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Tech Corner: Multi-encoding


In this edition of Tech Corner, we unpack multi-encoding and why it is useful for live video production. 

What is multi-encoding?

Multi-encoding is encoding a single live program multiple times at different encoding settings. It’s a way of simultaneously producing different video assets to fit the destination's requirements best, whether for recording or streaming.

For example, you may want to encode the same program in 4K30 for local recording, 1080p30 for streaming to a local display, and 720p30 for live streaming to a content delivery network (CDN). Multi-encoding makes this possible, letting you encode multiple video assets instead of just one. This way, you don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your local recording for bandwidth reasons or because your target CDN doesn’t support 4K30.

Multi-encoding diagram

What multi-encoding is not.

Multi-encoding is easily confused with closely related terms: multi-streaming, adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR), and multi-bitrate streaming (MBR). It’s here where a lot of confusion comes up, so let’s clarify things:

  • “Multi-streaming” refers to streaming to two or more destinations – but not necessarily with different encoding settings.
  •  ABR is a process that provides the optimal playback experience for viewers streaming content from a CDN. For example, if someone watches a video at 1080p and their network bandwidth takes a dip, the player can adapt by lowering the video resolution to prevent playback from stopping completely. 
  • With MBR, the viewer chooses a quality setting, and the player sticks to that setting regardless of bandwidth fluctuations.

An easy way to remember the differences between these terms is this: MRB and ABR describe the viewer’s experience as they receive streamed content from the CDN, while multi-encoding refers to encoder-to-destination processes.

Why multi-encode?

The main benefit of multi-encoding is that you won’t have to re-encode video assets after production. Having your assets how you want them right away can save you time.

Besides this, multi-encoding might be critical in many other video production scenarios. For instance, it’s the way to go if you’re ever looking to:

  • Simultaneously record a video in high resolution and at a high frame rate, and live stream the same content at lower encoding settings (e.g., to be more suitable for your bandwidth)
  • Stream multiple encodes at different settings to a single CDN that doesn’t offer MBR or ABR
  • Stream to multiple CDNs at different encoding settings
  • Have a high-quality local stream and a lower-quality external stream
  • Record the same channel simultaneously at different resolutions (e.g., 4K and full HD)
  • Include your switched live program as part of another layout

How to multi-encode video

One way to multi-encode your program is by using a video splitter and dedicated encoders. A more efficient method is to use a single software or hardware encoder that supports multi-encoding. For example, advanced streaming software like vMix and Wirecast allows you to set up different encoding output profiles for recording and streaming. And many hardware encoders (e.g., Pearl-2, Pearl Mini) support multi-encoding.

One important caveat: multi-encoding will add to your encoder’s processing load, so there’s a limit – this will depend on the hardware you’re using. We recommend using a dedicated appliance for multi-encoding rather than streaming software running on a general-purpose computer. Check out this hardware vs. software encoding blog for a full breakdown of the considerations. 

A trusted choice for multi-encoding

Pearl-2 is the Swiss army knife of video production, offering all-in-one mixing, live switching, multi-streaming – and multi-encoding. With Pearl-2, you can record and stream video in up to six encodes, including four in 4K.

Epiphan Pearl-2

Learn more about how Pearl-2 can help you simultaneously encode the video assets you need.

Free eBook - live video production 

*This blog is extracted from Epiphan.

 About Epiphan Video

Epiphan Video provides award-winning, purpose-built hardware solutions that help your business create impactful video content. 

The Epiphan Pearl range of hardware encoders is the ultimate system for maximum versatility with multi-encoding, multi-streaming, recording, custom layouts, switching, and more. Ideal for use in live event production, enterprise communication or lecture capture in higher education.

AP Tech is the authorised Australian distributor of Epiphan Video products. Every Epiphan solution from AP Tech is backed by local warranty and support.

A. P. Technologies Pty Ltd, Andrew Paton November 26, 2023
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