If someone told me that that someday I’d be writing—excitedly, even-- about something called the Amazon Elastic Transcoder, I would have thought that dude just finished the Jack Daniel’s.
But today is that day. Indeed, quite soberly, Amazon Web Services just announced it is marketing a new cloud video conversion and delivery system—the aforementioned Amazon Elastic Transcoder (AET) that can seamlessly convert original source video files to format correctly on every kind of gadget, but perhaps most importantly, on iPads and iPhones and Androids and various smart TVs. That is big news to content owners looking for easy ways to get their videos from one place to the other, without spending a bundle on equipment to do it.
The trouble with progress is that everybody has their own definition. Every device out there comes with its own transcoding challenges, and every new gizmo needs software—often expensive software—to do the job. But then software that needs to be tested, a long, painstaking process that takes content providers far away from the original task, which is to create and distribute good looking video. Amazon promises its Elastic Transcoder “makes it easy to transcode video for smartphones, tablets, Web browsers and other devices.”
Not having to worry about how the end user is going to see it makes the idea of producing online video for a variety of sources seem like a much better gig. Customers get 20 minutes of standard definition conversion free per month. Prices then range from 0.015 to 0.030 a minute, depending on other factors, according to a story on AET on slashgear.com.
Is that a good deal? Well, Zencoder, a competitor in this space (which actually uses Amazon’s cloud to do its transcoding) on Wednesday commented briefly on Amazon’s new service on a “hacker news” blog and opined, “Amazon has done a good job of making their pricing look simpler/cheaper than ours, and for some customers, it is.” But the commenter said, “Our larger customers don’t pay more than this already.” Supposedly, Zencoder will a more nuanced critique available today.
Amazon says it can transcode a 10 minute video for an iPhone4 in five minutes, but it could take longer if there’s a lot of demands. The service operates regionally through pipelines that contains transcoding jobs. You can have up to four transcoding pipelines per AWS account, so you can transcode more than one job at a time. There’s a pretty comprehensive FAQ page that answers a lot of other questions.
It’s likely the Elastic Transcoder has the ability to be one of those vaunted “disruptive” developments that quickly change how business proceeds. Time, and competition will tell, though Amazon’s size is a daunting proposition for giant-slayers.
“Video transcoding services like the ones being launched today are relevant both for professional producers but perhaps especially for more independent outfits that are looking for cost-effective solutions for small-scale projects. Amazon offers this service on an a la carte basis, making it particularly easy to use for the latter group, and startups in general,” writes Ingrid Lunden in techcrunch.com. Let the games begin.