Amazon's S3 storage and EC2 compute cloud are already used to convert films and TV shows into the appropriate digital format for download by various services, including Netflix. The compute-intensive conversions can take place in the middle of the night or during low-use periods when EC2 servers are available at the best possible price. Having perfected conversion technology for some of its largest customers, Amazon Web Services is now making it available for use by more companies and individuals.
Amazon Elastic Transcoder is a beta service able to convert video into formats that can be used on Macs, PCs, tablets, and Apple iPhone and Android smartphones. Instead of learning conversion software, the user can check off boxes indicating what format the video is in currently and the format to which he wants it converted. The user must designate S3 input buckets designating the storage location of the video files to be converted and output buckets where the new files are to be stored.
The Elastic Transcoder then establishes a Transcoder Pipeline, or a queue containing a conversion job that connects to the conversion engine and directs its output to the designated S3 storage. The video files are stored as S3 objects.
[ Want to learn how Amazon's EC2 performs as a transcoding service? See Zencoder's benchmark in Google IaaS Vs. Amazon EC2: The New Benchmarks. ]
Amazon customers may get 20 minutes of free use of the beta service for standard-definition video or 10 minutes for high-definition video. Charges of $0.15 per minute for standard video kick in after the free service is used up and $0.30 per minute for high definition video.
"You can easily get started by using the AWS Management Console or the API. System transcoding presets make it easy to get transcoding settings right the first time for popular devices and formats," according to information on the AWS website.
If the beta service gains a following, Amazon is likely to make it a generally available service that challenges existing video transcoding services, such as Brightcove's Zencoder, Encoding.com and Microsoft's recently announced Azure Media Service.
"One thing that may lure people to the new Amazon service is its pricing model of paying for what you use, rather than signing up for an expensive monthly service package," noted Tom Cheredar, writing on the venture capital reporting site VentureBeat.
"Content producers no longer need to worry about encoding multiple versions of their media to suit the growing number of devices viewers might be using. Instead, each transcoding session is performed in the cloud," said Chris Davies on the technology and gadget site Slashgear.
The beta service produces H.264 format video and stereo AAC audio in an MP4 container, with H.264, AAC, MP4, MPEG-2, FLV, 3GP and AVI source material supported. Although multiple output formats are available, only one transcoding job can be done at a time. Transcoding video from live events on-the-fly isn't currently possible, Slashgear reported.