OF THE VIDEO STREAMING PROCESS AND IMPLEMENTATION
media is the ability to play audio and video files from the Internet
or an Intranet without having to download the entire file. When users access these files over the Internet the media
will stream in real time through the network to the users workstation.
This process is accomplished by taking an audio and/or video source,
encoding it, and finally, storing it on a streaming server for access
over the Internet. This
is not a very technical description nor is this paper meant to be.
The following will give the reader a basic understanding of the
video streaming process and what decisions need to be made to start
begin with, it is assumed that the audio and video sources already
exist. The source may
exist on videotape, audiotape, a video or media server, another
storage device, or it can be a live source.
In order to implement media streaming the first thing that
needs to be discussed are the components that are needed.
These components include hardware, software and a connection to
the Internet or Intranet. A
typical streaming media platform would include the encoding station,
encoding software, streaming server, streaming server software, and
the facility backbone (connection).
encoding station is the computer where the audio and video is encoded
(input) and manipulated in the computer. The encoding station is
basically a computer with a video and audio capture card and the
necessary encoding software loaded into it.
Encoding stations come in a wide variety of choices.
Many manufacturers supply turnkey encoding stations or they can
be built from the ground up using components supplied by various
manufacturers. The Clarinet, made by Chyron, is an example of a
turnkey system. The Clarinet will encode audio and video and output to Real,
Microsoft, and eventually Apple streaming formats.
it is decided that an encoding station will be built from the ground
up, many decisions will need to be made on the types of hardware and
software that will be integrated.
The first decision should be on the type of software platform
that will be used for both encoding and streaming. The encoding
software platform is directly related to the streaming server software
platform so it is wise to decide what streaming software will be used
in conjunction with the encoding software.
This will insure against any compatibility issues.
The encoding and streaming server software can be either
Windows or Mac based. Unix platforms are also available. Once the software format is determined then the hardware
components that will make up the encoding station can be determined.
The software manufacturer can provide a list of compatible
a computer platform of Windows
or Mac based is determined then
the encoding media format can be determined.
The encoded media format is based on which streaming software
manufacturer is selected. The
three main encoding formats are from Real, Microsoft, and Apple.
The encoding station and streaming server can be one in the
same but it is recommended having a separate server for streaming.
The video streaming software resides on the streaming server
and the encoding software will reside on the encoding station.
The encoding and streaming software must be compatible with the
end users media player.
media player is the software that sits on the end users computer that
gives them the ability to receive and play the streaming media file.
For example, if the media being streamed is using the Real
format, then the end user must have a player that will play this
format. The most popular
players are The Real RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player or Apple
QuickTime Player. In the
past Real, Microsoft, and Apple would only encode and send the
streaming information in their own format.
Fortunately, this has recently changed allowing greater
RealServer 8 can now deliver QuickTime files to QuickTime Players as
well as Real’s own proprietary platform. For simplicity, this paper will only discuss PC based players
and the two most popular are the Real and Microsoft players.
to RealNetworks “88% of Internet Web Sites with Streaming Media use
RealAudio and or RealVideo.”
In order for users to access these streams, a Real Player must
be downloaded and installed on their workstation.
Microsoft, on the other hand, is packaging their media player
with many of their other products and comes as a standard accessory on
most of their operating systems.
Both Real and Microsoft offer the players for free to the end
user so it is a mute point to base a software platform decision on
what the end user has for a player but it still should be a
two most important factors to consider when purchasing streaming
software are price and features but the deciding factor should be how
the software will fit the application.
If it comes down to price being the deciding factor then
Microsoft has an advantage with their Windows Media products.
The Windows Media products are made up of Windows Media Content
Creation Tools for encoding, Windows Media Content Editing Tools for
managing media files, and Windows Media Services for the streaming
server. The cost difference between Microsoft and Real is based on
the number of simultaneous users that can access the streaming
Windows Media Services does not limit the number of simultaneous users
that can access the streaming information while Real puts limits on
offers three server software solutions based on the number of users
that can access the streaming information simultaneously. These include the RealServer Plus, Standard Professional
Solution, and Professional Broadcasting Solution. The basic difference
between the three Real solutions is the price and number of users who
can simultaneously access the streaming media.
With 60 or less simultaneous users RealServer Plus is less than
$3,000.00. To have l00 or
less simultaneous users the Standard Professional Solution is a little
over $8,000.00 and to have 400 or less simultaneous users the price
for the Professional Broadcasting Solution is approximately
$50,000.00. For most
applications, the <60 or <100 simultaneous users are acceptable.
As with Microsoft’s Windows Media Products, Real also offers
RealProducer Plus encoding software, and RealPresenter content
authoring software. Depending
on which Real server software solution is purchased RealProducer and
or Real Presenter may be included.
cost, Real and Microsoft have performance differences also.
These differences need to be looked at closely because one
solution may be better than the other.
This is where technical advisers need to get involved to
determine what requirements are necessary.
It is recommended to contact both Real and Microsoft to see
which solution will best fit the streaming application.
it has been decided whether Real or Microsoft is the best streaming
solution for a particular application then the next factor that needs
to be discussed is whether or not the facility’s backbone can handle
media streaming. If the
backbone in place cannot handle the steaming then a facility may
choose to contract with an ISP (internet service provider) to provide
the necessary bandwidth. Bandwidth
is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a specified time and
is limited by the type of connection that the facility uses to access
the Internet. Typical
connections include fiber, ISDN, T1, T3, DSL, or standard phone lines.
When deciding on the streaming server software, the amount of
bandwidth that will be required to reach multiple end users needs to
be considered. The
streaming software manufacturer can help figure out the type of
connection that will be required for the particular application. If the bandwidth available will not accommodate the amount of
users accessing the media then an ISP can provide the necessary
backbone. For example, if
the streaming server does not have an Internet connection with enough
bandwidth to handle many simultaneous users, then “renting” the
backbone from an ISP is an option.
When this is the case, the streaming media is stored on the
ISP’s streaming server. As
users access these files, their computer will be routed to the ISP’s
server to receive the stream.
doesn’t take much to understand the process of streaming media.
The three basic steps include encoding, storing the media on
the streaming server, and streaming the media over the Internet as
users access it. It also
doesn’t take much to know what components are required to implement
media streaming. They
include the encoding station, encoding software, streaming server,
streaming server software, and required backbone.
The most difficult aspect of the media streaming process is
figuring out how to best achieve the desired results of the
application. With a
little research and knowing where to get answers, a successful system
can easily be implemented.
Introducing Windows Media, Windows Media Components, Windows Media
Technologies 7, Windows Media Encoder 7, Windows Media Format 7,
Features Comparison: Windows Media Technologies vs. Real G2 –
Ltd. The Media
Streaming Handbook. Copyrighted
Streaming Media Buyers Guide, RealSystem 8 Takes Off, RealServer
Professional Comparison Matrix, RealServer 8 Preview – Downloaded
Streaming Media, A Videography Special Report, January 2000