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HLS Now Supports Fragmented MP4, Making it Compatible With DASH

iOS and macOS announcements aren’t the only things coming out of WWDC 2016: Apple announced that HLS will support fragmented MP4. Here’s why that means huge cost savings for video providers.

By Tim Siglin


Apple today announced the inclusion of byte-range addressing for fragmented MP4 files, or fMP4, allowing content to be played in HLS without the need to multiplex it into the traditional MPEG-2 Transport Stream. Compatible with newer versions of its operating systems (macOS, tvOS, and iOS 6.0 or higher) this new fMP4 feature makes HLS compatible with the industry standard MPEG-DASH for browser-based HTML 5 playback.

After a session on fMP4 and HLS at today’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple posted the draft specifications. Industry reaction has been positive.

DASH and HLS: A Look Back

Just under a year ago, the Bitmovin team announced the release of Bitdash 3.0, which enabled Apple HLS delivery inside Bitmovin’s HTML5 and Flash video player.

With Bitdash 3.0 came Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) native support, which meant HLS was no longer tied to Apple devices but could be used on any web browser.

Still, for all that integration between Flash and HLS in a Flash-powered player, there was one weak spot in any integration of MP4-based playback coupled with HLS playback: the Achilles’ heel known as MPEG-2 Transport Stream (M2TS).

M2TS—a transport stream technology harking back to an era where ATM meant asynchronous transfer mode, not automated teller machine—used a packetization technique that carved a video and one to two audio channels into small segments that could be transported over intermittent delivery methods such as ATM or satellite uplinks.

Packets had a program ID (PID) and enough information to allow re-assembly of the video and audio channels at the far end, even if packets arrived out of order.

That technology served broadcasters well when they had only one resolution and a few alternate audio channels (think SAP), but has been poorly suited to scaling to the myriad of resolutions, bitrates, and multi-lingual requirements of a global internet television audience for OTT.


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