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A pipeline for adaptive bitrate video encoding

I’ve been working on something unusual lately, namely, building a pipeline for encoding video files into formats suitable for HTTP Live Streaming. The actual job of encoding into different formats at different bit rates and resolutions is done using a combination of ffmpeg and x264. To me, the interesting part lies in how we have tried to speed up the process, using the venerable Map-Reduce approach. Before I dive into the details, here’s a quick review of the basic idea of HLS.

Put very simply, adaptive streaming serves video content in multiple qualities, allowing the streaming client choice in selecting which quality to use depending upon the bandwidth constraint on the consumer side. This choice is not a one-time choice, depending upon the encode cut duration, the client can switch to higher or lower resolutions dynamically throughout the entire playback of the video stream.
How is this accomplished?
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