CEO & Co-Founder at NGCodec

"Star’s engineers did a world-class job building the supporting cloud software infrastructure for the live transcoding demo in record time. Their support was absolutely essential for getting everything delivered on time. What's amazing is that this happened in just 3 weeks from first contact to demo at AWS Re:Invent."

Project Scope

Service Lines:

  • Software Engineering
  • Software Operations
  • Digital Design
  • Product Management
  • Project Management