Playback Efficiency

Posted to LinkedIn August, 2023

Many motion designers and editors are used to building files for post-production and non-linear editors. Non-linear editing is so ubiquitous that I wonder if the term even means anything anymore. Efficiency is usually thought of in terms of render time. This is certainly important for the process.

In most post-production workflows we’re outputting a file that might be imported to a non-linear editor like Avid or Premiere for a final edit or conform. Generally, any file that can be ingested can work (although could affect workflow). The final encode is probably out of your hands unless you’re uploading directly to a web platform. And even then the actual encoded file(s) played online is handled automatically by the platform’s server.

Those extra steps don’t exist with live event media servers. In most cases, the file you deliver contains the actual data that will be played on screen when it is cued.

Why does that matter?

FPS Graph
Monitor Widget

It means that the delivery specs are crucial to a video playing correctly. An incorrect codec, frame rate, or resolution might give a file that is technically possible to load and play. But that file might require extra processing power to play on screen.

With a typical HD screen resolution, that extra processing load might not be a problem. But plenty of custom shows use extremely hi-res screens pushing the servers to their capacity. When a show is in full action, inefficient playback can snowball into stutter frames or other errors that look bad on screen. Or even crash completely.

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