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Checklist For a Video Streaming Website

As an IT personnel servicing multiple clients, it’s not unusual to receive requests for products upgrade from customers. The Internet has indeed evolved, from text-based websites to multimedia-rich contents. And as with every progress made, you either adapt or get left behind.

So the case turned out during a meeting with a client, who having just heard of the new way of transmitting live video over the Internet, requested that it be built into his website. He had an upcoming seminar and in order to break the distance barrier, the event had to be streamed live over the Internet. This was an uphill task, since I had not researched much into the new technology called video streaming.

Transmitting a live event from a location to other places is not new, news outfits like CNN and Fox have being able to broadcast live using satellite links. Improvement in video technologies, higher computing power and lower bandwidth cost set the stage for live broadcast of audio and video contents over the Internet. Achieving efficiency with new technologies means a marrying of the old with the new.

The Internet set the stage for live video streaming, with its high speed Internet connection and advanced video compression techniques. To however broadcast video from your website, you may have to do a checklist so you can get the best out of your investment.

Before You Set Up Video Streaming

1. Whether to stream or not to stream. It is one thing to deploy cutting edge technology on your website, its usefulness is another thing entirely. Do not integrate video streaming into your website if it will not reinforce your design objective. The cost of video hosting and bandwidth required is much higher than that for a conventional website. If it is a business site, then the increased cost must be justifiable.

Alternatives could be using graphics and text to tell the story, or transcription of the videos into text versions. Another alternative is using YouTube, you can display an image from the video, write a summary and place a link to the video’s location on YouTube. On YouTube your videos are hosted for free, and they can be watched on-demand.

2. Live streaming or Video on Demand. On-line video streaming comes in two forms – live streaming and Video on Demand. Live streaming is real-time broadcast over the Internet; your viewers can only watch the videos as you broadcast them. A missed scene cannot be replayed, and the contents cannot be saved on the computer of the viewer. These are appropriate for high profile meetings, seminars, breaking news and other visuals that are best enjoyed when viewed real time.

For Video on Demand, the videos are saved on the server and can be watched at any time. Packaged programs, musical videos, adverts, are examples of videos suitable for Video on Demand. Videos on you tube are on demand, they can only be downloaded if you’ve got a download manager.

Live streaming requires more hardware – capture cards, web-cams, video recorders, video compression utilities, broadband Internet access etc. It requires more precision, leaving room for no mistakes. Video on Demand less hardware – usually a PC and Internet connection. Your kind of contents and presentation should decide the form of video streaming chosen.

3. Self hosting or hosting by Content Delivery Network. Most web hosts offer video streaming support, so you could host your videos directly on the server that hosts your site. You manage your video streaming from the same window as your website, and you’re completely responsible for the administration.

You could also use the services of Content Delivery Networks who host your videos separately. You are given a separate control panel to manage your videos, and this reduces the weight on your site’s administration and management.

The two options have their pros and cons, but you’ll have to decide which is best for you. Hosting and managing your videos yourself, or having your videos hosted by a separate platform.

One clear advantage of Content Delivery Networks is that they’re uniquely designed to manage your videos, so you should get better value per Dollar spent on video streaming.

4. Quality vs size of your videos. Bit-rate is defined as the frequency of data that is transmitted every second. A bit-rate of 64 k bps means that 64 bits of data is transmitted every second. Transmission of data is measured this way. As a rule, the larger the video file, the higher the bit-rate, and the higher the bandwidth needed to transmit it over the Internet.

Every time I compress a video file, I reduce the size and also the quality, so that the bandwidth needed for transmission is reduced. The reason for compressing video is cost, smaller bandwidth is cheaper. But while trying to reduce the size of the video, you should not lose sight of the fact that the quality would be compromised.

A factor also to consider when setting the bit-rate is available bandwidth for households. If in a bid to broadcast high quality videos, I choose a bit-rate of 512 k bps for my videos. Without considering that most of my audience only have access to 256 k bps or lower, I risk losing them.

5. Having your videos on your home page or other pages. Placing your video on your home page means your video has to be played each time your site is visited. Delay in loading means that your visitors might not wait to watch them. When they are placed on other pages inside your site, your visitors have the choice of visiting the pages to view them. That way they can wait even if the videos takes a longer time to play.

Having your videos inside your website is also cost saving. Since you are charged per download. If your video is on the home page, you are billed whenever someone visits the site. Most times they never stay to watch the video. However, videos embedded inside the website are billed as visitors click on their links to watch them. You get better value for your money because more of your visitors actually watch the videos.

The list is not exhaustive, but the points outlined are pertinent before setting up video streaming on your website. Other issues like which hosting platform, the streaming media, video file to support etc will be considered along the way.