Media Tips, Tricks, and Hints
What is Streaming Media?
Streaming Media is the action of sending encoded (digitized)
audio and/or video data out across the internet as a series
of small data packets that may be viewed by the end user
in a real time fashion through the use of a Media Player.
The data stream is accessed via a Media Player (Windows Media, WinAmp, iTunes, Real, or Quicktime). Essentially
the Media Player captures the data packets (stream of packets)
and places them in their respective order for real time
Where do streams originate?
The audio and/or video input source or file is streamed via either a Hardware or Software Encoder. A hardware Encoder takes input from an external Audio/Video input source, encodes it, and then streams it directly. A Software Encoder
can do the same thing. However, a Software Encoder can encode files being played by an internal (software) player as well. Some can even encode the stream to a local file for archiving.
How is streaming audio/video
different from a "direct" or "progressive" download?
Streaming allows the end user to start viewing an
audio/video file instantaneously once connection to a streaming source or relaying media
server has been made. Streaming allows for the end user to listen to/view online media in real time. A download, on the other hand, requires the end user
to first receive the entire file before viewing actually begins. Downloads can potentially take up hours of your
time, while streaming allows for immediate access.
In other words:
Streaming = put the media on a streaming server, and deliver it to a client which plays the media in real-time from memory.
Direct/Progressive download = put the media on a web based server, and deliver to a client that can play it back (in some cases as it's downloading).
When you deliver media from a web based server, it is downloaded to the client. The web based server will deliver the media as quickly (or slowly) as bandwidth permits.
Some client software will begin playing back the media as soon as enough has been downloaded for smooth playback. On a slow connection, it might have to download the entire file first. On a fast connection, playback might begin immediately. If you had a long piece of media (say 1 hour), and the client only wanted to see the second half (last 30 minutes) they would have to wait for the first 30 minutes to download first.
When you deliver media from a streaming server, the client PC buffers and plays back from its local memory. The connection between server and client must be able to sustain the bit rate that the media is encoded at, otherwise packets may be dropped and quality may suffer (buffering can mitigate some bandwidth fluctuation, but you'll never stream 600 kbit/second media to a client on a 56kbit analog modem). With streaming if you had a long piece of media (say 1 hour), and the client only wanted to see the second half (last 30 minutes) they could just move the play-head to that position. The client and server will re-negotiate and playback will continue from that point in the media. Hinting (such as what is used for streaming QuickTime files) defines how the media will be packetized for delivery by the streaming server.
Why use Streaming Media?
Streaming media is a cost effective solution for multiple
users to access audio and video content on the web in near real-time. Audio and Video files can be digitized to
be accessed by dial-up users and broadband users alike.
Although quality is normally somewhat sacrificed at the lower bitrates, new
technologies are now making higher quality formats available. It also allows your content to reach a global audience without the need for expensive broadcast equipment or facilities.
What do I need to start streaming?
1. First, you must decide what format (Windows Media, MP3, QuickTime, Real Media, etc.) you want to stream in, and what and bitrate (24kbps, 56kbps, 64kbps, etc.) you will want to encode your stream at. Your format choice may be dictated by whether you are streaming audio or video, or whether youo are using a software or hardware based encoder.
2. If you will be using a hardware encoder (Barix, Orban, Digital Rapids, etc.), you'll need to purchase the encoding device and follow the manufacturers instructions for setting it up to stream. If you're going to be using a software encoder, you will need to download the encoding software associated with the format you have chosen. For example, if you chose your format to be Windows Media, you will need to download the Windows Media Encoder. For a list of encoders and where to download them, visit out Encoders page.
3. Then you'll you will want to find a reputable streaming provider that will host your stream. In choosing the provider pay particular attention to their network, their customer support, and their pricing plans. And also find out how responsive they are to potential problems.
And that's pretty much it. Once you've installed your encoder and set up an account with a provider, the provider will send you instructions on how to set up your encoder so that it will work with their servers.
What is a Live
A live Webcast or Stream is very similar to a live broadcast
on your TV. The only difference being that a live Webcast
is broadcast over the Internet. To play a live broadcast
you will need to make sure that your computer is configured
properly to view the online media.