UTL is relatively new on the block, and not all of our customers will be familiar with the term. 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
What is UTL?
UTL stands for Unified Transcoding Layer. 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 can 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. We can even deliver audio-only if there are problems establishing a quality connection.
We use UTL to encode the video into small chunks of up to ten seconds duration. The first chunk is used to detect the quality of the viewer’s connection; the subsequent fragments are then sent at the best quality for the viewer to have the smoothest viewing experience. Customers can override the automated optimisation if they have specific renditions they wish to stream, regardless of the viewer’s connection.
What are some other benefits?
While the main benefit of UTL is smoother viewing for all viewers, 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; streaming only a few chunks. This is a highly efficient use of bandwidth for customers who publish long-form content. It’s another win for vzaar customers.