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Posts Tagged ‘progressive download’

Anyone looking for Smooth Streaming should look no further. Mydeo is now capable of dealing with your smooth streaming needs as well as all of the other services that we offer. A great example of this can be found at www.countrybehindthecup.com that is using Mydeo to deliver their videos using Smooth Streaming technology.

Smooth Streaming is an adaptive way of streaming your content over HTTP to make sure that your viewers get the best possible quality video for the internet connection that they have. You will no longer have to cater for the lowest common denominator or have your viewers make a selection of bandwidth before the video starts to play.

 For some more insight into Smooth Streaming visit this page – http://www.iis.net/download/SmoothStreaming

 If you have any questions or would like any more information regarding Smooth Streaming, please do not hesitate to contact us on service@mydeo.com or +44 208 540 2300.

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What is the best Bit-rate for online video?

The main thing to remember when dealing with online video is that the delivery of the video is hugely dependant on the viewer’s internet connection. The slower their internet connection, the lower the quality your video will have to be for them to receive it without any buffering. A standard 2 Mbps connection at full speed will be able to stream a video clip of up to 2 Mbps, however, it is highly unlikely that the connection is going to be running at full speed. There are many factors that affect the speed of a connection – this is why broadband providers say ‘up to 2 Mbps’. If your intention is to get your video out to as many viewers as possible you need to think about the lowest common denominator. ie. ‘What is the slowest connection speed that I am going to have to stream to?’ You also need to think about the lowest quality of the video that is acceptable to you. With both of these in mind, we would suggest a bit-rate between 500 kbps and 750 kbps. This will give you a quality that is acceptable to most people while still being deliverable on slower internet connections.

 

What format should I use?

There are many options when it comes to deciding what format to have your videos in. The decision needs to be made by knowing a little bit about your audience. If you intend to stream to mobile phones, for example, you need to pick a format that the media players on the phones can play. For standard website delivery, however, the choice is much easier. There are three main formats which you could choose from (there are many others available but none are considered standard). These are Flash, Windows Media and QuickTime. Each of these three has their own pros and cons but the main one to look at is market penetration. QuickTime is predominantly an Apple Mac format, meaning that some viewers with windows may not be able to watch your video without installing the software – which could put some users off. The same goes for Windows media and Apple users; they will have to install Windows media player for Apple. Flash has the highest market saturation which means that if you are trying to reach an audience who use both PCs and Macs this will be the best way to go.

 

Should I stream my videos or deliver them over HTTP?

The answer to this question is not as simple as picking one or the other. There is no doubt that streaming a video will save you on bandwidth costs. Having said that, you might have to lower the quality of your video to make sure that it is delivered to all of your viewers properly (especially the ones with slow internet connections). A great article to read which will help you decide is located here http://blog.mydeo.com/2009/01/12/streaming-vs-progressive-download-understanding-the-difference/. A basic rule of thumb is, if you have short video clips HTTP delivery will be fine because even if the whole file is downloaded you bandwidth usage will not be huge. If you have longer clips, streaming may be a better option to save on bandwidth costs.

 

What player should I use?

If you are using Windows media player or QuickTime the answer to this is obvious – Windows media player or QuickTime player. If you have decided to use flash we would suggest a player called FlowPlayer. It is very simple to set up and is fully customisable, and the best part is that it is free to use the open source license and a commercial license is only $95 (at the time of writing this).  They have great tutorials on their site which makes setting it up a breeze. You can find FlowPlayer at http://flowplayer.org.

 

Why do I need a CDN (content delivery network)?

Simply put, a CDN will speed up the delivery of your file, be it video, audio or static content. If you were to put your content on your web server with your website you could risk your files not being delivered to everyone who visits your site. A web server has a finite amount of bandwidth and the further your content has to travel the longer it will take. Let’s assume someone in Australia is trying to view your website which is hosted in the USA. That data has to literally travel across the whole world to get to the users browser. While this may be acceptable for something like HTML files which are small, imagine a video file which is much bigger going all that way. A CDN will deliver your file from its closest node thus speeding up the delivery of your file by limiting its journey. Because the bandwidth is limited on your web server, this means that the more people who are viewing your site the more connections that bandwidth has to be shared by. Eventually there will simply not be enough bandwidth to deliver anything properly to anyone. A CDN not only has much more bandwidth available to it at each node but it is also delivering the file from more than one location, depending on where your viewers are. You can literally have millions of viewers all watching the same video at the same time without the delivery being affected by it.

