RipCode makes video transcoding just-in-time

In the 1980s, the world discovered the “just-in-time” manufacturing strategy. Now, Dallas, TX-based startup Ripcode is bringing the just-in-time workflow to multiscreen video publishing with its real-time system that lets operators transcode video automatically and transparently.

For content distribution, "the elephant in the room is the problem of transcoding video to multiple screens," said Ripcode CEO Brendon Mills. "This is a very manual, processor-intensive process. You literally have to transcode it three to 100 times to get it to a ubiquitous state across multiple streams."

In the past, it was enough for media companies to publish content to their Web sites. But today, "you need to move your content on the iPhone, Android, RIM, IPTV, HD — over the TV screen, across an Internet connection," Mills said. "Your content has to be available in all shapes and sizes to win the content war. It becomes such a manual burden; you have to find a way to automate the process."

Mills gave the example of CNN, which repurposes video for different media, including its Web site, IPTV and mobile TV. The traditional, manual processes for decoding from the original format and recoding for a new format takes 10 times as long as the original clip.

"A two-minute clip takes 20 minutes to transcode," Mills said. "So, typically, the transcode is done in batch, offline. But the amount of video hitting the Internet is growing at such rate that batch transcode won't work — it could take longer than the news cycle."

Ripcode comes at the problem from the opposite end, using what Mills calls a "Darwinian transcode." Instead of predicting what people want to watch, let viewers request what they want, transcode it just-in-time for the viewer and medium and then store it for future use.

This "pull" approach can make a big bottom line impact for operators. "You can save between 10 and 20 times the cost on capital equipment and save 80 to 90 percent on operating expenses like storage and power."

Ripcode's solution accomplishes this with its purpose-built Video Transcode and Transrate Appliance and real-time Client Detection software suite. Together, these supply a complete, automated and network-based transcoding system.

In its system, Ripcode uses Texas Instruments' DSP technology and Freescale's network processor in unique ways, Mills said.

"When it comes to encoding, the process is forward-motion estimation — looking ahead at upcoming frames and determining what's moving in that video. The algorithm spends most of its energy on the moving part of the image,” he said.

"What Intel has done is move to a multicore approach," he said. "Well, motion estimation doesn't work well with multiple cores. After four cores, you spend more processing power communicating motion estimation than you do encoding."

Instead, Ripcode uses the DSP to encode within a single chip. Not only does this ramp up transcoding speed — as much as 80 to 90 percent — it also yields big savings in power, using 1W to 4W compared to 40W to 60W.

And Ripcode's technology benefits viewers as well, Mills said. "Say you started a movie at home on TV and couldn't finish because you had to leave for the airport. You could resume it on your iPod — a different device — at the exact point you stopped it. Eventually, you're going to have a locker, and you're going to be able to access that content at will, across all three screens."

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