What to Look for in a Video Encoder and Decoder Pairing
When it comes to video streaming workflows, it’s important that the technology you are using is not only the right choice for your use case but also complements each other. Choosing the right video encoder and decoder pair is vital to a successful and optimal video streaming workflow whether it’s for remote production, video contribution, or decentralized collaboration.
In this post, we’ll be looking at the basics of what video encoders and decoders do, what you should be looking for when picking each, and why choosing the right combination for your use case could make all the difference in your video streaming workflows. We’ll also look at how Haivision solutions can provide you with an ultra-low latency end-to-end solution for your live production workflows.
What is a video encoder and what does it do?
A video encoder is an important part of today’s live broadcast workflows. Video encoders compress analog or digital video to a more lightweight digital video format that can be streamed over an IP network to a video decoder. Though pre-recorded content can be encoded using software, for live video, hardware appliances are needed as they have the dedicated processing power to encode and stream video in real-time. For broadcast television, video encoders input raw SDI or SMPTE 2110 video from a camera or video switcher and then compress the digital video signal into H.264 or HEVC before streaming it over a network link.
When it comes to live broadcast applications, a video encoder that can stream high-quality content over IP is very important in today’s remote broadcast landscape. There are several different use cases within live broadcast including multi-camera REMI remote production applications, bi-directional interviews, remote collaboration and more, so it’s important to choose the right video encoder for your particular use case.
What is a video decoder and what does it do?
A video decoder decompresses and converts encoded streams into SDI video, audio, subtitles, and closed captions for use in broadcast technology including video production equipment and for display on screens. For broadcast production, decoders can be separate devices for connecting to broadcast equipment with an SDI cable for example or as server blades for installation within a rackmount module. For viewing and monitoring video, decoders can be included as part of a set-top box, as a microchip in viewing devices, or as software running on a computer or mobile device.
What to look for in a video encoder and decoder
Some things to consider when choosing a video encoder and decoder include:
- Use Case and Size: Think about your use case and situation before choosing your encoder and decoder pair. Do you have enough space for an appliance in your current set-up? Does it need to be portable? Maybe you just have room for a blade or need a smaller and power-efficient unit, or it could be that you need a fanless and ruggedized encoder for the environment you’re in. Identifying your use case should be one of the first things you do before choosing your video encoder and decoder.
- Inputs and Outputs: Make sure to think about how many inputs and outputs you need and if they should be SDI, SMPTE ST 2110, or another kind of interface.
- Video Quality: The video quality your workflow requires should be considered when choosing your encoder and decoder. Some devices, like the Haivision Makito X4 series, can stream HD and 4K UHD with 10-bit color depth and HDR, so pay attention to the video quality that your particular use case prioritizes.
- Codec Support: For most cases, you’ll be using HEVC or H.264, so make sure that both your encoder and decoder support the codec that you’re working with. To be extra safe, choose an encoder and decoder that supports both HEVC and H.264.
- Transport Protocol: Verify that your encoder and decoder also support whatever transport protocol you intend to use to send video streams. For live production or broadcast contribution, SRT is the optimal choice so consider devices with native support for the open-source protocol.
- Reliability: With contribution over IP continuing to grow, dealing with unpredictable networks has become one of the main challenges for broadcasters. Leveraging an encoder that utilizes adaptive bitrate encoding and a decoder that can receive streams without packet loss over unreliable networks using SRT has now become a must for any broadcaster using IP for their workflows.
- Latency: This one has more to do with the video encoder. To keep latency low, the first mile is key. If there’s high latency at the start of your workflow, there’s no way to “make up” the time farther down the process. Make sure your video encoder has low latency features and encoding performance to minimize total delay time or it could become a problem down the line.
- Security: Security should be near the top of your list when sending confidential content over a public network like the internet. Choosing an encoder and decoder that provides security options like AES 128/265-bit encryption, supported by SRT, will ensure that streams are secure from start to finish.
- Audio Encoding: Sometimes content requires multiple audio feeds, so make sure that your encoder and decoder pairing can handle several audio tracks from SDI or SMPTE ST 2110 sources.
Haivision solutions for end-to-end broadcast streaming workflows
With regular upgrades to Haivision solutions, broadcasters now have more control of their video streams than ever before. By pairing the Makito X4 video encoder with a Makito X4 video decoder, broadcasters have an ultra-low latency end-to-end solution for HDR workflows over an IP network, in HEVC or H.264, using SRT. In addition, video streams with 8- or 10-bit color and 4:2:2 chroma subsampling, often critical for broadcast production, can be encoded and decoded for 4K content by Makito X4 devices.
Makito X4 encoders and decoders also support slice-based encoding and decoding for even lower latency when transporting video over IP networks. By pairing a Makito X4 encoder with a Makito X4 decoder, users can reduce overall end-to-end latency by up to 25% through slice-based encoding.
With the latest update to Haivision Hub, the cloud-based software-as-a-service for broadcast video appliance management and live stream routing, Hub now lets you easily configure, monitor, and control all your Haivision edge devices, including your fleet of Makito X4 encoders and decoders, no matter where they’re located. This gives users complete control with an end-to-end solution for encoding and decoding video.
How can we help?
Find out how Haivision solutions can help you and your video streaming workflows by booking a demo with one of our experts today.