Streaming media online is now a part of our daily lives in the 21st Century. From traditional media titans like the news and cable networks, to new media upstarts like YouTube and Netflix, streaming media content via video-on-demand services or personal video recorders is big business. Modern consumers expect their entertainment to be delivered immediately, and on demand and live event streaming are no exceptions. With readily available technologies, Media Providers, Businesses, Universities, Houses of Worship and anyone else who has a message to deliver has turned to online streaming. Sound easy enough? Not really! Read on to learn about how streamed media is delivered to your device.
What is online streaming and how does it work? Streaming refers to the process through which media – be it audio, video, closed captioning or real-time text – are delivered to an end-user over the internet. This online delivery process allows the media to be viewed before the entirety of its content data has been delivered. Central to this process is encoding and compression, the methods which allow the content data to take a smaller form to help ease delivery. This encoding and compression is achieved through the use of codecs, the most common of which currently in use is H.264. This codec, generally a standalone piece of hardware, allows for an easier transmittal from the server to the end-user’s device. The codec is fed media content in the form of digital files by a connected computer and/or media player which it then encodes and converts for transmission. After the file has been properly encoded, it can be uploaded to a server for delivery to the end-user at the time of their choosing. Provided that a content delivery network is available for distribution and delivery of the media, the end user can log on to the correct website to view the content on demand.
Another popular technology is real time delivery of content over the internet, i.e., live streaming. In addition to a streaming encoder, a camera equipped with proper audio capture equipment is required. If more than one camera is desired, video switching equipment will be needed to process the feed from the various cameras as well as to facilitate the transitions between them. Multiple microphones and an audio mixer may also be required to ensure that all participants are properly heard by the viewers of the streaming media. A dedicated technician operating and managing the video and audio mixers is desired for a more consistent, high quality production. If there are limited numbers of cameras and microphones in use for the live stream, a dedicated hardware-based control system operated from a touch panel could be used in place of an operator.
Streaming online content can open up a world of possibilities and knowledge but the behind-the-scenes technology can be quite complex. A well designed streaming content system enables a direct method to connect to people over the internet, while managing the necessary technologies and allowing the content to shine through to the viewer, wherever in the world they may be.