MNET Services>Telecom Video>FAQ>Streaming Media

What is streaming media?

Streaming media is video and/or audio sent via IP as a continuous stream of packets. These packets are sent using TCP or (UDP without any error checking or delivery confirmation). Streaming media affords no error checking or retransmission of lost or late packets and no priority marks. Therefore, the client's player will buffer the incoming stream for several seconds before playing it, but will include the bad packets in some cases. This keeps brief network spikes from interrupting the video or audio. Reception of streaming media will vary and may be unacceptable at certain times of day or locations. Many other factors can influence the reception of streaming media, almost none of which MN.IT SERVICES can control.

An article at goes into more depth on the subject.

Streaming media is evolving rapidly. MP4, VP8 and WEBM are the emerging winners. Unfortunately the skillsets needed to deliver A/V in the aforementioned wrappers are not available everywhere. The industry is moving to HTML 5, but it.s a slow process and may not stabilize for a couple more years. Most players must now be embedded in the page and be deliverable to many different devices. MNET can deliver MP4, Flash, Windows and 3gp, with others to follow.

What sort of things can I stream?

Any type of audio and any type of video can be streamed. As long as you're aware of the limitations of the medium, you can stream anything you can pick up with a camera and/or microphone.

What do I need to do to generate my own streaming media?

You need the proper encoder software for the desired delivery format to a PC or Mac, as well as a microphone and, optionally, a camera. The machine running the encoder software needs enough horsepower to keep the processor utilization under 90%, to allow for spikes in motion. To stream video, your PC will need a webcam or special board to capture video from a camera. MN.IT SERVICES does not run the encoders, but can, in some cases, assist you in setting up an encoder for a set-up charge. MN.IT currently maintains a Windows streaming server, Helix Universal Server and a Flash 3.5 server. Contact MN.IT SERVICES for recommendations on video capture cards.

I've heard that streaming is virtually free. What can be done for little or no cost?

Most server software has some means to handle A/V delivery. Most common today is progressive download, where small chunks of the program being streamed, are sent every few seconds. This saves on the bandwidth needed by the server to deliver the streams, and allows delivery to a plethora of players and devices.

Can I stream audio only?

Yes. In fact, it's a good way to practice and requires far less bandwidth than streaming video. A voice stream can be quite clear and effective at 11kbps.

Can I use my videoconference system to create streaming content?

Yes, but it takes a bit cable shuffling in some cases. Contact the Service Management Center or your equipment vendor and ask for more information.

How many people can view a stream at the same time?

The answer depends on delivery rate, content type and available bandwidth. If you are able to use multicast technology, a single stream from the server can be viewed by everyone on your network. MN.IT services has two streaming servers with Gigabit connections. Each server can deliver about 1,400 streams at 540Kbps. More if the program was recorded at a lower rate.

What is the difference between a webcast and a webinar?

The main difference is the capability of adding PC output (PowerPoint slides, or web pages, etc.) in webinars versus a webcast. Webinars allow for limited interaction.

Think of a webcast as TV over the Internet. Talking about a particular topic or showing off a new product or service is most suited to a webcast. Explaining how to fill in a government tax form while polling and/or taking audience questions is a good use for a webinar. A webcast can be done by one person; an effective webinar takes at least two presenters - one person to present, the other to manage online questions.

Keep in mind that in both technologies, there is a significant delay - as long as a minute in some cases - between the live event and what's seen online by the viewers.

What is needed to conduct an effective webinar?

Planning and some practice ensure the best results. Check these excellent resources: