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A Brief History of MPEG-DASH: From Early Development to Emmy® Award Win

Video streaming is ubiquitous. It permeates every aspect of our lives. We watch viral videos on TikTok, attend work conferences via Zoom, use it to supplement our education at academic institutions and even use it to work up a sweat via connected gym equipment. Netflix had a transformative impact on how we access our favorite content by delivering it over the Internet and providing consumers with the flexibility to watch their favorite films and TV shows from anywhere and on any device. What makes the impact of video streaming on our day-to-day lives even more astonishing is that it’s still a nascent industry that only took off at the turn of the century. However, it wouldn’t have advanced so quickly without the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), which recently won a Technology & Engineering Emmy® Award for its groundbreaking MPEG-DASH standard.

The development of MPEG-DASH began in 2010 when the likes of YouTube and Netflix laid the framework for the popularization of video streaming among consumers. However, the quality of streams was often sub-par and plagued with stalls, buffering, missing/wrong plug-ins, and poor image quality. MPEG-DASH aimed to create a new video streaming standard to deliver high-quality streams to users with minimal issues. MPEG-DASH uses adaptive bitrate technology to break down videos into smaller chunks and encode them at different quality levels. Adaptive bitrate streaming detects the user’s bandwidth in real-time and adjusts the quality of the stream. 

MPEG-DASH was standardized in 2012, and it is the first adaptive bitrate streaming solution that is an international standard. What makes MPEG-DASH groundbreaking is that it allows internet-connected devices to receive high-quality streams, regardless of bandwidth quality. Its standardization was significant because it gave the industry confidence that it could universally adopt its capabilities compared to proprietary solutions. Furthermore, the fact it is codec agnostic means content can be encoded with any encoding format – making it possible for the entire media industry to improve the quality of their streams. The first live MPEG-DASH demonstration took place in August 2012. VRT offered its audience the chance to experience the Olympic Games broadcast on their devices via the newly standardized streaming standard. 

The impact of MPEG-DASH is far-reaching and completely transformed the entire video streaming industry, including on-demand, live and low latency streaming – even 5G. It’s relied on by Hulu, Netflix and YouTube to empower them to deliver superior viewing experiences and accounts for more than 50% of the world-wide internet traffic today. Currently, MPEG is working on its 5th edition to address and meet the needs of the constantly evolving video streaming ecosystem and ensure its compatibility with new technologies. 

MPEG-DASH is also deeply embedded in the DNA of Bitmovin, which was founded in 2013 and provided the springboard for the company’s success. MPEG-DASH was co-created by my fellow Bitmovin co-founders, Stefan Lederer and Chris Mueller, which sparked the development of the Bitmovin Player and Bitmovin Encoder – the first commercial solutions made for this video streaming standard. Bitmovin’s solutions were, and continue to be, backed by strong academic research, and it is one of the primary drivers behind our rapid growth. We have outpaced our competitors in under ten years and become the category leader for video streaming infrastructure. The competitiveness of our solutions is exemplified by the fact we are powering the world’s largest OTT online video providers, including the BBC, ClassPass, discovery+, Globo, The New York Times and Red Bull Media House many more.

MPEG’s Technology & Engineering Emmy® Award win is the culmination of years of hard work dedicated to optimizing video streams and providing audiences worldwide with superior viewing experiences. MPEG has been instrumental in some of the most significant technological advancements in the video streaming ecosystem. It is a fantastic achievement for the team, comprising over 90 researchers and engineers from around 60 companies worldwide, to receive this tremendous accolade. Congratulations again to the team!

Author

Dr. Christian Timmerer is the Head of Research and a co-founder at Bitmovin. His work focuses on cutting edge video streaming solutions for the web, like MPEG-DASH and HEVC, and making higher resolution video, like Ultra-HD, easily accessible to the consumers. Timmerer is an active member of ISO/IEC MPEG and editor for the MPEG-21, MPEG-M, MPEG-V, and MPEG-DASH standard, and thus has also a wide range of knowledge, overview and contacts within the international technology market. In his position of Associate Professor at the Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt he had published more than 200 papers at international conferences and journals.