For years, we’ve been able to deliver video content on web servers using the HTTP protocol as progressive downloadable video. Problem is, if a user wanted to jump to a specific point in a video they would need to wait until the video had downloaded from the beginning to the point where they wanted to watch.
Real-time streaming severs solve this problem by just delivering the bits that are needed to display the video on the screen at the moment but they have their own set of challenges. Specific ports needed to be open so getting through firewalls could be problematic. Real-time streams needed constant, dedicated bandwidth so having multiple, concurrent streams could seriously impact the network.
Enter HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS). The concept for this technology has been around for some time. I remember dabbling with it in QuickTime even before HTTP Live Streaming was announced by Apple. The idea is to break up a long video file into smaller segments and fragments. When a user plays a video online, the video player loads a manifest or xml file that tells the player what video segments and fragments to load and plays those files back seamlessly in sequence. Here are some reasons why you should consider HTTP Dynamic Videos to deliver your content:
- HDS runs on Apache using a free Apache module called Origin . No expensive streaming server needed to deliver video on demand (still need a streaming server to use HDS for live broadcasts, online video recording, DVR functionality, and DRM).
- HDS is delivered through port 80 so all the firewall issues we’ve had in the past are gone. Hurray!
- Multi-bitrate support means better network efficiency. Bitrate switching works “mid-stream” as mobile users move from wi-fi to cellular networks.
- Better bandwidth control. Real-time streams demand dedicated bandwidth. HDS is managed as downloaded files on the network so latency can be a little more forgiving.
- Seeking within the video. HDS allows the user to seek to any point of the video without having to download the entire clip.
- A future release of Adobe’s HDS will include iOS support. This will allows us to serve a single set of video files to all platforms. This one is huge! Who wants to maintain a 2nd sever and an extra set of media to serve to iPhones and iPads? Not me!
I’m happy to see Adobe build tools to support HTTP Streaming. Hopefully we’ll see additional features added to the Creative Suite that will help make packaging HDS content easier.