GStreamer Element in RDK Stack Opens New Possibilities for OEMs

Dec. 8, 2014, 11:25 a.m.

GStreamer Element in RDK Stack Opens New Possibilities for OEMs

Fluendo Seeks to Drive Awareness of How Multimedia Framework Impacts IP Service Potential

An intriguing set of new capabilities for bringing IP content to set-top boxes is coming into focus as a result of the inclusion of the GStreamer multimedia framework in the protocol stack endorsed by developers of the Reference Design Kit platform for next-gen devices.

Over the past ten years Fluendo, a key contributor to development of the open source GStreamer framework, has worked with OEMs and chipmakers worldwide as a supplier of fully licensed codecs integrated into player applications for multiple sectors, including enterprise multimedia, video production, home entertainment, thin-client computing, OTT and smart TVs as well as set-tops. Named customers include NAGRA, Technicolor, Sony, Toshiba, HP, Samsung, IBM and many other companies.

Where RDK is concerned, the Fluendo’s GStreamer-based Oneplay platform opens the door to building rich applications on a framework that supports playback in Linux, Windows, MAC OS X, Android and iOS environments from video streamed over any of three leading adaptive bitrate (ABR) formats, including HLS (HTTP Live Streaming), Microsoft Smooth and MPEG DASH adaptive bitrate formats.

As explained by RDK Management LLC on its website, GStreamer has been included as an “open source software to provide a fully-tested, stable and powerful way to enable RDK developers to deliver world-class multimedia streaming applications. RDK uses GStreamer extensively to stream media securely within the home network with a full set of components for managing complex media across networked devices.”

RDK’s selection of GStreamer attests to the maturation of the framework over many years of development by contributors who set themselves the arduous task of making it possible for developers to build players that would support multiple codecs, filters, ABR muxers and demuxers, DRMs and other essential components to enabling rich multimedia experiences, initially for Linux OS environments. Two years ago, Fluendo collaborated with the U.K. consultancy Collabora to create the GStreamer SDK (software development kit), a free resource available at http://www.gstreamer.com that broadened GStreamer availability for developing full-featured multimedia applications across all the leading desktop platforms.

GStreamer accomplishes its magic using a plugin model where hundreds of software modules in the database accessed by developers are configured with APIs that allow them to be slotted into the framework with the click of a mouse. These plugins, positioned in the library under different categories such as codecs, filters, sources, protocols, etc., can be mixed and matched across a set of arbitrary developer-defined “pipelines” that steer the flow of data passing through the selected plugins to support a full-fledged multimedia application.

Capitalizing on the capabilities brought together with ongoing advances in GStreamer and the introduction of the GStreamer SDK, Fluendo earlier this year was able to consolidate its platform into the single Oneplay development platform, where the Oneplay engine can be used to enable GStreamer-powered media playback on applications for all supported platforms. “We created Oneplay as a brand to represent the fact that you can build applications on our platform to play anything,” Moscardini says. “What we have behind the brand is support for development of different solutions adapted to specific customer needs.”

One of Fluendo’s latest steps is the inclusion of an H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) codec developed by Berlin-based Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, a leading contributor to HEVC, as part of the Oneplay codec portfolio.

As with other codecs, a big benefit Fluendo brings to customers is it has taken care of all the licensing requirements for use of H.265, eliminating that headache from their workloads, she adds. “The main vision of Fluendo from the beginning was to create a one-stop shop where customers who come through us obtain the rights to distribute using H.264, MPEG2, MP3, Dolby, etc.,” she notes. “This was a major factor in our ability to build a customer base with major companies.”

Of course, in the set-top environment as presently constituted software-based decoding is not a factor, but with miniaturization of devices it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But, more likely, it’s the other capabilities embodied in the Oneplay portfolio that will hold appeal for OEMs developing RDK-compliant products.

When it comes to utilizing hardware resources, another part of the Fluendo playbook has been to partner with chipmakers like Intel, STMicroelectronics, AMD and others to make sure that player applications running on their chipsets are able to leverage processing power to maximum effect.

Fluendo is a member of the Intel Consumer Electronics Network, a community of hardware, software and services providers that contributes to accelerating the development, time-to-market and scalability of Internet-connected CE devices running on Intel chipsets. Fluendo has collaborated with Intel to enhance GStreamer support for Intel’s media processor CE 3100 and the Atom CE4100, which are used in set-top boxes. Intel now provides a plugin to the GStreamer framework that accelerates video decode and rendering by processing and offloading the data to the Atom processor E6xx series video engine through the Intel EMGD driver, according to Intel documents.

The OTT world at large player plugin technology is now in intense competition with surging reliance on HTML5 as a way to enable execution of multimedia experiences across multiple types of devices directly from websites in HTML5-compatible browsers. “A lot of TV apps are now built out of browsers using HTML5,” she says. Of course, she adds, browsers powered by GStreamer can be used to similar effect, as is the case with the use of GStreamer by Firefox in Linux-based OS environments.

When it comes to the managed MVPD service environment, HTML5 is a tool requiring significant enhancements in proprietary middleware executions. It will be up to purveyors of the solutions tied to the GStreamer player framework on the one hand and cloud-based HTML5 middleware on the other to convince potential customers theirs is the best approach. Fluendo’s input on the question will make for interesting internal debates among decision makers in the months ahead.

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