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A Gentle Introduction to Video Streaming Technology

  • Bhumika Dutta
  • May 12, 2022
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If you are a frequent social media or internet user, you must be familiar with video streaming. In fact, It's reasonable to assume that most of us don't spend a day without watching a video on our phones or computers. While we now take technology for granted, it was not always that straightforward. 

 

As of 2021, video technology has grown enormously in popularity, with no signs of stopping down. With over 82 % (in the United States) owning at least one internet-connected device and 60 percent of adults watching a video on a connected device, it's evident that the great majority of people want an engaging video experience. It has happened especially after the availability of fast internet connection. 

 

Live streaming allows you to hold virtual events and attract spectators from all over the world. We'll go over all you need to know about video streaming technologies in this article.

 

 

What is Video Streaming Technology?

 

A method of delivering video over the Internet is using video streaming technology. The distribution of music and video through the Internet may reach many millions of customers utilizing personal computers, PDAs, mobile cell phones, and other streaming devices thanks to streaming technology.

 

Video streaming protocols follow standardized rules and methods for breaking down video files into smaller chunks and delivering them to the end-user for reassembling and viewing. For transport, the files must be compressed, which is accomplished using a "codec," such as the most used H.264

 

Before the files may be sent, they must be saved in a "container format" such as .mp4 or .avi. In the case of live streaming, the source of the video file could be a broadcaster's camera directly, or static files in the case of video on demand (VoD).

 

Streaming is a completely different concept from downloading videos. Streaming is more efficient than downloading media files since it is done in real-time. When a video file is downloaded, it saves a copy of the full file to the device's hard drive, and the video cannot be played until the complete file is downloaded. 

 

If the video is streamed instead, the browser just plays it rather than copying and storing it. Instead of loading the full file at once, the video loads in chunks, and the information that the browser loads is not kept locally.


 

How does Video Streaming Technology work?

 

The technology of online video streaming is still being perfected. However, the technology that is now available is quite strong and allows for live video streaming. Viewers from all over the world can tune in to a single event without ever leaving their homes.

 

Here’s what goes behind online video streaming:

 

  1. RAW video is captured by the camera.

  2. The encoder receives video from a capture card or another source.

  3. RAW footage is converted to a digital form by the encoder.

  4. The footage is uploaded to an internet video site.

  5. A content delivery network transports the video from the online video platform to the video player.

  6. The stream is shown on the viewer's internet-enabled device by the video player.

 

Music, video, and other forms of media assets are pre-arranged and sent in consecutive data packets so that they may be streamed instantly. Media files, unlike typical downloads that are saved on your device, are instantly removed once they have been played.

 

Streaming video content distribution may be divided into two categories:

 

  • The viewer may pick what information to watch at any moment with on-demand delivery. Because each player requires a separate network stream, this form of streaming boosts bandwidth expenses. On a regular basis, programmed-time streaming creates a conduit for an audience.

 

  • Media packets must arrive in a timely way for real-time streaming video applications. Packets that are excessively delayed are considered worthless and are viewed as lost. To fulfill time and/or bandwidth limits, streaming technology also expects that some packets would be dropped. The user connection can be tailored to the amount of bandwidth available to the user.

 

Is the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) used for streaming?

 

UDP is used by some streaming technologies, whereas TCP is used by others. UDP and TCP are both transport protocols, which means they're used to move data packets across networks. Both are used in conjunction with the Internet Protocol (IP). Before transmitting data, TCP establishes a dedicated connection and ensures that all data packets arrive in the correct order. UDP, in contrast to TCP, does neither of these things. As a result, TCP is more reliable, yet data transmission via UDP takes less time than data transmission via TCP, though some packets are lost in the process.

 

If TCP is analogous to a package delivery service that requires the recipient to sign for the package, UDP is analogous to a package delivery service that puts packages on the front porch without knocking on the door to obtain a signature. TCP delivery loses fewer packages, while UDP delivery is faster because packages can be delivered even if no one is home to sign for them.



Also Read | 5 Major Types of Blockchain Protocols

 

Different Types of Video Streaming Technology:

 

To produce a smooth streaming experience, several forms of video streaming technologies are combined. 

 

Streaming protocols, codecs, video players, and content delivery networks are the four primary categories of streaming technology. Each of these essential components works in tandem to send video from one location to another.


 

  1. Streaming Protocols:

 

Streaming protocols are standardized ways to send media over the internet. They break down large amounts of data into little portions that may be sent via a variety of internet connections. 

 

Protocols are vital in broadcasting because they transport content from one place to another throughout the video streaming process. For live streaming, there are numerous video streaming protocols to consider. Let's take a look at some of the most popular ones today.

 

  • HLS:

 

One of the most essential protocols in streaming nowadays is HTTPS Live Streaming (HLS). Apple created this protocol to interact with the HTML5 video player. It's utilized to get material from the content delivery network to the player in front of the user. 

 

HLS may also be used to ingest media from an encoder to an online video platform, but because HLS encoders aren't as common as RTMP encoders, HLS delivery is usually combined with RTMP intake.

