Understanding HLS Streaming And Its Role In Video Streaming Services

Posted By : Priyansha Singh | 30-Aug-2021

 

Understanding HLS Streaming And Its Role In Video Streaming Services

 

Streaming is accredited to offering a steady flow of data packets in the form of audio and video over a stream of the delivery network to the user’s playback device. Content distributors and broadcasters from various industries and domains customarily relied on the commonly used RTSP and RTMP protocols while delivering video-on-demand streaming services and content to their viewers. 

However, with HTTP Live Streaming or HLS protocols, broadcasters and digital media service providers can now deliver low-latency and high-quality video streaming services to their user-base in a more reliable and faster form as compared to its industry predecessors, i.e. RTSP and RTMP protocols. 

HLS was developed by Apple Inc. in 2009 and it enabled broadcasters to offer digital media content to the masses. It was possible because of its convenience and ease of compatibility with a majority of modern-day devices such as connected TVs, smartphones, gaming consoles, and computers. HLS allowed media providers to deliver files directly from the hosting platforms to the user’s viewing device instead of rerouting it via the encoder as was the case with RTMP.

HLS For Video Streaming Services
Why Should You Opt For HLS Streaming?


HLS or HTTP Live Streaming Protocol directly transports audio and video content to viewer’s devices across multiple screens from the media servers with minimal latency or lag. Using adaptive bitrate streaming, HLS also enables broadcasters to transmit and deliver optimized media content inclusive of on-demand and live video streaming solutions to a wide range of users irrespective of their playback device capabilities and bandwidth conditions. 

Owing to adaptive bitrate and progressive downloading, viewers benefit from the lag-free and smooth viewing experience across their devices. With such prominent benefits over other live video streaming protocols, HLS streaming or HTTP live streaming is one of the most widely-used streaming protocols across the globe. 

Also Read: A Brief Insight Into VOD Streaming Services And Monetization Models

How Does HLS Function?


HLS video streams are segmented into packets or chunks of data after the encoding of a number of files at varied data rates. These chunks of data are then loaded onto the HTTP server with its .M3U8 extension that is used to instruct the media player to recombine the files in a definitive manner for each encoded stream. Moreover, it doesn't need a streaming server as the player can rightfully monitor the bandwidth changes and existing conditions.

Codecs

Codecs is a coinage term used to describe a coder/decoder software that compresses and decompresses data files in order to help in the transfer over delivery networks. Further then, an encoder compresses data and the decoder decodes it before it is played on the user’s device.

Low-Latency HLS

An initiative by Apple, the low-latency HLS extension was devised to bring down the latency to a lot more extent. The existing protocols heavily relied on HTTP/2PUSH delivery which was removed in the later phases and the low-latency HLS was inculcated into the traditional HLS as an attribute set. In the wake of it, the latency was further brought down which assisted in delivering an immersive and seamless viewing experience. 

Workflow- RTMP To HLS

The camera is used to capture the stream which further gets encoded and passed via RTMP through the media server and then to HLS. It is later distributed to multiple media players and devices. As HLS reduces the latency many broadcasters and content distributors are preferring to encode their video streaming content using RTMP or Real-Time Messaging protocol and then further repackage it for the HLS delivery once it reaches the media servers. 

Benefits of HLS Streaming

 

  • High compatibility
  • Robust Content Delivery Network
  • Adaptive Bitrate Streaming
  • High-quality delivery and scaling
  • Immersive viewing experience
  • Low latency


Browsers and Devices That Support HLS 

Although limited to iOS devices, HLS is now supported by multiple browsers and devices. Here’s the following:

 

  • Safari
  • Microsoft Edge
  • All Google chrome browsers
  • macOS platforms
  • Android devices
  • iOS devices
  • Microsoft and Linux devices


The Technicalities of HLS Streaming

You may know how it works and have a basic understanding of HLS streaming. However, now let us delve into the details about encoding to the segment size. 

 

  • Playback support: Supports all smart TVs, set-top boxes, browsers, and other players.
  • Latency: The low-latency HLS extension is inculcated as an HLS feature set, which assures relatively low latency.
  • Audio codecs: AAC-LC, FLAC, HE-AAC+v1,v2, xHE-AAC
  • Video codecs: H.264, H.265


Wrapping Up

HLS is a robust, omnipresent, and neoteric technology protocol in the video streaming industry that is supported by various devices, OS, and browsers. All in all, these capabilities make it an ideal choice for broadcasters who are seeking to deliver their video streaming services to a wider audience. 

If you are looking for video streaming app development solutions or seeking to integrate HLS in your streaming channels, reach out to us. 

 

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About Author

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Priyansha Singh

Her expertise lies in creating insightful and engaging content for the readers and has worked on multiple projects such as Blockchain, IT, Marketing, Home Decor, AI, and many more. She is a trained pianist, painter, and an avid reader.

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