Streaming Media

Satheesh C B | Thursday, April 17, 2008 | 0 comments

What Is Streaming?

Streaming refers to the technique of continuous and steady digital
data (audio, video, or graphics) transfer as “packets” in real-time
from a data server through the Internet to a user’s computer. Media files can played in a browser using an embedded plugin or in a media player. The smoothness of the media stream depends upon the speed of the connection. Multiple versions in terms of quality high,medium, or low) can be made available for different connection speeds. For slow connections, glitches in frames and delayed or no audio will occur.

A key factor is the compression method used for the media files so
they can be streamed seamlessly.Due to compression, some data
quality is compromised through perceptual encoding, that is, the
audio/video is stripped down in such a way that the changes cannot
be easily perceived. Usually, perceptual encoding refers to lossy audio
encoding in which psychoacoustics is used to determine what audio signals to encode and what to snip out. Large media files are encoded
using codecs to smaller sizes. Thus you have MOV, RM, etc.

RealNetworks, QuickTime,Windows Media and Macromedia Flash are the most common streaming technologies.

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Types of Streaming

Streaming is of two types—progressive and real-time.During progressive streaming, the media file can be viewed orlistened to while the file is in being downloaded. In the case of data loss, re-transmission of lost packets is possible. Media files streamed using the progressive technique get saved on the viewer’s hard drive,
which raises the problem of redistribution. HTTP streaming is a
type of progressive streaming where the media file begins to play
before it is entirely downloaded. In the case of HTTP streaming, a
request for data remains open even after the data is received by the
client, so that the server can respond at any time.

In real-time streaming, media content gets downloaded temporarily to the user’s computer. Almost-live broadcast of content is possible. Content streamed realtime can adjust according to the user’s  connection capacity; if the connection is too slow, the transmission
of data would break.

Media streams can also be distinguished as “on demand” or “live.” The former are stored on servers for long periods of time, becoming available to be transmitted to the user upon request. Live streams are available only at a particular time—like the streaming
of a live TV broadcast. A streaming server software package, the Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) to control the interaction,
and a matching client is needed for real-time streaming.  

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