Meta develops a new hardware-efficient video processing method

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Meta Platforms Inc. today detailed an in-house developed computer method that can process certain types of video content up to 94% more efficiently than before.

According to the company, the technology will help it process the videos that users upload to Instagram more efficiently.

When a user uploads a clip to Instagram, Meta’s servers do not immediately post the clip but first perform a task called encoding. The task is to repackage the clip into a video format that works well on different types of devices. Meta also compresses video content in the process, allowing content to move faster over the network to users’ devices and reducing bandwidth usage.

Meta’s encoding algorithms bundle each Instagram video into multiple formats. The first and most advanced format used by the company stores clips in a way that maximizes viewing quality. Meta also bundles video content into two less advanced formats that perform better on entry-level user devices.

The process of turning Instagram videos into a form that works well on different devices requires a significant amount of data center infrastructure. According to Meta, wrapping clips in the two less advanced video formats used by Instagram is a particularly hardware-intensive task. Task historically accounted for the bulk of hardware resources used by Instagram to process videos.

“The problem was that we were spending over 80% of our resources dealing with minimal feature encodings,” Meta engineers explained in a blog post. “If we stayed on this trajectory, minimal functionality would monopolize our resources within a year. As a result, videos would start taking longer to post – or not posting at all.

To meet the challenge, engineers at Meta developed a more efficient way to package videos in the two less advanced video formats used by Instagram. The technique relies on some technical similarities the company has discovered between the two formats.

The first format, known as ABR encoding, can automatically increase or decrease video quality depending on the speed of a user’s network connection. The second format, progressive encoding, is optimized to work on older versions of the Instagram app. ABR encoding and Meta progressive encoding files have historically been generated separately through two different computer workflows.

The new processing technique developed by Meta eliminates the need to generate files separately. Using this technique, a server can first generate progressive encoding and then reuse many parts of the file to create ABR encoding. Reusing file components eliminates the need to generate ABR encoding from scratch, reducing processing requirements.

“Our Instagram engineering team has developed a way to dramatically improve video quality,” said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta. “We’ve sped up basic video processing by 94%, which now allows us to use more advanced codecs. This is especially useful on slower internet connections, but it improves the experience for everyone.

Image: Meta

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