The truth about video broadcasting of any kind…
There are three parts to Video Streaming
Why does a home video camera cost $300-$600 dollars and a professional video camera cost $10,000-$25,000? Simply put, a professional video camera is designed with much higher quality optics, sensitivity, controls, and resolution. Home video cameras sacrifice quality for versatility… home video cameras operate well in many different lighting conditions. Professional Video Cameras produce very high quality images, but require better control over and usually more lighting, like you would find in a broadcast studio. The numbers of cameras, their placement and the lighting to support them are all standard consideration when we work with you to plan your event. Audience participation needs to be planned for in advance with adequate lighting, audio and camera angle support. We use only professional video Equipment, primarily Sony D50 Professional Cameras like the one to the right here. We have wired and wireless units as well as portable and tripod mount systems, but most importantly, we have trained camera operators and producers who use wireless headsets to communicate with the video producer and set up each shot for the event.
Encoding is the process that is used to convert your Video into signals that can be transmitted over the Internet. There are two parameters that need to be considered when selecting an encoder for the video you wish to stream out on the Internet.
- Streaming Video Bit Rate
- Whose Encoder
An encoder is the front half of a coder/decoder pair, just like a modem is a modulator/demodulator pair. An encoder takes your video and converts it to a signal that can be sent out over a network (Encoder) like the Internet and then plays it back on your desktop computer (Decoder). The most popular proprietary video codecs are:
- Microsoft’s Windows Media Player
- Real Networks Real Player
- Macromedia Flash Player
- Apple QuickTime Player
Each one of these proprietary Codecs have certain specific features that might make them more useful than others for a given application. There are two open source codecs that are playable on your PC or Mac as well.
MPEG is short for “Motion Picture Experts Group” versions 2 or 4
For those of you who have played with digital music files you might recognize MP3. MP3 is the audio portion of the MPEG2 audio video codec….whew…enough of the geeky stuff.
The real art to encoding is finding the right combination of bit rate and encoder for each need. Windows Media Player owns 90% of the streaming media business today so let’s pick Windows Media as our default encoder.
The Next step is to pick streaming speed and window size. Window size is the size of the video window on your computer. Bigger is better, but regardless they come in three standard sizes;
- 240×180 pixels
- 320×240 pixels
- 640×480 pixels
In all cases faster and bigger is better, but keep in mind that the faster you go and the larger your window, the fewer the number of people with a fast enough Internet connection who can view your broadcast. On our web site we have encoded the same video stream at 56kbps and 112kbps so you can see the difference for yourself.
At this point it might be a good idea to give you some idea about who does what out there in Internet land.
CBS News 150kbits/sec 15 FPS 320×240 Real Player
Fox News 56kbps/300kbps 320×240 Macromedia Flash Player
BBC 36kbps or 56kbps 240×180 Windows Media (sometimes) or Real Player
CNN Offered as a subscription service called CNN Pipeline Video
CPUC Windows Media 80kbps 240×180
SacBee Local Stories are broadcast by News10 at 300kbps 29FPS 320×240…
The SacBee streaming through Channel 10 is the highest quality of any of these.
As a General rule a happy compromise betweem speed and image quality for broadcasting can be found around 150kbps for Internet and 300 kbps or higher for Internal broadcasts within an agency. If you want try an encoding experiment in the home or office try this… Tune your desk radio to a popular local radio station like KSTE or KFBK, now on your desktop, computer bring up the audio stream from the same station. You will discover that the Internet audio runs at least 15-16 seconds behind the live sound coming from your radio. This is the time it takes for most encoders to convert an audio or video signal into and Internet ready stream. Some delays are longer, but any delay of more than 15-16 seconds is inserted by the broadcaster and not the encoding process.
Broadcasting your encoded stream requires the purchase and use of either a streaming video server and significant Internet capacity of your own, or the temporary use of someone else’s video server and content delivery network. In addition to our studio and on-location video production services, our firm is in the business of operating video servers and an Internet content delivery network as a service for your use.
Here is how broadcasting your video works: Every single person with a computer, who wishes to view your live or on-demand broadcast, goes to your website or our web site and finds the appropriate link on the web to click on. When an interested viewer clicks on the link for your event, they create their own unique stream of video from our servers and watch the live or on-demand for as long as they like. It is just like watching television in many ways.
Our firm archives and keeps a copy of your broadcast automatically so that you can review, download, copy or archive your video after the event. Let’s say that you have encoded your video at 150kbps and that 100 people are going to watch your live meeting on the Internet. In addition to having enough server capacity to support 100 concurrent video streams, you also will need a continuous Internet capacity of more than 15Megabits of Internet bandwidth to support your viewing community. That is a lot of Internet bandwidth. It is the equivalent of ten T1 pipes tied together. We have that kind of capacity at VideoSSC. In fact we can handle up to 3000 concurrent viewers without special notice.
-The self conscious reactions of most meeting participants usually peak about five minutes before a meeting starts and fade rapidly during the first broadcast meeting.
-Good lighting can sometimes be an annoyance for those who are “in the limelight”, but good lighting is the single most important but overlooked aspect of any broadcast.
And, from a producer’s perspective a couple of other interesting things happen when you start to broadcast your events over the Internet:
-The meetings tend to be crisper. That is, they adhere more closely to the schedule and extraneous conversation is significantly reduced.
-Most participants find themselves thinking longer before they speak than they might have in the past.
All-in-all video broadcasting of meetings whether live or on-demand has been shown to improve the overall quality of those meetings over extended periods of time.
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