A while back, I wrote about Raystream's new technology that is set to revolutionize the online video industry, or is it? I sent them a 271MB video file and asked them to do that voodoo that they do to it and send it back. Might the stuff they sent back surprise everyone that reads this, and shake the foundations of online video? Read on for my massive in-depth look at it.

I've been sitting on these video files trying to pick them apart for maybe a week and a half. I've loaded up the original and the Raystream versions of the files and played them for friends and family and asked them to pick which was which. I've nabbed some frames from the videos and compared them in quality and even had TechnoDad (that's my father) come by and check out the videos with me (you might recall he's the one with the massive media PC that runs his whole entertainment system, so he watches a lot of video and still has a pretty keen eye). Sure, he might not be an industry expert, and that's why I asked him. He's not burdened with terms like transcoding, proprietary algorithms, compression techniques, video containers and the like. He's an average consumer of video entertainment.

The results? Oh I'll get to that. First I've got to build the suspense right?

The Raystream History

Raystream have been making some pretty big claims about their technology stating things like they can crush a video file to a fraction (up to 70% smaller) of its original size with no loss of data, well, with some loss of data but that data loss in imperceptible to the average video viewer (hence TechnoDad's inclusion).  My previous article on them (Raystream Says They Can Reduce HD Video Streaming Bandwidth up to 70%) was met with some heated debate about the company and the claims. You can bet that I was skeptical, I'm skeptical of all sorts of things and with my hard science background, I have to take my time and a methodical approach to things.

Some of the comments on the last article attacked Raystream for a variety of reasons and some others simply seemed to not understand what it is they are offering.

To date, I've not actually seen any of their tech, just the results and I have to say I was surprised.

The Raystream Results

The reason I haven't seen their tech is because it amounts to a proprietary compression algorithm that, from what I understand, repacks the data in the file to reduce file size. Along with that the compression does lose some data but I was hard-pressed to even see where that might have been for the most part.

So I did what every scientific mind would do when faced with dubious results, I attempted to recreate their results with the tools I had available to me. First I looked at the file properties of the original and the file they sent me. The first thing you'll notice is the drastic reduction in video encoding bitrate roughly 1/10th of the original. The audio encoding was also cut down to about 1/4th of the original.

The file size also dropped drastically, as one would expect when cutting out that much information, from 264MB to 21.7MB.

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? file props rays orig1 606x524

So I took all this and I dropped it into a custom encoding profile for Sorenson Squeeze 7 which I have. I took the original file and I transcoded it to MPEG-4 with those settings (to match the Raystream file). They also sent me an .M4V and a WebM file as well, all the same size. I figured if I could reproduce the quality in Sorenson Squeeze 7 with one format then I should be able to do so with the others as well. I did match their filesize almost perfectly. My audio was encoded at 96kbps (a preset value) which accounts for the file size difference below.

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? filesizes

You can see the original at the top, my transcoded version at the bottom and theirs in the middle. So I was able to match their file size fairly closely. But what about the quality? Well, pictures are worth more than words and especially in this case. Check it out below.

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? comparison mine rays 606x299

HOOEY! Mine is FUGLY! Click that image to get a closer look but it's really easy to see how washed out the colors are and how blocky and chunked up it is. That's just gross and reminds me of the early days of online video, right. So I tried again with Apple's H.264 codec with a multi-pass transcode. The multipass combs the file several times instead of just once, writes info to a log and tries to find the best way to encode within the bitrate specifications. I was able to squeeze out an 11.7MB file, however, the quality wasn't the same. At first glance you might be fooled into thinking it is, but click the image and look closer, especially at the background and then you'll start to see the real differences even in the foreground.

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? comparison appleh264multi pass rays 606x232

The tragic data loss occurs when you look at that golden dome in the background and that leads your eyes to the brickwork in that building then to the brickwork in the darker building in front of it and finally to the detail in the clothing and finally the spear tip.

But what about Raystream compared to the original? Well, I've got that right here for you.

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? side by side comp raystream orig 606x246

On the left, to demonstrate, I blew up the Raystream encoded frame versus the original on the right. I was examining the artifacts around the cloth and there actually seems to be less than the original. But you might be skeptical from that comparison, so here are the same frames at the same size. I won't tell you which is which right away so you can try to decide for yourself.

