Learn about the fundamentals of video live streaming and the various portals that support it.
- So how does live streaming even work? Just as you can watch a live stream on your computer or mobile device, you can also broadcast a live stream from either, as long as you have a fast enough connection. For starters, all video you watch on the internet is streaming. All streaming means is it's playing while it's downloading. And because through high-speed service, you can download faster than the video plays in a real time, it's easy to see a high quality video image on something like YouTube or Netflix.
And when the video stops, and that little buffering animation appears, that just means your connection has slowed down enough that your download can't keep up with your playback. So your playback pauses for the download to catch up, usually at a lower quality, lowered to match your connection speed. With a pre-recorded video, like on Facebook or Netflix, the download can usually get far enough ahead of the playback that it can build up enough of a buffer that your HD video plays smoothly without a hitch. For live streaming video, however, this buffering and compression has to happen on both sides of the server.
The video has to be compressed enough to be uploaded to the server in real time, processed, and then served to the viewers in real time as well. The result of all of this is a much more compressed, lower-resolution video, and a bit of a delay. If someone watching types in a comment, you'll see it basically right away, but by the time you react to it, your reaction gets uploaded, processed, and downloaded, a few seconds to half a minute has passed, depending on the lag of the particular system. Some are better than others, so it pays to understand the trade-offs between latency, picture quality and ease of use.
There are dedicated live streaming platforms like Livestream, which can provide hosting and streaming tools for your programs to be embedded on your own proprietary website. And there are more open platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, that can broadcast you out to the whole world where anyone following you can see. There are also purely app-based video streaming services, like Periscope, and lately, both Twitter and Instagram have also added live streaming features, as well. All these different platforms, while overlapping, serve different functions, and have different things to recommend them.
Most of the platforms' mobile apps contain all the necessary tools for live streaming, but some require a little bit more of an elaborate setup. You can do a lot just broadcasting from your phone, but with certain pieces of software on your computer, you can create complex live programs, with many of the same kinds of elements you might see on your local live TV news broadcast. There are expensive, complex pieces of software available to give you an entire virtual switcher, with all of the bells and whistles, but there are also free and inexpensive, open source tools that let you do nearly everything at a fraction of the cost, with a much gentler learning curve.
But regardless of your budget or you goals, there is definitely a live streaming solution that'll work for you.
- Best practices for mobile streaming
- Operating the YouTube and Facebook streaming apps
- Operating Periscope
- Live streaming with Instagram
- Desktop streaming best practices
- Streaming with Wirecast Play
- Streaming with Open Broadcaster in YouTube and Facebook
- Advanced streaming options