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    WiredBIZ Articles: Technology

    Streaming Video Introduction

    By Mike McEwan
    Aug 11, 2006, 14:55
    E-Mail Article
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    What is Streaming Video?

    In its basic form, Streaming Video can be defined as;

    Streaming media is media that is consumed (read, heard, viewed) (mostly in the form of clips) while it is being delivered. Streaming is more a property of the delivery system than the media itself. The distinction is usually applied to media that are distributed over computer networks; most other delivery systems are either inherently streaming (radio, television) or inherently non-streaming (books, video cassettes, audio CDs).

    The word "stream" is also used as a verb, meaning to deliver streaming media.

    Source: Wikipedia

    When creating streaming video, there are two things you need to understand: The video file format and the streaming method.

    File Formats

    There are many video file formats to choose from when creating video streams. The most common formats are:

    1. Windows Media
    2. RealMedia
    3. Quicktime
    4. MPEG (in particular MPEG-4)
    5. Macromedia Flash

    There are pros and cons for each format but in the end it comes down to personal preference. Be aware that many of your users will have their own preferences and some users will only use a particular format, so if you want to reach the widest possible audience you should create separate files for each format. In reality this isn't usually practical so you need to make a judgment call on which formats to provide. Obviously the better you understand all the options, the better your decision is likely to be.

    Streaming Methods

    There are two ways to view media on the internet (such as video, audio, animations, etc): Downloading and streaming.


    When you download a file the entire file is saved on your computer (usually in a temporary folder), which you then open and view. This has some advantages (such as quicker access to different parts of the file) but has the big disadvantage of having to wait for the whole file to download before any of it can be viewed. If the file is quite small this may not be too much of an inconvenience, but for large files and long presentations it can be very off-putting.

    The easiest way to provide downloadable video files is to use a simple hyperlink to the file. A slightly more advanced method is to embed the file in a web page using special HTML code.

    Delivering video files this way is known as HTTP streaming or HTTP delivery. HTTP means Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, and is the same protocol used to deliver web pages. For this reason it is easy to set up and use on almost any website, without requiring additional software or special hosting plans.


    Streaming media works a bit differently the end user can start watching the file almost as soon as it begins downloading. In effect, the file is sent to the user in a (more or less) constant stream, and the user watches it as it arrives. The obvious advantage with this method is that no waiting is involved. Streaming media has additional advantages such as being able to broadcast live events (sometimes referred to as a webcast or netcast).

    True streaming video must be delivered from a specialized streaming server.

    Progressive Downloading

    There is also a hybrid method known as progressive download. In this method the video clip is downloaded but begins playing as soon as a portion of the file has been received. This simulates true streaming, but doesn't have all the advantages.

    Which Method to Use?

    The method you choose will depend on your situation, but most people will opt for HTTP streaming (download or progressive download). This is the easiest and cheapest way to get started. If necessary you can upgrade to a streaming server later.

    Mike McEwan

    GRUMPmedia Inc.

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