Here's the right half of the frames (click before reading on):

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? comp orig vs rays 1 606x339

Click that one and get a good look. If you've been doing it as long as I have been now for this article you should easily be able to pick out some flaws. Alright are you ready?

Now here's the left half of the frames:

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? comp orig vs rays 2 606x336

Yep, the one on the right in both images is the Raystream one. It took some time for me to find some appreciable data loss in these. In the first set look at the boarded up windows center top. Also, in this particular frame, his helmet is chopped. I saw this happen with his feet as well in another frame on the Raystream encode as if it was updating those pieces slightly later. In the second ones you can clearly see the Raystream watermark. Just below there in that wooden window it seems some detail is lost in the grain of the wood. There's also some smoothing in the brickwork below that and in the ground textures. But again, at first glance, it's hard to see it.

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The Verdict

I'll tell you this; when I first started this project, I could barely tell the difference. The same went for TechnoDad until I pointed out some things to him. Others were equally impressed with the quality of the transcode and about 50% picked the Raystream version as the original. I chalk that up to the smoothing that seems to have made some of the textures in the video more aesthetically pleasing to the eye or rather, which are nicer when the brain processes the image.

To get that level of quality in a file that's about 8.2% of the original file size, well, that's damned impressive if you ask me. I even did another test with the Apple H.264 codec and a multi-pass transcode. I tried to hit the file size dead on which meant I had some bitrate to play with in this transcode. So I doubled the bitrate and left everything else the same and these are the results:

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? comparison AppleH264 doublebitrate vs rays 606x253

and the other half (pay close attention to the stonework in the tower and the dome:

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? comparison AppleH264 doublebitrate vs rays 2 606x382 In both of the images above, the Raystream video is on right, mine is on the left. I did not switch them around, and why would I? I've got nothing to gain here, this was all in the name of science and perhaps myth busting. This video was 1280x720 and there is noticeable difference in the quality, imagine what the quality difference would be in 1080i.

We're all in the business of online video and that means trying to put forth the absolute best image we can for our videos but bandwidth costs are climbing, metered Internet connections might be on the way and that will all cut into out bottom line one way or another. While online video might be in its heyday right now, there are dark clouds on the horizon in regards to some recent legislation and FCC decisions all of which could spell the end of unmetered broadband. Wouldn't it be awesome if you could cut down the bandwidth of your video by 80%? Even 50% would be fantastic and 20% would probably make heads turn. There have been numerous reports spouting off how online video is clogging the Intertubes and that it will cause the utter collapse of all data transmission by 2015 (pfft...who reported that? Fox news?). Raystream is able to give great quality for a fraction of the file size. That means far less file storage space and far less bandwidth to stream that video. It means mobile video could be improved drastically and quality improved as well.

Is Raystream the best available solution? I'm not qualified to say because I haven't tested them all (if you want me to test yours, email me (crick [at] reelseo.com) and I'll be more than happy to compare it. Is Raystream a quality solution? Hell yes. After seeing all of this and looking at all the files I transcode for Gamers Daily News, I wish I could use their solution for all my videos because it would save enormous amounts of space and bandwidth and probably even boost our adoption of HTML5 and increase our video views because serving more video and using less bandwidth is the dream but the quality vs. buffering and bandwidth is a hard equation to balance.

My Final Thoughts

Raystream crushed my transcodes even when I doubled up the bitrate for that last one. The level of detail in theirs compared to even what I managed in that last one is amazing. The colors are more vibrant, the stonework is more detailed and even the golden dome looks better in theirs. Obviously I was able to get close to their results after some testing, but I could not manage to duplicate them exactly.

My Methodology

I know, I know, I harp on everyone about their methodology, so if I'm going to do something like this I have to be clear about mine as well. So here you go.

All of the transcodes here were done on my Intel second generation i7-2600K with 4GB of RAM and the Sorenson Squeeze app was able to access my EVGA GeForce GTX580 1536MB GDDR5 graphics card since it's a CUDA processor with 512 cores. So that made all the transcodes ultra-fast which really make me happy since I just bought all of that about a month or two ago. The beautiful thing was that it never topped over 26% CPU usage or more than 2.4GB of RAM usage.

