Transcoding with AWS- part one

Setting up Django app to work with AWS

Posted on Sun 04 December 2016

Nowadays moving everything to the cloud becomes more and more popular. A lot of software companies move their technology stack to such infrastructure. One of the biggest players in this field is Amazon Web Services - AWS. That's why I decided decided to adapt existing code from my previous project and move transcoding to write blog posts about that. In this series I process to cloud.

Overview of series

I decided to adapt code from my previous blog series about celery and rabbit-mq. I did that because code from this django application actually transcodes mp3 files to other formats. This series will be divided into these parts:

  • Moving static and media files to AWS
  • Transcoding files inside AWS transcoder
  • Notifying user that transcode is complete
  • User downloads transcoded file

Moving static and media files to AWS

AWS transcoder operates only on files that are inside S3 bucket so first I need to change how these files are served in django.

Let's say that I already had my account on AWS. Next step is to generate specific account using IAM. While creating a user I want to give him access to AWS S3:

Policy for IAM user

and after I download its credentials I can create S3 container - I have chosen Ireland because with Frankfurt I have a problem with uploading files to S3. After bucket creation, it's time to add policy. The policy is basically JSON that tells AWS which user can access given bucket. More information about that can be found here. Adding policy is quite simple from S3 management view:

Policy for S3 bucket

This policy looks like this:

      "Version": "2008-10-17",
      "Statement": [
                      "Sid": "PublicReadForGetBucketObjects",
                      "Effect": "Allow",
                      "Principal": {
                              "AWS": "*"
                      "Action": "s3:GetObject",
                      "Resource": "AWS_RESOURCE"
                      "Effect": "Allow",
                      "Principal": {
                              "AWS": "AWS_PRINCIPAL"
                      "Action": "s3:*",
                      "Resource": [

Where AWS_PRINCIPAL is your IAM user in format of ARN resource: "arn:aws:iam::AMAZON_ID:user/IAM_USER" and AWS_RESOURCE: arn:aws:s3:::S3_BUCKET_NAME/*.

As I have this set up right now I can make changes in the application itself. To use S3 as a static and media files container I used django-storages. To make django-storages to work I have to add couple things in

import environ
env = environ.Env()

  # other applicaitons

    'Expires': 'Thu, 15 Apr 2010 20:00:00 GMT',
    'Cache-Control': 'max-age=86400',
AWS_S3_HOST = ''

I'm using here another package called django-environ. It allows me to get certain settings from environmental variables. I'm setting them in my virtualenvwrapper script inside $ENV_PATH/bin/postactivate:

export AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID='key'
export AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY='acces_id'

The last line with AWS_S3_HOST is really important here as boto - client that django-storages use underneath to connect to AWS doesn't have default region set up. If this is not specified I upload files with redirection which don't allow to transfer static files or upload any large media file.

As I have AWS settings set up there is time to change static files settings in

STATICFILES_STORAGE = 'audio_transcoder.storages.StaticStorage'
  os.path.join(BASE_DIR.root, 'static'),

I add custom StaticStorage as I want my static files to be under static in S3 bucket:

from django.conf import settings
from storages.backends.s3boto import S3BotoStorage

class StaticStorage(S3BotoStorage):
  location = settings.STATICFILES_LOCATION

To upload my static files I simply run python collectstatic. After a while I can see that my files are in a bucket:

Static files inside S3

Right now when I run my server I can see the location of my static files:

Static files loaded from S3

As static files are working it's high time to use AWS for media files. Right now it's simple - in settings I add:

DEFAULT_FILE_STORAGE = 'audio_transcoder.storages.MediaStorage'

with custom storage:

class MediaStorage(S3BotoStorage):
  location = settings.MEDIAFILES_LOCATION

Now when I upload my mp3 file it's sent directly to S3 bucket under media location:

Media files in S3

That's all for today! In the next blog post, I will write about how to set up AWS transcoder.

Other blog posts in this series:

The code that I have made so far is available on github. Stay tuned for next blog post from this series.

Special thanks to Kasia for being an editor for this post. Thank you.

While creating this blog post I used an excellent tutorial from cactus group.

Cover image by Harald Hoyer under CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

tags: django, aws,

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