General Streaming Questions

What is streaming?

Streaming is a method of delivering audio or video content via a computer network (usually the Internet).

Streaming differs from Downloading in that streaming content can usually begin playing almost instantly, without the user having to wait until they have completed downloading the whole content file.

Internet Radio, Youtube, Google Video and IP Television are all examples of streaming systems.

What does Outcast actually do?

Outcast operates Streaming Servers which take a single copy of a piece of source content, and then replicate it for each person on the internet who wishes to receive that content.

To use an Television analogy, Outcast’s streaming servers are like the TV masts and transmitters allowing everyone access to the original content supplied from a TV Studio.

Outcast does not actually create or produce the content, but is responsible for delivering the content to the end users.

Outcast’s service is also unique in that it takes a source feed of one type (e.g. Icecast) and also presents an RTMP feed (for Flash clients), an RTSP feed (for Android, Blackberry and other generic devices), an HTTP Smooth Streaming feed (for Microsoft Silverlight applications), and an HTTP Pseudo-streaming feed (for Apple iOS devices).

Can’t I run my own streaming server at home/work?

Certainly! However, remember that every person who wants to view your stream will place demands on your home/office bandwidth. This means that if you are using a 1meg stream and 20 people are viewing it then you will need a 20meg internet connection – more than most residential and many commercial offices have!

Using Outcast’s services, you would only need to send a single copy of that 1meg stream, and Outcast would take care of replicating it and providing bandwidth for all the individual viewers.

Outcast also takes care of presenting your feed in multiple formats to ensure just about anyone can receive it without additional hardware or software.

Live vs On-Demand Streaming?

  • Live streaming is where you encode and stream a copy of your content in real-time. Users on the web will be able to view your stream almost instantly.
  • On-Demand is similar to Youtube or iTunes, where your content is stored on the Outcast streaming servers, and can be accessed at any time by any user on the web.

What do I need to get started?

In order to start streaming you must first have a few basic things:

A Content Source

Every stream starts out with some type of content, for example:

  • a video camera or webcam attached to your computer
  • an audio source such as a DJ mixer attached to an audio input on your computer
  • a pre-recorded audio or video clip, such as a movie clip or audio file

An Internet Connection

To live stream you must be able to send a single copy of your content to the Outcast streaming serverss.

The bandwidth of your available internet connection will determine the maximum quality of your stream

  • A consumer grade ADSL broadband connection is usually sufficient for standard-definition live video
  • A cable or fibre-optic broadband connection is usually sufficient for high-definition (HD) live video streaming
  • An dial-up internet connection may be sufficient for low-bitrate audio streaming (but is not recommended)
  • Video On-Demand does not require a constant broadband connection, but you will have to copy your content on to Outcast streaming servers initially which will require an internet connection.

An Encoder

An encoder is a software program or hardware device that takes your content, converts it (if necessary) to an appropriate format, then sends it to the Outcast streaming servers.

  • For live audio streaming Outcast supports any encoder which uses the industry standard Shoutcast, Icecast, RTMP or RTSP streaming protocols.
  • For live video streaming Outcast supports any encoder which uses the industry standard RTMP or RTSP streaming protocols, such as Flash Media Encoder, Quicktime Broadcaster, Telestream Wirecast, and many others.
  • On-Demand streaming may require initial conversion of your content into a suitable format, which Outcast can assist you with.

Audio streaming questions

Why AAC+? Can I use MP3 or Ogg?

Outcast recommends the use of the AAC+ audio codec due to its superior sound quality at very low bitrates.

In the past MP3 has been considered more compatible with more devices, however modern devices and browsers are generally all now capable of AAC+ playback.

If you really have your heart set on MP3 or Ogg Vorbis streaming, please contact us as we can support this if necessary.

Which encoder should I use?

Any encoder which supports the Icecast2 type streaming servers, and supports AAC+ encoding should be usable with the Outcast Digital streaming service.

The following encoders have been verified to work with Outcast’s service:

Internet Radio Pro streams are recommended to use an Icecast2 compatible encoder, however other standard RTMP or RTSP combatible encoders are supported, such as Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder, Quicktime Broadcaster, or VideoLan VLC.

Video streaming questions

    HTML5 or Flash?

Unfortunately there is not yet a clear winner in the battle between HTML5 and Adobe Flash for dominance of web-video.

Adobe Flash provides solid video playback with advanced features, but usually requires that the Flash player plugin is installed separately into the users computer or the mobile device. Unfortunately Apple have chosen not to support Flash at this time, requiring HTML5 instead for playback on iOS devices such as the iPhone or iPad.

HTML5 is an open standard for web video, however it is also a very new standard and support differs depending on which web browser you are using. HTML5 currently lacks features such as true live-streaming or  adaptive-bitrate support. Apple Safari and Google Chrome currently offer solid HTML5 video support, with Firefox having limited support (lacks h.264 codec support) and IE having no support at all.

Outcast offers player solutions that support fall-back options to other technologies, such as an HTML5 video player that will switch to use Flash when no HTML5 support is detected.

H.264, Ogg, or WebM?

HTML5 is further complicated by the current battle over which video codec should be used within the HTML5 container.

Apple supports the commercial h.264 standard, Google is pushing their own WebM standard (and will shortly be removing h.264 from Chrome), and Mozilla/Firefox pushing the open but lower-quality Ogg Vorbis format.

Unfortunately this makes life hard for web video users, as content must be presented in multiple formats if true cross-platform streaming is to be achieved.

Outcast Digital are experts in this field, and can assist you with choosing the right codec or format, and with transcoding your existing content into other formats.

What makes you different from Youtube or Vimeo?

Outcast offers several features which give you greater control and info about your streams, including authentication (password protected streams), encrypted streams, advanced statistics, and also the ability to embed stream content directly into your existing website or intranet without other companies branding or logos.

Outcast also supports live video streaming, and live streams can be automatically recorded and made available as on-demand streams for later viewing as desired.