Video streaming is the process of converting video and audio into a compressed digital format, then distributing the data through computer networks. This compressed data can be more easily delivered using computer networks because of its smaller size. The video and audio can be live or pre-recorded content, and can be continuously streamed or delivered as on demand content.
Internet video streaming is similar to standard television broadcasting. Software is used to convert video and audio into a format that is suitable for delivery using a computer network. Television stations use special hardware to convert video and audio data into a format suitable for broadcasting. Special computer network transport protocols enable the delivery of multimedia content to the end user ( viewer ) versus using broadcast transmitters to send the video and audio content to individual television sets.
The first step in the video streaming process is to digitally compress the audio and video content. This is required to conserve bandwidth that is used for the delivery of the content. Specially developed software applications, called codecs, are used to compress the video and audio data. Codecs use mathematical algorithms to compress the data. Most codecs use a method of data compression known as lossy data compression. This method allows the compression of the content without losing the quality of the original video and audio content. Advanced codecs require large amounts of computer resources for high definition video and audio data compression. A balance must be established between the compression quality, bandwidth consumed and computer resources used. This balance ensures a quality viewing and listening experience for everyone.
The next step is to distribute the encoded video and audio content. Special server software is required for the continuous distribution of multimedia content. This specialized software can be installed and run on various computer operating systems including: Windows, Linux and Macintosh; in addition to several other computer operating systems. Individual files can be distributed using on demand content delivery, without the need for specialized server software. On demand content can be hosted using a standard website account.
The final step is to prepare the compressed content for delivery. The method of data delivery used to transport the content via computer networks is determined by several factors that include: software used for the compression of the audio and video data, architecture of the computer network used for content delivery and end user requirements. Delivery of this data over computer networks uses special software or hardware instructions to route the video and audio content to the end user. Each computer network transport protocol has its own unique characteristics that make it applicable in specific situations. Methods of multimedia data transport include: HTTP, RTSP, IP Multicast and P2P.
No broadcast license or technical certification is required for Internet streaming, unlike a standard television broadcast station. Standard television broadcast stations are required to have a broadcast license and certified broadcast engineers. The only requirements for Internet video streaming are: specialized data delivery server software, special audio and video encoding software and large amounts of bandwidth. Bandwidth is required for the delivery of the video and audio content to the end user. The formula for determining the amount of bandwidth required for video streaming is: Bandwidth required = data encoding speed x number of desired consecutive users.
All multimedia content is subject to applicable intellectual property regulations. These regulations differ from country to country; however the general rule for audio and video content is the station originating the Internet stream must own, or have a license to distribute material that is covered under copyright regulations. Content that has been released under creative commons, public domain or has fallen out of copyright protection is not subject to intellectual property regulations and can be streamed with no special content licensing requirements.