I used Sorenson Squeeze 7 for the transcoding with custom profiles based on the bitrates in the Raystream encoded files (see first image), except for the final test I did where I doubled the video bitrate on that one to get a comparable file size.

The original transcode used these settings:

Putting Raystream To The Test, Does it Stand Up to Its Claims? transcode settings1 606x726

Apple H.264 with multi-pass transcoding settings:

My final test, doubled up bitrate with the Apple H.264 multi-pass transcode to attempt to match file size and quality. File size ended up at 21.5MB, just short of theirs.

The file I used was for Assassin's Creed Revelations from Ubisoft and was titled Secrets of Abstergo Vignette. It was a promotional piece I had on hand and chose it based on the complexity of the textures in the CGI, the file size and the amount of action in the video. Plus, it's a badass game franchise, which had no bearing on the decision actually. The original encoding properties of that file are in the first image in this article.

All example images were screen shots edited in MS Paint for cropping. The videos were played in Media Player Classic - Home Cinema (sourceforge). You already have the tech specs on my PC.

If you made it this far, kudos to you for checking my methodology! Any questions?

  • John Barron

    Raystream provides a service as well as a product; and while the product may only be slightly superior to others it is still better and the service has value. Those that are in short positions should cover now because my prediction is that Raystream will go up sooner then later. I am in a long position.

  • Frank Hill Remax


  • KellyandSachiko Mckenzie

    Taking a look at the screenshot with the detailed information of the files, I noticed that the created and modified dates are new on the Raystream file. If that is correct, how were you able to compress a file that was not yet created?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=407967 Ryan Morris

    Why do you not post the actual raystream file? Screenshots are great but just give us the actual file to watch and see the thing in action - could you send me the file please, I'm interested in being a customer.



  • noel mcdermott

    i am an EE with a strong communications background and when i see a claim like raystream's i am reminded of the Shannon Hartley law, which is a mathematical expression that states how much information you can get over so much bandwidth in a given time.

    so if they don't break the law, then how do they do it...one way is to use an old technology known as delta modulation (an analog thing , but applies to digital as well)...the idea is ....once you get the image up, why retransmit the whole thing...just transmit the parts that move...

    the needed bandwidth would typically be much smaller


    ps i don't think raystream has anything that is proprietary, or even new

  • http://www.reelseo.com/author/christophor-rick/ Christophor Rick

    You're missing the point of it which is that the Raystream video is probably 1/4 or less of the original. Tom says they look the same which is great, but how fast does the Raystream one stream to you versus the other? If you're using a CDN then you're paying for storage space and bandwidth. If you can have the same quality of video but pay far less for storage and bandwidth you save money and can increase your users and content catalog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=626757745 Nick Hope

    Also, you can get more info about files such as these by using the free "Mediainfo" app. For example in "Text" or "Tree" mode you can see info such as which x264 parameters were set (if that was the underlying encoder e.g. Facebook videos). I recommend allowing it to install on the context menu.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=626757745 Nick Hope

    At a glance, it looks to me like the "washed out colors" are simply because that version is at TV levels (16-235), while the Raystream one is at computer levels (0-255). TV levels are what you want if it's going to get served up in Adobe Flash Player (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo etc.), since 16-235 will get mapped to 0-255 (in the vast majority of playback scenarios). Anything outside of 16-235 in the Raystream version will get clipped during playback to flat black or flat white. i.e. Loss of detail and too much contrast.

  • Tom

    Those two trailers look the same. Why pay for something you don't need.. good call.

  • http://www.iplayerhd.com Wes Moore

    iPlayerHD would consider using Raystream's encoding technology if we were convinced they have a better solution. We've created a page where you may compare two videos, one encoded using Raystream and the other using our existing encoding technology. Watch and compare. Tell us what you think. http://www.iplayerhd.com/player/raystream.aspx

  • Megaris

    Dear friend,

    I explain you, how everybody can EXACTLY reproduce the encoding done by Raystream.

    1) Download the free and open source software x264 from http://x264.nl or http://www.videolan.org/developers/x264.html (depending on your OS)

    2) Encode you video with the following options:
    x264 -o encoded_video.avi --me umh --merange 18 --trellis 2 --b-adapt 0 --crf 26.0 --qcomp 0.70 --qpmin 10 --qpmax=51 --qpstep=3 --ipratio=1.41 YOURVIDEO.MOV

    That's all! If you aren't yet convinced, open the video compressed by Raystream with an hex editor and search for the string "videolan.org".

