In this article, I’ll look at three tools that provide interesting services for building media services and products. Old terms from a few years ago like “MAM” (media asset management) and “OVP” (online video platform) seem a bit out of date. The focus of these tools’ companies has become much broader than the ways we’ve previously defined these terms. Ateliere Creative Technologies provides not just traditional MAM capabilities but also content management and app delivery. Axinom, likewise, has a development platform for building back-end services. nanocosmos expands on the old OVP model by delivering low-latency video for live, interactive-product developers. While I see a little bit of overlap with two of these products, it would be interesting to try to use everything here together.
Ateliere Discover was developed 5 years ago to support a previous business and has grown into an app streaming infrastructure that provides content management and app delivery. It is kind of a stealth product since the bulk (but not all) of Ateliere’s sales come through resellers like Synamedia. Ateliere Discover delivers templated customization for connected TV and mobile apps, which relieves companies that are planning D2C services from the burden of building their apps from scratch. The content management part of Ateliere Discover provides content catalog controls like publishing date, geo-gating, and rights management.
Ateliere recently rewrote the platform, according to Ateliere CEO Dan Goman. “We use a new programming language called Flutter, which has significant advantages over more traditional programming languages to develop apps,” Goman says. “One of the key things is that it allows very rapid deployment because you develop the code once, and you can reuse it across all platforms. So you’re essentially maintaining one code base versus potentially six or seven across different platforms.”
One of the key benefits of Ateliere Discover, Goman says, is how quickly it enables developers to launch D2C services. It’s “literally a matter of days, as long as we have the content from the customer in our system,” Goman contends. “With a couple of clicks, you’re able to launch the service itself. The other thing that’s super valuable,” he continues, “is the ability to dynamically change up your entire app with a click of a button if you’re not happy with the look and feel.”
Ateliere’s approach is that each time developers bring up the app, the company gives them the tools to build a shell that can be instantiated with whatever information is in the cloud. This means quickly changing to an altogether different look and feel if they desire. “You effectively restructure the entire app without having to republish, which saves you a tremendous amount of time and money,” Goman says.
“Ateliere has consolidated the entire CMS/OVP chain, including integration with SVOD and AVOD monetization platforms,” according to Goman. Ateliere Discover offers smart TV and mobile apps available for most major platforms, including iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, and Google TV, “with templated customization.”
Ateliere clients can look at usage analytics and even send notification to entice viewers back to the app, Goman says. “Almost every customer asks for some level of customization in the analytics.”
Typically, Ateliere begins working with customers at a point when their platform is in some stage of development, with the hope that Ateliere can meet them where they are without requiring them to start again from scratch. “The entire platform itself is built in a modular fashion where we have the ability to very quickly plug and play—CDNs, ad technology, transcoders, storage location, DRM, etc.,” Goman says. Ateliere also integrates with Recurly to provide customer management insight and FreeWheel for ad delivery to OTT apps.
Customers have flexibility with the platform to change the customer UI by themselves without having to make an engineering request. Ateliere Discover also provides an easy-to-use layout manager with modifiable pre-existing templates. Customers can create additional localized versions as needed.
Building a custom media app using pre-existing templates with Ateliere Discover
While no public pricing is available for Ateliere Discover, developer documentation can be found here.
Similarly reaching well beyond the old-school MAM model is Axinom Mosaic, a development platform for building streaming back ends. Axinom launched the platform last year, although the company has been in business for 21 years, focusing on VOD asset management. Axinom provides both its own managed services and open source applications.
Axinom focuses on its core strength in content processing, management, and provisioning, offering a platform flexible enough to allow its customers to piece together custom back ends using Axinom Mosaic in tandem with other services for a best-of-breed approach.
“We always think about what should be standardized, what should be flexible and open source, and have that come together in one user interface,” says Benjamin Schwendner, Axinom’s lead product architect. “This is important because many companies think in microservices, but they run into this challenge of how to get that into one user interface and connect everything.”
