Azure Media Services Can Blur Faces, Cut Storage Costs

New features to Microsoft's Azure Media Services allow content producers to anonymize faces on video content and cut cloud storage costs by placing select footage in Azure Cool Storage.

Microsoft Azure

Following last week's announcement that Microsoft had kicked off 4K and HDR video streaming trials, the company has added a handful of new capabilities to its cloud-based Azure Media Services suite. Unveiled during the IBC 2016 conference in Amsterdam, formerly the International Broadcasting Convention, the new offerings include a technology that can be used to render faces that appear in video footage unrecognizable.

"We are adding Azure Media Redactor, which will perform anonymization by blurring the faces of selected individuals, and is ideal for use in public safety and news media scenarios," wrote Sudheer Sirivara, partner director at Microsoft Azure Media and Azure CDN Services, in a blog post. Building on Azure Media Analytics face-detection capabilities, the technology will enable law enforcement organizations and news outlets to process large volumes of footage gleaned from body cams, surveillance cameras and other sources.

To help video production companies keep their cloud storage costs in check, Microsoft announced that media workflows now support Azure Cool Storage. The company unveiled the new storage option earlier this year, touting it as a low-cost alternative (as low as a penny per gigabyte) to placing object data on fast, higher-performance tiers of Azure storage.

For commercial streaming services, Microsoft provides a dynamic encryption service enabling multi-DRM (digital rights management) scenarios. Providers can encrypt streams on-the-fly, of both the video-on-demand and live varieties, and target multiple DRM schemes. Azure Media Services supports three major DRM license delivery models, including Google Widevine, Apple FairPlay, and of course, Microsoft PlayReady.

Finally, the company announced the general availability of the new Azure Media Services management experience. Integrated with the newly streamlined Azure Portal, the new toolset provides all the features of the old portal plus FairPlay DRM support, access to new Media Analytics processors and new live streaming workflow features, said Sirivara. Microsoft plans to shutter the old portal sometime in the future, he added, encouraging customers to check out the new offering.

Microsoft isn't the only company that is beefing its cloud-based content creation and streaming portfolio.

In April, YouTube announced 360-degree live video streaming and spatial audio support. The popular online video site, owned by Alphabet subsidiary Google, first launched 360-degree videos in March 2015.

This summer, YouTube enabled live streaming support on its mobile apps for iOS and Android. The feature, available on YouTube's website since 2011, enables users to broadcast live, as-it-happens footage from wherever they happen to roam.

"YouTube mobile live streaming will be baked right into the core YouTube mobile app," said YouTube's Kurt Wilms, product lead for immersive experiences, in a June 23 announcement. "You won't need to open anything else, just hit the big red capture button right there in the corner, take or select a photo to use as a thumbnail, and you can broadcast live to your fans and chat in near-real time."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...