 

  • RTMP:

 

Another key protocol used by broadcasters nowadays is the Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP). This was originally designed to send material to Adobe's Flash player, but with that video player's demise, it has taken on a new function in streaming. 

 

This protocol is currently used for RTMP intake. That is, it sends movies from the encoder to an internet video platform or straight to a content delivery network. Low-latency streaming and inexpensive RTMP encoders are two advantages of RTMP.

 

  • RTSP:

 

The Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) is a lesser-known protocol that is crucial. It's commonly mixed up with RTMP, although they're not the same thing. RTSP is a protocol that allows the user to send commands to the video player. 

 

It informs the video player when the user clicks Play, Pause, Fast-Forward, and other in-player controls, for example. RTSP is also useful since it allows users to watch videos before they are entirely downloaded. This improves the viewing experience by eliminating the need for them to wait for their selected material to play.

 

  • MPEG-DASH:

 

MPEG-DASH is an open-source streaming technology comparable to HLS in form. This standard is notable for being the first to offer adaptive bitrate streaming. This enables viewers to instantly receive a broadcast of the highest quality for their internet connection. 

 

That way, folks with slower internet won't have to deal with a lot of latency and buffering. MPEG-DASH is commonly associated with streaming protocols, however, it really relies on TCP, which is a separate protocol. This standard is gradually acquiring acceptance from related technology, increasing its compatibility.


 

  1. Codecs:

 

When you capture a video with a camera, the RAW video files are made up of hundreds of still frames that combine to create the fluid motion we recognize as video. However, because these files are large, they cannot be streamed. 

 

They must first be transformed into a digital format before they can be streamed. Stills that are duplicates and judged superfluous are thrown out or compressed for transfer in order to convert videos into digital files. The technology that allows this to happen is called a codec, which is a portmanteau for "coder-decoder."

 

A codec essentially compresses the video files it receives and transmits them from one point in the streaming process to the next. To make it easier for them to go via the internet, they keep their content concise. "Encoders" are the tools that utilize codecs. There are both hardware and software encoders, and we'll go over them in more detail later.


 

  1. Video Players:

 

A video player is a piece of user-facing software that allows viewers to watch a video stream. Adobe's Flash player was once the industry standard, but it has now become obsolete due to its incompatibility with mobile streaming.

 

Since then, the HTML5 video player has established itself as the industry standard. Apple created this video player to facilitate mobile video streaming. The HTML5 video player is compatible with virtually any internet-connected device, including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and game consoles. HTML5 is also supported by the vast majority of browsers and OS systems. HTML5 video players are extremely safe and configurable, in addition to being ultra-compliant. HTML5 is the standard for most live streaming systems because it provides so many advantages for broadcasters.

 

  1. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs):

 

A content delivery network (CDN) is a collection of servers strategically located across a geographic region to provide high-quality material to locations far from the source of the stream. The streaming CDN operates by sending content to a network of servers. Video players connected to the internet video platform allow users to choose the content they want to watch. The CDN will then reroute the request from the originating site's server to a CDN server nearest to the user, which will then deliver the cached material.

 

Content may be delivered faster by placing servers closer to both the originating point and the destination. Many broadcasters use CDNs through relationships made through their online video platform of choice.

 

Also Read | Difference Between Encryption and Decryption
 

 

Factors you should consider while selecting a Video Streaming Protocol:

 

The choice of video streaming protocol is based on a few important variables that may be unique to a company's requirements. You may want to guarantee that you reach the largest potential audience or that latency is kept to a minimum. 

 

Alternatively, the streams' security and privacy may be more essential to you. Here's a rough strategy for making a decision based on these considerations.

 

  1. If you want your streaming material to reach the biggest potential audience, choose one that is compatible with most devices, platforms, and browsers. In this scenario, HLS is probably the best option, and it can even be set as the default solution when in doubt.

 

  1. Although HLS has the broadest reach for streaming, it is known to cause considerable latency during playback. Although RTMP streams have low latency, they are not compatible with HTML5 video players. WebRTC provides real-time latency whereas SRT provides reduced latency streaming. However, if you choose one of these two, keep in mind that you may be limiting your reach because they aren't as widely supported in the streaming technology market.

 

  1. If the safety of your streams on their route to the end-user is your primary concern, use a protocol that includes security safeguards. Secure streaming is provided by most protocols, including the commonly used HLS standard, however, SRT is the protocol with the finest security and privacy capabilities.

 

  1. Adaptive bitrate, as previously mentioned, enables the best possible video experience regardless of the end-network user's capability, device, or software. If this is a priority for our streaming requirements, HLS and MPEG-DASH are protocols that support it.

 

  1. Last but not least, consider the costs connected with implementing the protocol and whether they are within your budgetary constraints. Protocols that leverage HTTP web servers, such as HLS and MPEG-DASH, are generally more cost-effective than traditional protocols since they eliminate the technical difficulty of development and setup.


 

Conclusion:

 

Video technology is always changing to keep up with consumer demand and individual and organizational inventiveness. Today, we're seeing the rise of new virtual (video-based) social interactions, quicker content delivery procedures, and services that provide the highest-quality content to any device with almost any bandwidth. This blog post served as an introduction to video streaming technologies.

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