Axinom Mosaic’s technology stack works by calling a GraphQL API on different services, with all operations automated through the API.
The premise of Axinom Mosaic is to provide a simplified way of building complex back ends. The scalable solution offers predefined workflows that users can customize as needed. “The open source part of Mosaic comes with a template you can use to build any further workflows you want to have in your content management system,” says Schwendner. With Axinom Mosaic, whatever microservices developers are using should be able to exchange data and communicate with other services.
“Finding a way to unify their APIs, to make [a CMS] more performant for scale is what Mosaic focuses on,” says Stefanie Schuster, Axinom’s chief commercial officer. “The provisioning layer between the content management and the front-end applications needs to be highly scalable, because of the millions of requests coming to these middleware services.”
Here are a couple of use cases:
You manage your metadata, and then you publish it into a catalog service where front-end applications can send requests.
You manage your subscription plans, and then you have a billing service in the background where front-end applications send their transactions request.
Another thing Axinom focuses on is how to use Axinom Mosaic to look into ways you can renew your platform gradually. Potential users include developers, as well as content editors and designers.
Axinom Mosaic is available on a month-to-month basis, with pay-as-you-go billing based on a user’s level of consumption, with no minimal commitment or base fees. More information is available at www.axinom.com/products/mosaic.
nanocosmos nanoStream Cloud
nanocosmos nanoStream Cloud is a live-streaming platform used by developers who want to incorporate real-time interactivity into their products using low-latency video. The platform includes a player, a CDN, and multi-cloud hosting with hundreds of servers worldwide. It uses nanocosmos’ own ultra-low latency (ULL) protocol.
nanocosmos nanoStream Cloud dashboard
ULL’s target latency—end-to-end/glass-to-glass—is sub-second, 300 ms, which is configurable and typically comes in around 1 second. “We created our own delivery technology, and that meant that we also needed to provide the server infrastructure because available CDNs don’t provide that,” says nanocosmos owner and director Oliver Lietz. “This is neither HLS nor DASH, but a hybrid version: ULL-HLS and ULL-DASH over HTTPs and WebSocket. We call it H5Live.”
nanoStream Cloud uses H.264 and supports the high-profile configuration for whatever the codec and device allow. “It automatically picks the right streaming protocol to try to deliver the best possible user experience and quality of experience to the viewer,” says Lietz. nanocosmos opted not to use WebRTC because the company felt it wasn’t scalable and favored dropping frames to keep audio quality high.
The demo I saw used an RTMP ingest stream and a generic URL, like rtmp://bintu-stream.nanocosmos.de/live/stream. nanoStream Cloud utilizes an automatic, geo-load-balanced URL for both ingest and playout. The system does an auto-failover, with 100% uptime, Lietz says. There’s no cloud setup required by developers. Transcoding profiles can be assigned in order to support various resolutions. Users can preview the stream in the player.
Alternatively, you can use a webcam directly from the browser with an API call to ingest video. This supports a hybrid approach that also includes WebRTC/WHIP as ingest protocols.
The majority of the streaming playback is used in applications running on mobile. “One of the reasons we created that whole platform is it’s important to have control, end to end, and to have insight on the whole workflow and not be dependent on too many different vendors,” Lietz says. The streamed video can be “embedded into a web environment and directly connected to the users [and] to your business application.”
nanocosmos has enterprise customers in the financial industry that do real-time training for the stock exchange and in healthcare, where nanoStream Cloud is used for medical training, including video instruction and screen sharing. The other use cases may be more familiar, such as activities that rely on near-instant interactions, like betting and auctions.
Is there a limit on what nanoStream Cloud supports coming in for the original source? “We don’t have a limit,” Lietz says. “Several customers are using dozens of streams at the same time. You can create as many streams as you want to. Of course, there are limits in terms of resources for transcoding, etcetera, but that’s only a business decision.”
nanocosmos offers public pricing on its site, as well as a developer doc.
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