Live streaming services have been around for a while now, but the recent popularity of live broadcasting apps such as Periscope and Meerkat has brought them to the forefront of social media. Live streaming is an extremely popular way to engage your audience on social media these days, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering a service like Periscope or Meerkat then read on! If not, there’s still plenty more information about live Streaming.
Live streaming services live up to their name in the sense that live streaming is a live event broadcast live. The content of live stream can vary from a live sporting event or broadcast of a news conference to an “in-studio” video chat with a TV personality, musician, celebrity, community leader, etc. Broadcasters may also use live streaming to “pre-roll” commercials or other content that would otherwise air live or at a scheduled time. Live streamers also use live streaming to connect with their viewers in real-time, and live streams can be interactive—viewers can tune in live and give live feedback, ask questions, etc.
On a technical level, how does live streaming work?
The following are the main steps that occur behind the scenes during a live stream:
Raw video data: the visual information captured by a camera – is the starting point for live streaming. This visual information is represented as digital data within the computing device to which the camera is connected – in other words, 1s and 0s at the most fundamental level.
Encoding and compression
The video data that has been segmented is then compressed and encoded. By removing redundant visual information, the data is compressed. For example, if the first frame of the video shows a person speaking against a grey background, the grey background does not need to be rendered for any subsequent frames with the same background.
The process of converting data into a new format is referred to as “encoding.” Live streaming video data is encoded into an interpretable digital format that is recognized by a wide range of devices.
Because video contains a lot of digital information, downloading a video file takes longer than downloading a short PDF or an image. Because it would be impractical to send all of the video data out over the Internet at once, streaming video is divided into short segments of a few seconds.
Distribution and caching of CDNs
After the live stream has been segmented, compressed, and encoded (which takes only a few seconds), it must be made available to the dozens or millions of viewers who want to watch it. A CDN should distribute the stream in order to maintain high quality with minimal latency while serving it to multiple viewers in different locations.
A content delivery network (CDN) is a distributed network of servers that cache and serve content on behalf of an origin server. Using a CDN improves performance because user requests are no longer routed all the way to the origin server but can instead be handled by a nearby CDN server. Handling requests and delivering content in this manner also reduces the workload on the origin server.
Finally, because their servers are distributed globally rather than clustered in a single geographic area, CDNs allow for the efficient delivery of content to users all over the world.
Video decoding and playback
The CDN distributes the live stream to all users who are watching the stream. The segmented video data is received, decoded, and decompressed by each user’s device. Finally, the data is interpreted as visual information by a media player on the user’s device – either a dedicated app or a video player within the browser – and the video is played.
Once we understand how live streams work technically, it becomes much easier to implement them as part of our marketing strategy and increase engagement with potential customers by giving away sneak peeks or hidden content during an event. Contact us today if you have any questions about implementing live streaming into your digital marketing plan!