 

How much bandwidth do I need?

The amount of bandwidth that you will use is determined by three things. The bit-rate (quality) of the file, its length and how many times it is viewed. We have a bandwidth estimator which can help you decide how much you need here https://m3.mydeo.com/Business/plans.aspx . Try not to sign up for an inflexible plan or sign contracts for too long. You might find that your bandwidth requirements change and then you are tied into a contract either paying for more than you need, or over paying because you are using more than your allowance. With an m3 account, you can change plan from month to month meaning that if you expect high traffic for one month only you can commit yourself to a higher bandwidth usage for that month and revert back to a smaller plan from the next month.

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Streaming vs. progressive download: Understanding the difference

One of the most frequently asked questions about delivering video online is – “What’s the difference between streaming video and progressive download?” As a user clicking a video link on a website, you will not often know which delivery method is being used, unless you do some poking around. Although the end result may look the same to the end user, streaming and progressive download are very different delivery methods, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Here we will take a look at the two delivery methods and help you to decide which will work best for you.

Delivering a file via HTTP:

Delivery of a file over HTTP is normally referred to as ‘progressive download’ or ‘http streaming’. In reality, it is not streaming at all but a very simple bulk download of a video file to the end user’s computer. A temporary copy of the video file is then stored on the local computer so that the viewer can watch the file over and over without having to download the file each time.

Let’s assume you have a video file encoded at 500kbps. The server delivering the file does not know or care that your video file is encoded at 500kbps; it simply pushes data to the host machine as quickly as it can. This can sometimes give the illusion that the file is being streamed because playback can start as soon as enough of the file is available on the local machine. This obviously restricts the users from skipping to parts of the file that have not yet been downloaded.

If the bandwidth available to the machine downloading the file is smaller than the encoded bit-rate there may be a wait before the file will start to play. For example, on a 56kbps dial-up modem, trying to play a file that is encoded at 500kbps you may have to wait a fairly long time before enough of the file has been downloaded for it to start playing. On a 500kbps internet connect, or faster, playback should start almost immediately and the file should download faster than it will play, meaning that playback will not have to stop because not enough data has been downloaded.

HTTP(Hypertext transport protocol) operates over TCP(Transport control protocol) which controls the actual transport of the packets over the network. TCP is optimized for guarantee of delivery, regardless of file format or size. If a packet is skipped during the transfer of a file, it will request a resend of that packet. Resend requests take time and bandwidth and could increase the load on the server. TCP is not designed for efficient real time delivery or careful bandwidth control, but for accurate and reliable delivery of every bit.

Delivering from a streaming server:

Effectively, a streaming server is a piece of software which deals with video requests. Unlike a standard web server delivering a video file over HTTP (progressive download), a streaming server opens a conversation with the local machine. There are two sides to this conversation, one is for transferring the video and the other is for control messages between the media player and the server. These control messages include commands such as ‘play’, ‘pause’, ‘stop’ and ‘seek’.

If you have a 56kbps connection, you will not be able to receive a stream encoded at 500kbps; you will have to settle for a lower quality video encoded for 56kbps connections. Streaming does however have many advantages.

1. You can begin video playback at any point of the video, or skip through the video as you see fit. This is very convenient for users.

2. It makes a lot more efficient use of bandwidth as you are only using bandwidth for part of the video that are actually watched as opposed to HTTP delivery where the whole file gets delivered.

3. The video file is not stored on the viewer’s computer – the video data is played and then discarded by the media player. This lets you maintain more control over your content.

Streaming servers use a specific set of protocols to deliver streams, such as RTSP(Real time streaming protocol), RTMP(Real time messaging protocol) and MMS(Microsoft media services). These protocols are all more suited to delivering video streams because they are more focussed with continuous delivery than they are with 100% accuracy. Unlike TCP, they do not send resend requests for missing packets but instead continue with the rest of the video file. The idea is that it is better to have a momentary glitch in audio or video than for the playback to stop altogether and wait for the missing data.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, both streaming and progressive download have their own benefits and limitations. If you are trying to reach viewers with slower connections and need the quality to be high, progressive download would be your best option. On the other hand, if you know that your viewers will all have a fast enough connection to view your stream, you might save on bandwidth by streaming the video. Without knowing who your video will be served to, progressive download will always be a safer option because no matter what connection they have, they will be able to view your video. For live streaming, a streaming server has to be used. This cannot be done over HTTP.

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