Streaming Media by Mike Steinmetz

So you say that you want to stream video on the internet, OK. Let me show you how to do it and with some time and effort on your part, you will be streaming.

Lets start with the basic video package. First you will need a video capture card and the software to go with it. This does not need to be a very high dollar item! The one that I used to capture all the video on my site ( www.calweb.com/~h2ocrazy ) is a Creative labs RT300. While you can go hog wild on the cards and spend upwards of one thousand dollars, it is really not necessary to do so.

Your second item on the list, streaming software. I have tried three different ones and by far the Real Audio people have the best in my opinion. I like the way it is configured to run the within Windows 95 platform and you should have no problems setting it up. You can get their free software here, as well as info on commercial tools here.

The other major item and probably right next to the most expensive would be something like Adobe Premiere to edit your creations. I won’t go into the details of how this program works, that is a whole other story ;-). For now lets just say you have an edited .avi or .mov file that you want to stream and work from that point.

Ready, now we have the HARDWARE and SOFTWARE items and are ready to roll. I am going to recommend a setting of 240x180or smaller. Why you ask? Because it streams the fastest and looks the sharpest in fast action video. The most you are going to achieve with the Real Media streaming software it 15 frames per second. That means you should capture the original as close to 30 frames a second as possible and let the Real Media software compress it from there. The audio setting should be at the lowest setting possible so that the frame rate stays hi and clear.

Lets back up for a moment on that point. Believe it or not most Internet users still use a 28.8 modem. In theory that means you should not go above the 26,000 kilobits per second bandwidth. Well let me share a secrete with you, that is not true. I usually format my videos to somewhere in the 30,000 kbps range. But Mike, you just said that everyone still uses 28.8 modems, how it possible for them to watch? BUFFERING. The Real Audio Player buffers the signal to provide smooth playback to some degree. While I do not have an exact number for it is appears to be about 20 kbps better than what you are watching it on. Put in simple terms, if I want to watch a 33,600 or even a 56 kbps stream it will run well, it just takes extra time to buffer before it starts to play on a 28 kbps modem.

The other very important thing is the audio stream. Make sure that you don’t use any more than necessary. I use the 6.5kbps option with most of my stuff. You can certainly tell that the audio is a poor quality when compared to CD but it does get through OK. If you are more concerned with picture quality and sharpness but don’t need a high frame rate, then dedicate less for Video section and use it for improved audio. Once again the ultimate balancing act with the limited bandwidth.

Now look over at the Destination side of the form. The Real Media file box should be checked, if not, do so now. The reason for this is that we will not be broadcasting live video streams. Then select the SAVE AS button and save your creation in the temporary filedirectory you made and that name will appear in the box.

Almost ready, and your file will show up on the left side of the window, that screen will disappear when you click OK. Now is for compression. Choose the Advanced button on the right side of the Real Publisher window. There are many options to choose from that are already set up in the Template. Find the one that best fits what the general public has to view the video that you wish them to. Remember that is a total of about 33 kbps total.

Once those settings are in place check SAVE. You will now go to the next screen that will look something like this. Hit the START button and watch as the Real Encoder takes control of your PC. When the encoder is done you will have a new file in your temporary directory that you set up. At that time you can double click on it and review it. If it is to your liking you are now ready to publish it on the internet.

Lets cover that quickly. In order for you to publish it on an internet site without the use of a Real Media Player on the server side a trick must be made so that it will play correctly. Quite simply you must make another file that refers to the clip. Why, because if you don’t the entire clip will have to download before it would play and that would not be a good thing for real-time streaming. So then, go to Note Pad or Editor in windows and make up the following file. http://www.(your domain).com/(your user name)/video/(and the name of the clip you just made).rm. Save that file as a .ram for an extension and upload it to your root directory on your internet site. This file will also be your reference file when you hyperlink it. The entire purpose of this file is to redirect the media file to the clip and then play it in real time. This little trick is called Pseudo Streaming and work quite well. Remember the reference file you just made has an extension of .ram the file that is your video clip is .rm.

That is it. You are now set up to streem video and or audio on the internet. If you have any questions give me a jingle and I will see about getting back to you.

You can reach Mike Steinmetz at Volcann Productions, where you can sample his streaming video of water sports in action. You can also check out the Real Media video files here at Digital Producer Magazine by clicking here. And you can get your free Real Player software here.