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Streaming Video Solutions

 

Implementing a streaming video solution for live or recorded web distribution may be easier than you might think. The first thing to decide is whether you want to have embedded video, external progressive downloading or true streaming video delivery. These three options have significant differences and what you select will depend on your budget and your needs.

 

Please keep in mind that each of these solutions discussed below use Adobe Flash as the means of encoding and viewing the web-based video. Over 80% of the world's online video distribution use Flash and this number is constantly increasing. For maximum compatibility, it is therefore WebSurfPro's recommendation that any streaming video solution use Flash...unless you are also providing a proprietary viewing device (e.g. a set top box) to your audience.

 

Embedded Video - This is the most basic and limiting method of delivering video over the internet. Using the HTTP protocol, the video is downloaded from the web server to the Flash viewer just like any document or webpage. In this instance the digital video content (the FLV or MPEG-4 file) is actually embedded in the Flash file (SWF). Some things to note about embedding:

 

  • single SWF file to manage
  • standard HTTP server can be used for delivery
  • since the video is inside the SWF, publishing and editing is more of a challenge and requires working with large files although the SWF can be broken into chunks for easier management and editing
  • the video frame rate and the SWF frame rate need to match
  • the entire video must be downloaded to the client and cached in RAM before it can be played...client RAM limits file size
  • videos should not be longer than 2 minutes or your audio synchronization can suffer

 

External Progressive Download - This is a big improvement over embedded video. With this type of viewing, the video itself actually sits outside the SWF file and is linked to the file with Action Scripting. This method has many advantages over embedding the video file right into the SWF file:

 

  • two files to manage (SWF and FLV)
  • standard HTTP server can be used for delivery
  • faster video preview during testing (just post the SWF once and edit the FLV as needed)
  • the video can either immediately play when the first segment is cached or it can wait until the FLV is completely downloaded
  • there are no limits on video size or length as it is loaded into the SWF from the server at runtime
  • video frame rates do not need to match the SWF file frame rates, providing you with great editing flexibility
  • there are no audio synchronization issues or memory issues with this method

 

True Streaming - This method is the most robust and professional of the video delivery methodologies (read expensive). The reason is that you need a dedicated media server (in this case a Flash Media Server with enough bandwidth to handle your viewers) so that each client endpoint can establish a permanent connection to the streaming video server. True streaming has all the advantages that external progressive download has, but this tight relationship between client and server will allow you to also achieve additional functionality:

 

  • two files (plus application overlay) to manage
  • requires dedicated media server to hold video content
  • there is a feedback between client and server allowing for automatic detection and adjustment of the video for quality optimization
  • you can have tracking and reporting of quality metrics
  • you can have interactive features with your video
  • clients need less memory and disk space as they do not need to download the entire file to view (just the portion they want)
  • streamed content is much more secure than any other method. The video stream can be encrypted and the client system does not get saved to the client cache
  • you can deliver live video in a broadcast format with true video streaming. The video content needs to be digital (from a web cam or digital camera) or it needs to be converted on the fly using something like the Flash Media Live Encoder.
  • you can have multi-user multi-way streaming which will allow for things like video chatting and video conferencing
  • you can creat play lists for intelligent delivery and have application overlay on the server

 

Note that for either solution your video content needs to be in digital format (either FLV or MPEG-4). Adobe offers video conversion tools like the Flash Media Live Encoder for this purpose.

 

Video on Demand

 

If you are looking for a video on demand or pay per view video delivery method, of course the true streaming option is ideal. However, you should also consider how to protect your premium video content. Adobe Flash Access gives you the following functionality:

 

  • content protection
  • interactivity
  • advertising supplements
  • etc.

 

If you would like a free estimate or have any questions regarding our streaming video solutions, please contact WebSurfPro.