Silverlight 3, IIS Media Services 3.0, Olympics 2010 – Wow, It Truly Is March Madness!

Though blogging in Las Vegas might sound like a party foul, this has been an amazing week for Silverlight media – so much that I feel a sudden urge to report on it right now, right here.

Silverlight 3 Beta

A mere 5 months after releasing Silverlight 2 RTW, we have now made Silverlight 3 Beta available to the public. Check out http://silverlight.net/getstarted/silverlight3/default.aspx for the full list of new features and download links. As usual, Scott Guthrie offers some great insight on Silverlight 3 in his MIX Keynote and Channel 9 video.

The most interesting new media features in Silverlight 3 are:

  • Native H.264 video, AAC audio, and MP4 file playback support
    • Take your MP4-contained H.264/AAC encoded files, put them on a Web server and play them directly in Siverlight using progressive download!
  • Extensible media format support
    • Support for raw A/V bitstream playback allows codec and media developers to write custom decoders and format parsers using C#, VB or any other .NET language. Will you be the first to write an Ogg Vorbis or FLAC decoder for Silverlight?
  • GPU accelerated video scaling
    • Stretching the video to full screen can now be offloaded entirely to the video card, freeing up the CPU and enabling smooth video playback.
  • Advanced media logging
    • Log playback usage to Windows Media Services and IIS7 Media Services, like with the good old Windows Media Player.
  • Custom effects / Pixel shaders
    • Apply post-processing effects to your video by writing custom effects using the same HLSL pixel shader code that works in Direct3D and WPF today.
  • Perspective 3D transforms
    • Spin and rotate your video around all 3 axis – X, Y and Z. Video collage? How about a video cube?

I’ll be blogging in the near future in more depth about the details of our H.264/AAC/MP4 support in particular.

 

IIS Media Services 3.0 / Live Smooth Streaming

Just a short month after announcing the availability of Smooth Streaming for On-Demand Video beta, the IIS Media team announced the availability of IIS Media Services 3.0 beta – featuring Live Smooth Streaming. That’s right, with IIS7 you will soon be able to deliver Smooth Streaming video for both on-demand and live!

Inlet Technologies has simultaneously announced they will be the first to add Smooth Streaming support to their line of live and VoD encoding products. Besides Inlet, we are currently working with a number of encoding ISVs on enabling them to add Smooth Streaming support to their products.

Akamai Technologies announced the wide commercial availability of their AdaptiveEdge Streaming service based on IIS Smooth Streaming. Besides Akamai, we are currently working with all the major CDNs on enabling Smooth Streaming support in their networks. As with the encoding ISVs, our goal is to build a rich Smooth Streaming ecosystem to be available to customers by the time Silverlight 3 ships.

Besides the newly redesigned home page, the IIS Media team has also put up a great working example of how Smooth Streaming works.

 

NBC Winter Olympics 2010 – Vancouver

During the MIX 2009 Keynote, Perkins Miller, Senior VP of Digital Media for NBC Universal, announced that NBC Universal has chosen to deliver the NBC Winter Olympics 2010 using Microsoft Silverlight. Watch the MIX Keynote to see his announcement.

Here are the details I can share at this point:

  • All video content, both live and on-demand, will be delivered using Smooth Streaming
  • The live video player will feature DVR-like capabilities (pause, rewind, seek and slo-mo of live video)
  • Video quality will go up to true 720p HD

March Madness

CBS Sports has launched a Silverlight-based March Madness video player that lets you watch all NCAA Basketball Tournament games live. Visit http://mmod.ncaa.com/video to launch the March Madness video player. If you are using Internet Explorer on Windows, the default player will actually be an old-school WMP player, so you’ll need to click on the HQ Player button to launch the new Silverlight player.

The live video for the tournament is being streamed using Windows Media Services. Obviously, we couldn’t use Smooth Streaming because the server technology is still in beta and the encoders aren’t yet commercially available. But CBS did the next best thing! All live streams are available in 4 video quality levels:

Total Bitrate
(kbps)

Video Bitrate
(kbps)

Audio Bitrate
(kbps)

Video Width

Video Height

Pixel Aspect Ratio

1500

1450

48

784

432

1:1

1000

950

48

512

384

4:3

650

615

32

368

272

4:3

350

315

32

240

176

4:3

Video codec used is VC-1 Advanced Profile. Audio codec used is WMA Professional at 44.1 kHz 16-bit stereo.

All March Madness games are being encoded by MLB.com’s encoding facilities using Inlet Spinnaker 7000 encoders. The Spinnakers were configured based on my own recommendations in order to provide maximum quality at all bitrates.

The March Madness Silverlight player uses preroll ad download statistics to estimate available client bandwidth and tries to make an appropriate first choice of bitrate level. Of course none of this would be necessary with Smooth Streaming, but we really tried to make the best of the Windows Media Streaming experience anyway. The player also has built-in heuristics to detect quality-of-service issues, such as frequent rebuffering or low frame rate rendering, at which point it can suggest to the user to choose a lower bitrate. Users can manually switch between available bitrates using the “-” and “+” buttons in the button of the player UI.

About Alex Zambelli

Alex is a Principal Product Manager at iStreamPlanet Co. in Redmond, Washington. Prior to his current job he was a Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Media Platform at Microsoft Corporation. He specializes in video streaming, adaptive HTTP streaming, VC-1 and H.264 video, and video processing best practices.
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7 Responses to Silverlight 3, IIS Media Services 3.0, Olympics 2010 – Wow, It Truly Is March Madness!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Silverlight for 2010 Olympics video? Goodie! Since in 2008 the same decision was so kind to non-Windows users.

    What’s that? Ah, you want people to have a rich Web2.0 experience. Well, if the advertisers want to see the inside of my wallet, I’ll just have the vanilla video stream URLs. Sadly, with realistic pessimism, I predict those won’t be directly available. Alex, I hope you guys prove me wrong…

    kthxby

    • Dear Anonymous,

      1. Let’s be clear: this applies only to NBC’s coverage of the Olympics in the U.S. The International Olympics Committee sells Olympics broadcast rights per country, so every country’s official Olympics broadcaster can choose whichever RIA technology they want.

      2. While I understand the beauty and simplicity of just providing vanilla video stream URLs to users, that’s not what the content providers are asking for. They want rich experiences and we try to provide them with a platform for doing so. Remember, at the end of the day they’re the ones spending money on content production – so ultimately it’s rightfully their choice how they wish to recoup those expenses. If they thought vanilla URLs could make them more money, I’m sure that’s what they’d be doing.

      3. NBC Olympics 2008 videos worked just fine for Mac users. That’s non-Windows, isn’t it? Oh, and before you say “But Linux…”, I will point out that NBC Vancouver Olympics experience will be built on Silverlight 3, and there’s a very good chance that Novell will have the Linux-based Moonlight 3.0 ready by February 2010. So I wouldn’t entirely rule out Linux support either.

  4. Wayne says:

    The olympics are days away and there is no moonlight support for the various video sites. Once again the critics are proven correct, Moonlight will forever be playing catchup, perpetually keeping Linux and FreeBSD users from being able to actually view any media online. Congratulations Microsoft, you’ve screwed over another generation of web technology.

  5. Zyonin (Ken R.) says:

    I am in the same boat as Wayne and “Anonymous”, shut out of Olympic video sites due to the lack of Moonlight support. I don’t care what the broadcaster’s excuses for using Silverlight 3 are, I just know that a group of web users are shut out by the “Silverlight Wall” due to their OS. Some of us don’t have a choice in OS due to economic reasons. Should we pirate Windows just so we can watch the Olympics?