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  • Megaris

    Not able to completely recreate what they did?
    Are you sure? Did you read this article:

    Secondly, if you ask the lead developer of x264 Jason Garret-Glaser, you can learn how any codec can be reverse-engineered.

    Could you please disclose if you received a compensation from Raystream or if they sponsor in some way ReelSEO?


  • Anonymous

    Considering that this a publicly traded company (RAYS), what is your disclosure? Shame on you for not mentioning it. Have you been compensated by RAYS to write this?

    Anyways, there are several H.264 implementations, each of which has a lot of different options that can strongly influence the final result in terms of video clarity (for example an option may favor the fluidity in the motion, an other the clarity of colors and so on...)

    Without having the video files is not possible to reproduce the author's claims. The article is very far from a methodologically correct comparison.

    • Christophor TheAuthor Rick

      If I had been compensated for that article it would have been clearly stated at the beginning, since I did not, it is evident that I have not been compensated for it. Why are you hiding behind some fairly anonymous login and casting aspersions on them and on me? If you are so interested in them, then perhaps you should do your own research and article with them. I used two different H.264 codecs in the article as clearly stated. "Methodologically correct"? According to my methodology, which is clearly stated in the article, the findings are correct. Since I cannot dissect their file, because there is security in place to prevent that, I have done the best I could do with the tools available. You seem to just be some troll that is angry with Raystream for some reason but are using the anonymity of the internet to hide your identity. Perhaps a fired employee, or a competitor.

      • Truth ever wins

        "Perhaps a fired employee, or a competitor."... or somebody who told the truth, while you are an incompetent technical writer.
        Now that RAYS trades at $0.0007 it's clear to everyone that their "breakthrough video compressing technology" was nothing.

    • Christophor TheAuthor Rick

      I bet this is actually the same troll from the last article I wrote about the company.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=158098387629798 Z S

      Christophor TheAuthor Rick Christophor TheAuthor Rick . It's not your fault that you are oblivious to the fact that what they have done is not so ground breaking, and are most likely using tech that already exists, and not to mention spending millions pumping their stock. You did not do your homework. Before you stick your foot in your mouth again, don't be so naive. http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/1094311-lucian-gregory/246761-raystream-rays-trying-to-market-essentially-free-techology. Now I am convinced that Raystream is desperate since they just used your run of the mill article to put out a press release!! lololol ha, troll? so 90's and unoriginal.

    • Christophor TheAuthor Rick

      Z S That link is dead it seems, just like your argument.

    • John Barron

      I talked with people at Raystream and they told me several things. One that the code is proprietary in that it has added code that others do not have. Two that currently 30% of the stock is in short positions and those holding the short positions are trying to manipulate the stock. Sounds like Z S is one of those people. I bet he is in a short position as well as others who are running Raystream down. I would also like to point out that they are missing out on another key point and that is the service that Raystreams is providing. What kind of service will companies get with free shit when there is a problem? and I also believe that while Raystreams tech is not much different it is superior to those that are free.

  • http://www.reelseo.com/author/christophor-rick/ Christophor Rick

    The thing about Raystream is that it's a proprietary file compression or organization of data in the file. No matter what I do, I won't be able to completely recreate what they did without their actual technology. That's the whole point of them sending me the file in the format I got it, so I couldn't crack it open, pick through all the details. That's the crux of their technology and that's why some people don't believe them. Like I said in the article, I'm a believer. The quality of that file they sent me is amazing. I did not send them any other files or sources. I don't work with/for them so I don't have complete access to them. I don't work for them, I work for ReelSEO.

  • Amanda Jane Miller

    Hell yeah, check this article out.

  • slappy whitey

    Thanks for taking the time and putting forth the effort to do such a complete job. Thanks also for the details. They really matter. Just a couple questions - Have you tested video from an optical (camera) source? and have you looked at Handbrake | http://handbrake.fr/ | they have a great file analysis tool in their software that should give more granular detail than windows file properties.
    Thanks again. Great work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1568332318 Terri Jones

    Great article on our company's revolutionary technology service!