A technique for transferring data such that it can be processed as a steady and continuous stream. Streaming technologies are becoming increasingly important with the growth of the Internet because most users do not have fast enough access to download large multimedia files quickly. With streaming, the client browser or plug-in can start displaying the data before the entire file has been transmitted.
For streaming to work, the client side receiving the data must be able to collect the data and send it as a steady stream to the application that is processing the data and converting it to sound or pictures. This means that if the streaming client receives the data more quickly than required, it needs to save the excess data in a buffer. If the data doesn't come quickly enough, however, the presentation of the data will not be smooth.
There are a number of competing streaming technologies emerging. For audio data on the Internet, the de facto standard is Progressive Network's RealAudio.
Streaming technology allows you to transmit audio, video and other multimedia over the Internet. Streaming media services such as Video Desk deliver audio and video without making the viewer wait tediously to download files. As your computer plays the media file, it continues to download and buffer additional content from the streaming server. Playing and downloading happen at the same time. This process is almost invisible to the viewer except for a short period of initial buffering.
The Need For Streaming Media
The Internet is basically a "packet-pusher". When you send an e-mail or open a web page, a server receives your "packet" (request for information), pushes that information you asked for out of the door as fast as it can, completes the transaction, disconnects, and goes on to requests by other users. Your web browser takes the information it receives, displays it on the screen, and then waits for your next request (for instance, clicking on a link).
This kind of packet-pushing functionality works very well for transferring graphics and text but transmitting video and sound this way is problematic. With the packet-pushing approach, a web user would need to download the entire video clip before it can be viewed. With a large file size, the wait can become unbearable.
The goal of streaming media is to work around the bandwidth limitations of the Internet. Using almost proprietary technologies, data is fed to the user continuously while the media is being played. This technology uses a continuous connection, like the one required for watching TV or listening to the radio. Your computer receives the video or audio just before you see or hear it. You do not need to completely download your media before being able to view it.
An Edge Over Conventional Media
Streaming Media provides six distinct advantages over conventional media files:
# View In Real Time
# Faster Views over the Internet
# Protection against media piracy
# See who's watching your videos
# Control over user's viewing experience
# Easy to monetize your media content
View In Real Time:
Streaming Media allows users to view media almost in REAL TIME. There is only an initial, negligible waiting period as the file is buffered. This is much better than viewing audio/visual content in the conventional manner, where all the media must be downloaded by the viewer completely before viewing it. Visitors do not need to wait for files to download before viewing them. This is very important since most video and multimedia files are large and require a long time to download. This problem is completely eliminated with Streaming Media as streamed files are not downloaded to the user's computer.
Faster Views over the Internet:
The most obvious advantage that a streamed video file enjoys over conventional video is speed. Streaming Media takes the wait out of hearing audio or viewing video and animation over the Internet. A streaming video does not need to be downloaded before it can be viewed. The file begins playing on the viewer's computer almost instantly, as soon as the viewer clicks on a link and requests it. Non-streaming formats such as WAV, AVI and MPG have to be downloaded completely to the client computer before they can be played. You can convert most audio and video files to streaming format by using tools such as Video Caster.
Protection against media piracy:
Media piracy is a global epidemic! Conventional media is very vulnerable to unauthorized duplication and editing because it is easily downloadable. Viewers can easily download an AVI, MPG or WMA file, and duplicate it, edit it, or redistribute it without your permission or knowledge. Streaming media provides a much higher level of security for your content and can help protect content owners' rights. Streamed files play over the Internet without being downloaded to viewers' computers. This makes them less susceptible to unauthorized duplication or tampering.
Track your audiences:
Video Desk is a video and audio streaming service. Video Desk's "Media Reports" give you detailed information about who is viewing your files, the number of times a file is requested, the average duration for which the viewers are playing the file, the total duration of each clip and the total amount of data transferred per clip. This helps you determine whether your media is reaching the intended target audience or not. It also helps you judge your audience's tastes and create media that appeals to them.
Control over user's viewing experience:
Streaming media gives you better control over the your viewers' experience. For example, Video Desk's playlist feature links multiple video files in sequence. Your viewers click a single link to play all the files in the order you chose. This lets you showcase multiple videos without actually combining them into a single, large file.
You also have a choice of various "skins", which you can apply to your viewers' media players. A skin is an coordinated set of graphics and buttons that give a specific appearance to the web player. You can use a colorful "Festive" skin when streaming the video of your child's birthday party, and opt for a more formal "Corporate" skin to stream a business presentation. You can also customize the quality of your media depending upon the Internet connection your viewers have.
Monetize your content:
Unlike conventional downloaded media, which is vulnerable to copying and manipulation, streaming media never gets saved as a file on the viewer's computer. Streaming technology pre-empts much piracy, misuse, unauthorized access, etc.
Requirements For Playing Streaming Media
To play streaming media, your browser must have a player like Windows Media Player (that comes pre-installed on all Windows PCs). Newer versions of the Widows Media Player can also be downloaded for free. If the streaming media contains sound (audio) then your computer should also have a sound card and speakers. A faster Internet connection will allow the playing higher-quality audio and video streams.
Quality vs. Quickness
People often criticize the quality of streaming media. They compare the video quality of a streamed file to that of a television program. But streaming media is not primarily about quality, it's about access. Imagine being able to simply click a link in your email program to see a 30-minute video clip of your grandchild who lives on the other side of the planet. When you click that link and see the video instantly, you feel the power of streaming technology.
The quality of streaming media is editable. If your viewers have a high-bandwidth connection to the Internet, you may encode your video and audio for a higher quality. If your viewers have a slow connection to the net, then you will need to encode your media files at a slower speed so that they play smoothly.
Cable modems and DSL lines provide a high speed connection to the net. This makes high-quality streaming media a very real option. Advances in compression technology, which allow higher-quality video and audio to be sent using the same bandwidth, have also contributed to improvements in media quality. Encoding Media Files
The process of converting the format of a normal media file into a streaming format is called encoding. Encoding gets a media file ready to be streamed by a streaming server such as Video Desk. The encoder is a program that you use to take a file and processes it to streaming media format. Every clip, or every stream in a clip, is encoded for a specific bit-rate. The higher the resolution, the more information a stream has, and higher the bandwidth needed to get all the information through to you at a useable speed.
The bandwidth available from your internet connection (modem / LAN) has a maximum set limit. Streaming Media content providers need to encode their media to handle a variety of bandwidths so as to be able to reach a wider cross-section of viewers. A high-quality encoding application such as Video Caster allows you to encode the same media file for many different internet connection speeds. A higher bandwidth allows more information to be displayed and gives the viewers a better media experience, just like a large-format negative yields a larger, sharper photograph. Most streaming media players use buffering to overcome minor slowdowns on the Internet.
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