Frequently Asked Questions

General questions (8)

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 Digital actually provide?

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).

What makes Outcast Digital better than other streaming services?

There are many streaming providers out there today, most of which are based around one particular software package which allows almost anyone to start their own streaming service using very low-cost and unreliable components. These are often hosted on a single low-powered server, with no guarantees that bandwidth will be available when you need it.

 

Outcast Digital however uses a fully custom built platform and only the most robust industry-proven software along with high-spec hardware hosted in major data-centres. In addition the Outcast Digital platform is not hosted on any one single server, and instead is hosted in no less than 3 separate data-centres as well as on the Amazon EC2 cloud service.

Our staff have many years of experience in IT, Network design and operations, streaming media, and also in radio station operations.

 

While we have products that cater for ‘bedroom DJs’ and pirate radio stations, our system is primarily designed to be robust enough to support full-scale major commercial broadcasters who cannot afford any downtime, and require features and reports that the various generic streaming services cannot provide.

Can’t I run my own streaming server?

Certainly!

However, streaming servers can be complicated to set up and run correctly, and remember that every person who wants to view your stream will place demands on your home or 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.

The Outcast service is also spread across several servers located in data-centres in different parts of the world. This means that a failure of any single server should not cause the service to be unavailable.

How do my listeners tune into my stream?

Users may listen to your station in a number of different ways, including:

  • Via an embedded player on your existing station website (eg, the Outcast Player, JWplayer, etc)
  • Via mobile apps such as TuneIn Radio
  • Via online radio directories in players such as iTunes and VLC.
  • Via custom mobile apps developed for your station (either by Outcast, or other parties)
  • Via links which launch a user’s existing media player application, such as Winamp, Windows Media Player, or iTunes.
  • Via set-top boxes and other devices which are compatible with the AAC+ audio codec (most of them!)

Does Outcast Digital offer an Auto-DJ service?

Not yet, but soon!

The Outcast AutoDJ is currently under development and will be available in the near future.

In the mean time you will need to source the audio using an application at your studio. This could be something as simple as iTunes or Winamp, up to a full-blown radio automation package or hardware stream encoder.

Why AAC+? Can I use MP3 or OGG instead?

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.

Can I stream at other bitrates?

We recommend the use of 64Kbit AAC+ streams as this provides excellent sound-quality (near CD-quality), low bandwidth use, and maximum compatibility.

For example, the iTunes radio directory requires a minimum of 64Kbit/s AAC+ for stations to be listed. Anything higher than 64Kbit/s is usually not audible and just wastes bandwidth (and makes your stream more unstable for mobile users)

If you have a specific requirement for a different bitrate stream then please contact us to discuss this.

Setup questions (4)

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:

  • an audio source such as a DJ mixer attached to an audio input on your computer
  • a playlist of pre-recorded audio or video clips, such as MP3 files or an iTunes library
  • a video camera or webcam attached to your computer

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 broadband (aDSL) connection is recommended for all CloudStream customers.

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.

Outcast CloudStream supports any encoder which uses the industry standard Icecast2 protocol. (see below for more details)

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

In addition Outcast also supports and can supply professional broadcast-grade hardware encoders with balanced XLR and AES/EBU digital inputs. Please contact us for more details.

Can I use a Raspberry Pi as a stream encoder?

The short answer: No, it’s just not powerful enough.

The longer answer: Maybe, but it’s not easy or a particularly good idea.

 

We have conducted detailed tests with the Raspberry Pi boards, however at this time we do not recommend them for use as production streaming encoders.

Unfortunately the Raspberry Pi lacks an audio input which means a USB audio interface will be required.

Audio encoding requires a reasonable amount of CPU power, which is one thing that the Raspberry Pi doesn’t have. While it is possible to tweak the linux system to maximise the amount of available CPU, audio glitches are still occasionally heard in the stream when CPU usage spikes.

 

We are continuing to test with the Raspberry Pi and other embedded low-cost systems in efforts to create quality stream encoders… stay tuned and check back often.

I already use a station automation package. Can I still use Outcast?

Yes!

Most modern radio automation packages include features for streaming which should be compatible with Outcast.

Verified systems include SAM Broadcaster, Station Playlist, and Rivendell however any system which supports streaming to Icecast or Shoutcast servers will work.

 

If you system does not specifically support streaming directly from the station automation, or you prefer to stream from a down-stream source (eg, if you are also running live microphones or other content sources other than your station automation software) then you may prefer to use a separate stream encoder.

 

Please contact us if you have any further questions, as this can be a complicated topic with many ways to stream your existing station.

Our experts will work with you to determine which is the best one for you.