Amazon Launches New Cloud Based Video Transcoding Service

This morning Amazon announced a new cloud based video transcoding service called Amazon Elastic Transcoder. As with other AWS services, there are no contracts or monthly commitments and customers simply pay based on the number of minutes they need to transcode and the resolution of the content being transcoded (SD vs. HD). Amazon is offering the transcoding service in multiple regions including three in the U.S. (Oregon, Northern California, N. Virginia) as well as Ireland, Singapore and Tokyo. Pricing for transcoding content in standard definition (less than 720p) ranges from $0.015 (one and a half cents) for U.S. based regions to $0.018 from the Tokyo region. For HD content, Amazon charges 2x what SD costs. Amazon’s service is for on-demand content only and does not transcode live streams.

It was only a matter of time before Amazon added a cloud based transcoding service to their offering as it’s a natural way to enable content owners to get more of their content onto the Amazon network. But a lot of questions remain about how scalable Amazon’s new service is and how it works. On their FAQ page Amazon says that, “if a large number of jobs are received they are backlogged” but they don’t say for how long. Amazon also hasn’t said if their transocding service will output completed files to a third party CDN or only to Amazon’s own CDN CloudFront. [Update: You can only putput files to an S3 bucket.] One limitation of their service is that they only support H.264/AAC/MP4 for output formats. While those are the most popular formats today, customers who have legacy platforms or devices to support are limited in their choices. Also, the service does not currently offer the ability to create segmented output files, which is required for HLS streaming. Amazon says there is no SLA for the service at this time, so there’s no guarantee what a customer gets from a quality perspective or turn around time.

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 10.44.37 AMFrom quickly testing the service this morning, all video files first need to be stored in an S3 bucket and delivered back to your S3 bucket. I don’t see anyway you can upload the videos directly from your computer without first putting them in an S3 account. Amazon’s service comes with a bunch of preset transcoding templates, which you can see on the left. You can also create your own custom templates but twice when I tried to do that I got a page with an error of “an error occurred when we tried to process your request”. Transcoding however was quick with a 79.5MB four minute file taking just under 5 minutes to transcode and be delivered back to my S3 bucket.

There’s already a few cloud  based transcoding services built on top of AWS, like, that have been around for years and have reliable, guaranteed, service with a support number you can call to ask questions and get help with your transcoding job. So I don’t see Amazon’s new service taking share away from anyone else in the market any time soon. Amazon’s new service has a long way to go to being as easy to use or robust as’s cloud based service, but it makes sense for Amazon to offer it as they have tens of thousands of CloudFront customers already and know a certain percentage of them need a cloud based transcoding service that fits into the AWS ecosystem.

For those who want to try Amazon’s new transcoding service, the company is currently allowing anyone to transcode up to 20 minutes of content each month for free.