Video Streaming: Technical Aspects, Challenges, Budget
Looking at the modern tendencies of the network’s development and Internet speed increase the services which work with video content gain popularity. Live video streaming allows solving such issues as increasing brand recognition, engaging the audience from all over the world, growing traffic, generating leads faster, establishing real-time interaction with potential clients, etc. Though this cutting-edge technology allows receiving multiple positive results in a short time, it carries lots of challenges to those, who intend to apply it through a custom-built solution. Let’s look closer into the matter.
Playing a video file online looks like a simple task, but it’s only at first glance. It can be compared with the work of a simple computer, which contains video files. The access to them can be received with a simple link. Actually, such a variant really exists and has a right to, but it’s wrong. First, let’s find out what video streaming is and how it’s realized.
Video streaming — technical implementation
Generally, everything looks like it’s described above. There is a remote server, which can be accessed from the net and on which certain video files can be uploaded, there is also an open API for getting the links to the video. However, it should be considered that video files should be prepared for uploading; it’s realized both on the client and on the server side.
Traditionally the preliminary files compression or their conversion to the appropriate format occurs on the client side with the help of predefined codes. Such preparation will simplify the player setup. It will be not necessary to configure it for different types of video, with different formats, codecs and the pitfalls of the budget segment devices. In addition to the potential bugs avoidance, the compression reduces the size of the files which should be uploaded to the server.
Unfortunately, at present, access to high-speed Internet or WiFi is not always available. While in big cities this problem will not be a problem for the majority of users, at some points of high people density or out of the networks of the new generation reach one should consider that the users should be able to use the app and the service as a whole comfortably. A 10-megabyte file is much easier to download than a 100-megabyte file with a similar duration, especially when the connection speed is low.
After the video uploading, there should be server-side post-processing of the file. There are some common formats for video streaming: HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) and MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP). Though the principle of their work is different, in fact, it is adding the keyframes to the video. These are the image frames that are taken directly from a video at regular intervals. When the video is rewind, the users see these frames.
To put it simply, it’s the pictures we see instead of the black screen at the moment when the video is being loaded. Along with the image, service information is added from where the file should be transferred further. Also, when playing a video, the quality of the client connection may deteriorate, so there are formats that allow choosing the video quality. Meaning that if the connection is good, the video will be demonstrated in its best quality and if the connection is poor, the video quality will be worse, but it will be played without permanent stops and pauses.
So as you can now see, even though the advancements of streaming technology are great, there are still hurdles to overcome. Fortunately, most of the tools to cope with the challenges already exist, however, there is a difficulty: to use helpful add-ons and components a high learning curve of the developer is required, and this directly affects the time it takes to implement this functionality.
The problems of implementation with a tight budget
Everybody should realize that video streaming service development requires huge financial investments. If you use the format mentioned at the very beginning of the article, you are likely to get the following problems:
- Long time of the video files uploading to the server;
- Possible loading errors. This may be due to a timeout on uploading a large file;
- Long video buffering time due to the fact the file fails to contain additional details about the keyframes;
- Great server response time, since in case of the limited budget it will not be possible to add geo-distribution support. Not only should the possibility of geo-distribution, but also synchronization of information between servers be considered;
- Possible problems in the Asian network segment.
It is logical to assume that with a small budget, you cannot expect high servers’ capacity. So the technical aspect is the additional area of expenditure, which adds up to the cost of development and can exceed the client’s financial expectations.
The Client’s expectations
A limited budget often forces clients to abandon most functionality and build an MVP model that is not intended for heavy workloads. Unfortunately, most customers don’t realize that MVP is not a minimal viable product but a full-fledged service with fast access and maximum functionality just at a lower cost.
In the context of video streaming services, the client will expect fast content uploading, no buffering or any delays during video playback in case he is far from the server location.
It is very important to explicitly explain to the customer that an MVP variant in this context is more suitable for idea testing, or just for its demonstration to the investors, but not for the first product release. The main reason for not making an MVP variant release is that you may make a poor first impression on the users and it will be difficult to return their loyalty later.
There are many things you can save on a limited budget, but not when building a video content service.
Top 5 video streaming apps
For you to realize the level of competitiveness, we’ve prepared the current top five video streaming solutions. They are the following.
The first app occurring to mind, being on everyone’s lips is by default YouTube. It may be installed on any streaming device existing, allows streaming in various quality and downloads for offline entertainment.
At present YouTube offers music, tutorial, movies and trailers, and even recently added live TV features. All the leading top news channels and TV shows streamed over YouTube. The number of active users exceeds 2 billion monthly.
However, the service is restricted in some countries and some videos also have restrictions as to the region they are available in.
Netflix is another service, which tops the list and allows watching TV shows and movies ads-free. In 2019 Netflix has become the front-runner in the category, due to the reliable core catalogue and excellent usability features integrated across various interfaces.
Besides. The users can download and watch a TV episode or a movie later. The devices supported are smart TVs, laptops, tabs, smartphones.
The service requires a subscription, however, a 30-day free trial is offered for the user to make a well weight decision.
Amazon Prime Video
Speaking for itself, the application belongs to a premium global service class allowing the users to explore thousands of Bollywood and Hollywood movies, TV shows and live sports events anywhere, anytime. More than that, one can watch the first episode of any TV show free of charge.
Though the service is paid, you can only pay for the shows and films you want to watch using the catalog.
Amazon Prime Video allows you to only pay for what you want to watch and to download what you like.
Besides, it’s the only video streaming application, which doesn’t require Chromecast support.
Being one of the best online solutions, Megabox provides you with smooth and intuitive navigation around hundreds of TV shows and movies. This Android application offers multiple lucrative features for free.
Some of the advantages to mention are — convenient dropdown menu, absence of advertisements and the possibility to download for watching later.
Hulu is noted for the possibility to stream all the latest movies as well as old ones. Besides, one can find here TV series, live sports, news, entertainment channels, and many more. With HULU a user can enjoy the best video quality and content combined in a user-friendly streaming service.
The app is available on all platforms from mobile devices to smart TVs, not mentioning laptops and tabs. The download option has been recently added, however, it’s now available in premium subscriptions only.
To summarize the above: when considering the development of complex video streaming solutions, keep in mind that it requires a consistent budget since you should not only hire qualified developers but also have proper technical equipment.
Originally published at https://stfalcon.com.