A S t r e a m i n g M e d i a P r i m e r :
H O W D O I M A K E ( G O O D ) S T R E A M I N G M E D I A ?
HOW DO I MAKE (GOOD) STREAMING MEDIA?
WHAT AFFECTS STREAMING MEDIA QUALITY?
If you had never tasted ice cream, you would have no idea how to judge the quality
of your fi rst cone. Just like early television viewers, who were delighted with black and
white, diffi cult to tune in, often fuzzy transmissions, your fi rst ice cream might seem
truly delectable but your estimation of quality might change dramatically after you had
sampled a richer, creamier brand. Before we can address how to achieve the best quality
streaming media, we have to consider what kind of quality to expect.
Full screen, broadcast quality: It's not completely science fi ction if you and your
organization have the funds and the wherewithal to upgrade your intranet to a fully
Someday, when you go online,
streaming enabled network, complete with multicast routers, adequate media server
capacity, and enough bandwidth to support your unicast and/or multicast requirements,
you'll enjoy the same quality
then you can expect to achieve full screen, broadcast quality video on every up to date,
and variety of video you now
streaming optimized desktop in your organization. You can also expect this type of
quality if you are streaming very selectively, only to those end users who will be
see on cable TV Someday.
connected through a reliable, outsourced, streaming enabled broadband network, and
But not today! As yet, there
who will be viewing on broadcast quality streaming capable desktops. Chances are, if
you are in this category today, you work for a sizeable enterprise that is ready, willing,
is no elegant, cost effective, and
and able to commit to streaming as a business critical component of its communications
entirely satisfactory appliance
strategy. If you are one of those few, you can pretty much expect the premium, gourmet
quality ice cream experience of your favorite buy it by the pint brand.
that integrates TV, phone, and
Not anywhere near broadcast quality: The rest of the world is in the Wow! It's
computer. However the goal of
Web video! Right here right now! So who cares if it's kind of small and choppy cat
integrating and standardizing
egory. Don't expect high production values to come across. Expect the satisfaction level
of the cheap, off brand, sundae in a cup you might fi nd in the freezer case of an out of
all media is overwhelmingly
the way convenience store, on a long, hot, dusty, rural road trip it's really great because
guiding hardware and software
that's all there is. At least for now. Of course there is a substantial difference between the
quality you can expect when the client is on a powerful PC connected via broadband, vs.
developers' efforts in all three
the quality you might expect on a slow machine connected via a 28.8 dial up modem.
media So don't worry, that
But, as the world continues to embrace broadband, as more of the Internet becomes
native multicast enabled, and as the instrumentality of the streaming infrastructure
someday is coming very soon.
becomes more commonplace, your expectations for better quality should rise.
Video Software Laboratory
Meanwhile, it's worth doing what you can to optimize the experience from every angle,
because audiences out there do want streaming media now even though it is not the
broadcast quality experience they know as television yet.
What affects streaming media quality? Everything! Video content, video quality, the type of compression
used, server types and connections, how many people are viewing simultaneously, the Internet, the user
connection, and the user platform all these, and others, are factors that will affect the quality of your
streams. The fact is, every step in your workfl ow can affect the quality of your streaming media, from
planning the project to how you choose to transmit the data streams across the network, whether over
the Internet or your own intranet. There are ways to help compensate for the some of the peculiarities
of streaming media. The next several sections discuss the steps in the streaming media workfl ow, with
particular emphasis on how to keep quality as high as possible.
namic Medianamic Mediayy
It is important to decide what constitutes acceptable delivery standards. If the limit is a delivery
platform for narrowband, you will be accepting severe performance limitations. Conversely, if a
obe Dobe D
higher standard is set, such as residential broadband, you will have more fl exibility.
H. Peter Alesso, e Video
21 http://www.video software.com/proj17.htm
22 e video, Producing Internet Video as Broadband Technologies Converge, by H. Peter Alesso, Addison Wesley, 2000