Highwinds, Adobe, Microsoft, and Conviva Teach Live Streaming

Looking to stream live video from your site? In a webinar on StreamingMedia.com, columnist and EVP Dan Rayburn moderated four industry heavyweights in an online video master class.

Josh Gagliardi, the chief technology officer at Highwinds, led off the webinar. His company has experience in major live events, including President Obama's inauguration, and he explained that online video conveys a different experience to the viewer, as it's more like TV.

Planning ahead is crucial in online video, Gagliardi said. Have a backup plan. Have several.

"Test, test, test," he offered. He also emphasized the importance of working with a CDN, which can take the uploaded stream and spread it around the world. Once your event it over, analyze the results. Understand what your goals were and see if you've achieved them.

Next up was Kevin Towes, a senior product manager with Adobe, who taught attendees about the live formats available for video delivery (HTTP progressive download, HTTP streaming, RTMP streaming, RTSP streaming, IP multicast, and peer-to-peer multicast) and explained that Adobe supports all of them except RTSP streaming.

When streaming live, it's important to deliver a consistent experience across devices, he said, emphasizing the benefits of Flash Media Server 4 Multicast Fusion.

Jason Suess, a principle technical evangelist with Microsoft's Media Platform, offered a case study about how Microsoft streamed its Professional Developers Conference in October. Microsoft streaming the event at six quality levels, up to 720p, offering two camera angles, five simultaneous language translations, and closed captioning.

Having redundancy at every step was crucial, Suess said, since there's no second chance with a live event. Be sure to test out your system beforehand, he advised, using multiple operating systems and browsers. Also, monitor the health of your feed in real-time, making tweaks if needed to keep the viewer engaged.

Last up was Darren Feher, the CEO of Conviva, a company that monitors streams and makes fixes before problems occur. During a live event, see what the viewer is seeing in real-time, he said, and constantly optimize the experience.

He explained how Conviva uses algorithms to monitor streams and see when a viewer will be interrupted. His company's solutions take action before that happens, perhaps by adjusting the bit rate or by streaming from other sources.

As an example of how unexpected bottlenecks occur, Feher told what happened when a sports event was blocked from television broadcast in one city. Web traffic spiked from people trying to view it online. Since they were pushing the city's four ISPs to capacity, the solution there was to cap everyone's stream, to make sure that everyone got video, although at a lower bitrate.

With live video, "success is measured in milliseconds," he said on his wrap-up slide.

A question and answer session followed the presentations. One attendee wanted to know the pros of doing live video, rather than a download. Live is best with the event is urgent, said Gagliardi, explaining that half of the viewers would watch the stream live and half at a later time.

Another attendee wanted to know what the standard encoding rates were for live events. Suess explained that the event organizer should start with the top and bottom rates: figure out the minimum bitrate that site's viewers would need and the maximum that the event organizer can afford to deliver. Fill in the middle steps to create more options for viewers.

Those interested in live streaming can view the entire webinar online here.

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