Live streaming has grown in popularity due to the quick evolution of audiovisual and streaming technology over the past decade. In many cases, live streams grab the viewers’ attention and engage them more than video on demand can. In this article, learn what live streaming is and how it works.
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What Is a Live Stream?
Live streaming is the process of broadcasting video content, recorded in real-time, to a target audience over the internet. It’s a highly authentic and reliable way to communicate, as no editing happens before the video content is transmitted.
Media platforms, including Twitch, Periscope, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Bingo Live, and Instagram Live, support live streaming. Live streaming content can cover topics ranging from sports coverage and expos to training sessions and product demonstrations.
How Does Live Streaming Work?
Although live streaming seems like a simple process, it uses a series of technical processes and protocols, including video capture, compression, and encoding, to provide high-quality videos to viewers. These are the main processes involved in the live streaming process:
The first step involved in live streaming is the capturing of visual information by using a computing device, like a smartphone or digital camera. The device captures the video information as digital data or binary numbers (1s and 0s).
Compression and encoding
The next step in live streaming is compression, which helps to remove the redundant bits to reduce the video file size and enables easy transmission of video content over the internet.
Raw video files may be large and particularly difficult to transmit over the internet. Encoding helps to convert video content into a coded digital form that makes the transmission of video content possible. Widely-used encoding standards include H. 264, H. 265, AV1, and VP9.
In the segmentation stage, live-streamed video content is divided into smaller parts, only a few seconds in length each, which makes it possible for viewers to easily download and watch the video.
Distribution and caching
The next step in the process of live streaming is the fast delivery of content to millions of viewers. A content delivery network (CDN) is essential to distribute the content on behalf of its origin server. CDN is a network of servers that can cache and deliver content to users all over the world.
Decoding and playing
CDN distributes the live video content to users’ devices, and they decode and decompress the content. After decoding the content, user devices play the video using video players.
All the above processes only take a few seconds to deliver high-quality videos with minimum latency.
Live Streaming vs. Regular Streaming
Regular streaming is the process of delivering prerecorded media content to viewers over the internet and playing back at the time it broadcasts. TV shows, webcasts, and music videos are common forms of regular streaming.
In regular streaming, the media content is processed and presented steadily without losing its continuity, whereas, in live streaming, it’s recorded and transmitted simultaneously in real-time.
Who Uses Live Streaming?
Live streaming helps businesses and organizations enhance their reach and establish relationships with partners and customers through direct communication. They mainly use live streaming to conduct training sessions and meetings for employees as well as to engage their audience with product/service demonstrations, webinars, and events. Individuals use live streaming to share their in-person views on various topics, make live announcements, and more.
Live streaming use cases
- Executive communications: Live streaming enables managers to disseminate information to employees to train them for necessary job tasks, maintain corporate culture, and more.
- Product launches: Live streaming for product launches helps businesses to build anticipation and grow their audience viewership.
- Employee training: Training employees through live streaming helps companies impart their knowledge quickly and convincingly to hundreds of employees without spending time and money on travel.
- Social media live: Social media live platforms are crucial for conveying real-time brand stories and hosting virtual business events.
What Is Video on Demand?
Video on Demand, commonly known as VOD, refers to a media distribution system that offers video content, such as movies and TV shows, for viewers to access at their convenience. With VOD, users can watch any available video content at any time by using an internet-enabled device. Examples of VOD platforms include Netflix and Hulu.
Interested in getting started with live streaming? Explore some of the best microphones, webcams, and other technologies that you’ll need here.