During the year 2020, the physical world distanced itself from each other. Our interactions were forced to remain in smaller spaces of blue-lit screens. Yet, many of us adapted quickly to this new normal as life scaled down to the great indoors. The conversations we had in our circle gained the potential to be streamed to multitudes with the help of live streaming or video conferencing software. YouTube Live and Zoom Meetings quickly became a part of life.
So what’s the catch here?
Although Zoom, Twitch, and Skype have all been around for a while. The growth of the industry was slow. However, the pandemic acted as a catalyst for the boom in the streaming industry. The concept of going live in front of a virtual audience did not seem as alien as before. Teachers, professors, priests, judges and, most of the 9 to 5 employees are either attending a meeting or taking one at any given moment.
Gamers have found their space too. Live streaming services like Twitch tv, YouTube gaming, and Facebook gaming fueled a significant rise in viewership and hours in 2020. Notably, Twitch hit 17 billion hours at the end of 2020. A record jump from the previous year with 9 billion hours of streaming. You can see the stats here.
As we marvel at the shift it begs the question: Will this trend cool down as the 20s push back to normalcy?
Eli Noam, Director of Columbia Institute of Tele Information believes it is here to stay. Why shouldn’t online church and live-streamed weddings be a part of the norm? Live-Streaming or video conferencing software has cast its irreplaceable charm in different industries.
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In this article, we will explore the skeleton of video conferencing or live streaming software.
Let us have a quick look at how live streaming or video conferencing software works. The main component of the software is the encoder. The streaming software is also essentially encoding software. The encoder helps convert the video to digital format to deliver it to the platform. It ensures that the content is compatible to be broadcasted on the platform. A broadcaster has the option to choose either hardware or software encoders.
Exclusively encode the content. They are expensive and opted by professionals. As a beginner, it would be wiser to choose software encoders.
Use the hardware of the computer to assist the encoding. They are not limited to encoding and can perform real-time streaming, video conferencing, and various other functions. They might be free of cost in some cases.
The choice differs depending on the budget and the needs of the broadcaster. While choosing the encoder it is imperative to check for the compatibility of the encoder with the device and the price according to demands.
Video protocols are a series of processes that help break the video into manageable chunks for the video host. The most common choices are RTMP (Real-time Messaging protocol) and HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) protocol. RTMP is an older system that uses a flash plugin. It helps reduce latency. Although RTMP is universally supported, the modern HLS protocol is preferred. They work well together as well. In a nutshell, RTMP delivers the encoded video to the video host, a function called RTMP ingest and HLS delivers it to the devices of the viewers.
The software is not limited to the function of encoding and decoding. It can also perform mixing and switching during a live broadcast, which helps display multiple screens or sources at the time of broadcast.
Before developing live streaming or video conferencing software, it is necessary to outline the parameters of the business goals. Things like the target audience, revenue, and operational structure of the business can help build suitable software according to the company’s vision. Here are some pointers to get it right.
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To understand the target audience, you should research on traits, interests, and typical persona of a sketched character. According to the product developed, this character sketch can have various details that could help understand how the product would work in the market.
Another parameter to look out for is the method of revenue. Choose between advertisements, paid subscribers, or having some free features while charging for other premium features, just like with Zoom and Google Meet. Based on the audience, the primary methods of revenue can be changed. In the case of a regular audience, offering a paid subscription model can bring in the intended revenue. If not, then advertisements and the premium membership model can be of more service.
Tracking, defining, and solving major issues of the product is an important part of the operational structure. Mapping the steps and finding the weaknesses within the model can also help the business to excel and reach its set goals.
Live streaming or video conferencing software must take into account many other components and functions to produce a good broadcast. The functions should aid the broadcast to proceed smoothly and to give the user and the viewer a better experience.
Latency is the time required by the captured content to reach the viewer. Low latency must be achieved especially if the streaming involves real-time interactions with the audience or if they involve in gaming or live auctions. Recognizing the goal of a broadcast can help determine the need for the desired level of latency and the subsequent methods to reach it.
Multi Bitrate streaming is yet another important feature, allowing changes in the quality of the streaming video. Depending on the available bandwidth, it changes between 144p to 1080p. Based on the nature of the broadcasting this would help immensely.
Scalability is another feature that requires attention. It defines the capability of the system to handle the number of users on the platform. To reach a large audience, this is imperative and hence optimizing the software to meet the scalability needs is vital.
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To keep the broadcast interactive there are a few additional features required. Features like the real-time interactions with the audience through chat-box, and the feature to add a guest help with that. Features like captions, graphics, and customizable backgrounds can help the user project their brand. The ease of use should be another important aspect of the software. The flexibility to customize according to the broadcast will be useful as well. Security of the software and its compatibility with the system are features that cannot be sidetracked when it’s all about enhancing the user experience.
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As the world adapts itself to the ease of streaming we see that the software behind the magic has many features that will enhance the user experience. Features such as low latency and multi-bitrate streaming have become unavoidable. Features like graphics and real-time chatting bring out an interactive experience to the broadcast. The security of the software and its compatibility with the system are paramount as well. Maintaining these practices while developing the software would help provide a better experience.
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