Operation MySpace and Kulabyte Bring Live HD Flash to the Web

On Monday, I settled back in my chair to watch a concert from halfway across the globe. I’d mentioned this concert to a former client, a local chamber of commerce executive who is also a Marine colonel; he chose to be reactivated and serve in a rebuilding effort in Fallujah during an intensely dark year of the Iraq war.

"We didn’t get USO troops in Fallujah," said Colonel Miles Burdine, USMC, applauding the event called Operation MySpace, a tribute concert for the troops who had served and are still serving in the armed forces in the Middle East.

MySpace broadcast the show live back to the U.S., in both standard definition and 480p high definition using Kulabtye’s live Flash/On2 VP6 encoder.

While the encode didn’t achieve the quality of On2’s newest VP6 derivative, VP6-S, it definitely provided a high-quality experience that has seldom been seen in live encodings.

"We have been working hard to deliver higher quality video over the internet, and we’re excited to showcase that work for the MySpace community" said Blake Wenzel, co-founder of Kulabyte. "Why does this matter? We’re showing the first live 2-pass VBR for High Definition that's been broadcasted over the Internet."

The concert was viewable in three data rates and two screen sizes. The low bitrate version was at 400Kbps for both audio and video and shown at 640x360; the medium and high versions were both at 480p (848x480) with the high at 1296Kpbs and the medium—the default setting—at 764Kbps.

The minimum computer configuration tested, according to Kulabyte, was a single core, hyper-threaded 3.2gHz Pentium; I also tested the low setting on a 1.7gHz machine, the lowest-end machine that On2 uses for VP6-S ,and was able to view the content at the 640x360 screen size.

Inside the Encode
The steps taken for the encoding, according to Kulabyte, were fairly similar to a standard broadcast, but with much higher processor requirements on the encoding side.

The HD content was shot and transmitted at 1080i via a satellite from Kuwait to the eastern United States, the closest place for line of sight for the satellite uplink and downlink. "A backup was available in standard definition, but the primary satellite feed was done in 1080i HD," said Wenzel, "which was then downsampled to 480p for our medium and high encoding rates."

The MPEG-2 transport stream was then sent across the U.S. to MySpace’s El Segundo, Cal., location, where it was de-multiplexed from the combined audio and video transport streams into baseband audio and video.

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