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Cloud-based Transcoding

One of the sessions I caught at Streaming Media East last week (c104 for anyone keeping score) was on the subject of cloud-based vs. in-house transcoding.  Transcoding is simply the process of converting from one video format or flavor to another – the sort of thing you need to do if you’re delivering multiple file types, in multiple bandwidths.  As an example, we had a Windows Media infrastructure internally and a Flash structure externally – both for very good reasons, which I can get into at another time.  Creating those multiple formats is hardly glamorous, and more importantly it hogs up resources that should best be spent doing other things.

Thus we come to the idea of dedicated transcoding software/equipment.  The idea is to push off this resource-hogging task to another computer, freeing up editing stations and other PCs for more important work.  Most of the solutions are designed with clever time saving features – you set up watch folders that look for new content, set up format templates for the output files you want, even in some cases pre-set the delivery location for the newly coded files.  You can see why I desperately wanted this kind of solution in place – once the initial setup is complete, the system all but runs itself and without much more than moving a completed piece into a folder you can create as many outputs as you want.

The big sticking point seemed to be on finding the right solution.  There are many vendors out there offering packages that can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and picking something always seemed to get pushed back for various reasons.  Well, lo and behold, one conference session later and I now understand that there are cloud-based options that make the whole process much more manageable and flexible.  The “cloud” is another one of those buzzwords I could do without, but as a concept it has enormous benefits.  Why should a company invest money in a locally-based system that’s likely to be obsolete before you unwrap it?  Why worry about upgrades if someone else can manage all of that?

Lose the responsibility for hardware and OS maintenance, let them keep up with the latest encoding formats, negotiate a pay-per-use pricing model and  you have a cost effective way to produce the use copies you need.

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