vzaar Fireside Chat: What is UTL?

Gareth Cadwallader and Rich Jenkins discuss vzaar's Universal Transcoding Layer UTL

UTL is fairly new on the block and not all of our customers will be familiar with the term, which is why we’ve put this blog post together to answer the question ‘What is UTL?’.

vzaar’s Head of Product, Rich Jenkins, takes a deeper dive into UTL with vzaar Chairman, Gareth Cadwallader in the above three-minute Fireside Chat video.

UTL stands for Unified Transcoding Layer and it is a super piece of technology developed by vzaar to increase efficiency and performance. We are halfway through deploying it to our customers who are already seeing fantastic results in the shape of increased viewing quality and 20% – 30% lower bandwidth consumption. UTL that alongside HTTPS Live Streaming (HLS) provides the protocols we use to stream a video at multiple bit rates. Subscribers can upload one video at one bitrate, and we use UTL to encode it at multiple bit-rates. There are no limits, in principle, to the number of renditions, and customers have total control over the renditions at which their videos are encoded or played back.

When a viewer plays the video, the player knows the available connection speed and can access the Manifest file which contains the set of available renditions; it can then request the appropriate rendition using the set of rules included in the Manifest file. In this way, we are able to stream the version of the video that is most appropriate for the viewer’s connection – up to 4K quality for viewers on superfast broadband connections, right down to smaller-sized video or even audio-only if they are in the remotest part of Brazil or India, for example.

The video is encoded in small chunks of up to ten seconds duration, and the first chunk is used to detect the quality of the viewer’s connection; the subsequent chunks are then sent at the best quality for the viewer to have the smoothest viewing experience. Customers are able to override the automated optimisation if they have specific renditions they wish to stream, regardless of the viewer’s connection.

While the main benefit of UTL is smoother viewing for all viewers, regardless of connection, vzaar’s customers gain other advantages too. By chunking up the video, UTL increases the difficulty for content-thieves to download or otherwise intercept the video. The chunking also reduces bandwidth consumption where viewers start the video but don’t watch all of it; only a few chunks will have been streamed. For customers who publish long-form content which is often not watched all the way through, they are now able to grow their audiences and views that much more before having to upgrade. It’s another win for vzaar customers.

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