Live streaming – Everything you should know
Live streaming has become more common over the last ten years. This is attributable to the quick advancement of the technology that underpins live broadcasting.
Broadcasters across various businesses find value in live streaming because it has many potential applications. This is particularly true given that studies have found that viewers engage with live material many times longer than they would on-demand video. If you are a content person, you can relate to that great feeling of watching your audience consume your very engaging content.
We will begin this discussion by explaining the concept of Live Streaming itself.
What is Live Streaming?
Live streaming is simply sharing video content to viewers at the same time the video recording is happening. Live streaming allows viewers to watch a video in real-time as it gets recorded. To live stream, you will require various streaming devices connected to the internet to deliver live-streamed media to your target consumers. And because live streaming involves large-sized video files, it requires robust and specialized technology.
Globally, live streaming gained more popularity during the Covid-19 years, between 2020 and 2021. Because governments world over restricted movements, event organizers resorted to connecting uniquely with their audiences using live streaming. In summary, live streaming enables groups of people to remain connected. It enables secure communication among people, regardless of barriers like distance, bad weather, or even epidemics.
Is Streaming different from Live Streaming?
Streaming is transmitting video content to viewers over the internet. It could be live or recorded (on-demand). It then follows that Live Streaming is the streaming that is done simultaneously with an ongoing event.
How Live Streaming works
Live streaming works by transmitting video to the viewers, over the internet, in real-time and without latency, using several streaming protocols. HLS, WebRTC, and RTMP are the most popular methods for sending videos to viewers.
Live streaming has numerous uses across industries. Fundamentally, it aims to enable viewers to participate in activities they would otherwise be unable to be part of in person. Live streaming is a tool that companies and other organizations use to interact with their audiences. Thanks to live video streaming, more individuals may attend live events no matter where they are.
Examples of events that are Live Streamed
- Corporate retreats
- Product launches
- Trade shows
- Virtual events
- Sports coverage
- Political rallies
- Seminars and Symposia
How to set up Live Streaming
In order to deliver high-quality videos to viewers, streaming uses a variety of protocols, activities, and live streaming tools.
The following technical configuration is the most typical for live streaming:
- Make a connection between your streaming device (PC or laptop) and the audio and video sources that record content for live streaming.
- Capture video footage with a webcam or video camera.
- Use a camera card or other link to send video to the encoder.
- Encode RAW files into streamable forms.
- The encoder utilizes RTMP to ingest the streamable video into the online video platform (or straight to the CDN).
- The video is sent through HLS from the video CDN to an HTML5 video player that is intended for viewers.
This process is technical and therefore requires further explanation. Let’s take a closer look at HTML5 video players, encoding, transcoding, CDNs, and the various protocols to understand why live streaming relies on them.
Explaining an HTML5 Video Player
Before HTML5, Adobe Flash Video enabled live streaming in the past. HTML5 came as its replacement. The need to replace the Adobe Flash player arose as a result of its numerous limitations, such as inconsistent security, constrained browser, and device compatibility. To get around these restrictions, Apple developed the HTML5 video player.
The HTML5 video player is particularly well-liked since it works with all browsers and practically every internet-capable device. Broadcasters find it quite alluring because it is secure and straightforward to customize. Live Streaming video can be accessed on a variety of devices, thanks to the HTML5 video player.
Video Encoding explained
Remember our RAW files? They come heavily from the video camera or webcam and cannot be transmitted over the internet the way they are. This problem is solved by video encoders, which convert those heavy files into streamable, small digital files.
RAW video files are made up of thousands of still images that, when sped up in sequence, move smoothly. Naturally, there are duplicates in a lot of the still frames. Encoders utilize codecs, an acronym for “coder-decoder,” to reduce the size of video files by eliminating pointless still frames.
Key Live Streaming Protocols
A number of streaming protocols operate in the background to transport videos during the live streaming process.
These protocols are extremely complex, and since they operate behind the scenes, the majority of broadcasters who utilize a specialized streaming solution often don’t have to worry about them. But it’s a good idea to at least be aware of what’s going on in the background.
Below are some of the most widely used video streaming protocols.
Real-Time Messaging Protocol, or RTMP, has been crucial for live streaming ever since Flash Player became the de facto video player. Previously responsible for delivering live streams, this transport protocol is now in charge of receiving RTMP data from the encoder.
For the best streaming arrangement, RTMP and HLS delivery are frequently combined. The result is low latency and trustworthy security.
Founded by Google in recent years to support peer-to-peer streaming, WebRTC is a project that is a combination of protocols and other technology.
This project was designed to power web conferencing platforms such as InEvent or Zoom, as well as video chats, but since it is capable of streaming in real-time latency, online video platforms are beginning to incorporate it into their platform.
HLS, or HTTP Live Streaming, is a protocol developed by Apple for the purpose of distributing material to the HTML5 video player. Mobile streaming is made feasible by this protocol. It is renowned for both its compatibility and security. HLS can be consumed but is mostly just used for distribution.
Real-Time Streaming Protocol, or RTSP for short, is a standard used to transmit user commands to video players. Its structure is similar to that of RTMP. Between the live broadcast and the viewer, RTSP servers are present and send out “play,” “pause,” and “record” orders.
It is not as well-known as the other protocols, yet it is crucial.
SRT, which is short for Secure Reliable Transport, is a streaming protocol that helps to ensure secure streaming over public networks. It is capable of low latency and highly secure streaming. This protocol is also open-source, which makes it easy to implement.
At this point, SRT is not as popular as HLS and RTMP because it is relatively new, and the most popular broadcasting tools are not yet compatible.
What you need to make live streaming possible
Your live streaming equipment depends on what you want. If you want something basic, you will need just a phone and internet access, as well as live streaming social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch, to stream live to your audience.
For professional live streaming, you will require the following equipment:
- HD Video Cameras or Camcorders
- Video Encoder
- Computer Graphics Software
- Wifi Device
- Audio Mixer
You will also need a live streaming software, such as OBS (which actually comes free), or the ones you will pay for, such as Wirecast. Numerous features are available with this software, including source switching, simulcasting, adding graphic overlays, real-time stream modification, and even encoding.
Live streaming is one of the benefits of technology and the internet. These days, we can join live events from the comfort of our homes and offices with just the click of a mouse. Live streaming uses several streaming protocols to transmit videos to viewers over the internet without latency. We hope this post helped you with enough information on live streaming.