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What is Adaptive Streaming and How To Use It

18/08/202118/08/2021
SolutionsSolutions
5 min read5 min read
Written by Cinema8
@Cinema8

What Is Adaptive Streaming And How To Use It?

Whether it's loading a video on your mobile that you want to show your customer during a demo or watching the latest episode of a movie, what could be more annoying than the video won't load, or the quality is mediocre!. This is a problem that shouldn't be encountered these days. It doesn't matter what the video's content is; if the broadcast is too low-quality to load or to hold the user's attention to completion, then it's a red flag. If you've muttered under your breath, “Frankly, why don't you switch to adaptive streaming” you're right. Adaptive streaming solves all of these problems.

Adaptive streaming is a video streaming technique that adjusts the quality of the stream in real-time based on the user's bandwidth and CPU power.

HLS and MPEG-DASH are the two most popular formats when it comes to adaptive streaming. The adaptive broadcasting of a video stream requires uploading the video with different levels of quality and a few additional files, which HLS and MPEG-DASH do not handle in the same way. The work involved in making all of this work is complex and time-consuming, most of the services on the market do not offer a complete solution, and those that do are far from free. 

Some websites succeed in mastering adaptive video streaming due to the knowledge and equipment required: not everyone can access the same resources and talents as Netflix or YouTube.

First, we'll look at how adaptive streaming works, and then we'll explain exactly how to use Adaptive Streaming Technology without hassles.

How Does Adaptive Vİdeo Streaming Work?

Actually, iIt's all in the name. The video stream adapts on its own based on a set of rules, bandwidth, CPU load, and user resolution. To do adaptive streaming, you need to be able to broadcast multiple versions of your video. The quality and bit rate will be different for each of the variants of the video, as well as their encoding format and resolution. This can be seen as a gradual improvement in web development.

adaptive video streaming broadcasting cinema8

Each video file has an index attached to specify predefined segments of the video. The duration of these segments is generally 10 seconds, in accordance with the HLS protocol. There is also a master playlist used to indicate the fragments as well as the information concerning them to the reader. What's pretty cool is that this technology has just echoes the specifications of the M3U8 file format. Originally, M3U8 was designed for audio files, such as MP3s, but it is now it is used to indicate audio and video sources to media players.

An adaptive streaming video player uses the playlist's information to decide which of the available video variants best matches the user's criteria: network status, processor load, or resolution. It can change the source for each new 10-second segment if the network status changes during playback.

Furthermore, adaptive streaming technology shares several key aspects. First, they generate multiple files from the same source file and then distribute them to viewers watching on different powered devices at different connection speeds. Second, they can adaptively distribute files, thereby changing the delivered stream to accommodate changes in effective throughput and changes in CPU cycles available on the playback workstation. Third, they are not totally transparent to the user, so the viewer clicks only the play button instead of multiple buttons. When the user pre-selects the bit rate and video,  the streams are also selected appropriately, and all these usually behind the scenes. Thus, when the stream is switched, the viewer may notice a slight change in quality, but he does not need to take any measures.

More Details On HLS and MPEG-DASH

HLS

Originally created by Apple for the iPhone video player, the HLS format is now commonly used by many HTML5 web applications. Here, the video should be encoded with either H.264 or HEVC / H.265 codecs, which can be decoded by any of the major browsers. HLS cuts the video into 10-second intervals before sending it to the user.

MPEG-DASH

MPEG-DASH is the most recent competitor to HLS. Originally created to provide an alternative to HLS, it has some advantages over the latter, especially in its capacity as open-source software: the entire community of content producers can contribute to its modifications and updates. MPEG-DASH is universally supported and has no codec of choice, allowing its users to encode their videos without worrying about codec support. It benefits from a lower latency time than HLS and allows the insertion of advertisements too.

The Real Power Of Adaptive Streaming Is That It "Adapts." 

The next concept to understand is "adaptation." These settings and the decision about which video is best for each particular user can be changed every second. This means that as the user's Internet connection changes, adaptive streaming will switch back and forth between video quality. You can ask ‘hHow does this magic happen?’ This is achieved through the use of segments. Segments are actually the core of adaptive streaming. After the video file is encoded into an adaptive format, it will be divided into several parts. These are short summaries of the video, usually set to over 5 seconds in length. At the end of every 5-second segment, the player can switch to other video files if necessary.

Do It Yourself

As said above, to distribute adaptive streaming videos, it is necessary to generate several versions of the video, attach an index to it for each of the variants and to include a master playlist. The formats and encoding types for HLS and MPEG-DASH vary for each of these files. If you want to stream using these two formats, the amount of work involved will double for each of the videos you want to stream. In addition, it is considered good practice to stream video and audio separately for MPEG-DASH. All of this is complex and time-consuming.

If you are a skilled developer, you may find it rewarding to dust off your FFMPEG skills to create all the sources yourself. It could be an interesting project, but for ordinary people dealing with scaling up and first-time users, this option is simply not viable. 

This is where the adaptive streaming video players come in. In addition to offering the ultimate in image management solutions, adaptive streaming video players have taken the video streaming train in motion, offering a maximum of remarkable features for videos.

The adaptive streaming video players have also created several predefined streaming profiles to make user's lives easier. With them, each streaming profile is made to correspond to a set of definitions of video variations, varying according to quality, bitrate and encoding. For example, a profile can specify ten different variations, from the best possible quality to audio-only. The adaptive streaming video players API also allows the creation of custom profiles.

streaming video uploading cinema8 streaming

After selecting a profile, user can upload his/her video file using the adaptive streaming video players' eager transformation, which instructs the system to generate all of the files required for this profile in HLS or MPEG-DASH format. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, adaptive streaming technology can provide the best streaming video viewing experience for various devices within a wide range of connection speeds. If streaming video is critical to your business, and you yet to implement adaptive streaming, then you are already behind the progress curve.