|FORMATS / CODECS|
What are Streaming FORMATS?
There are basically only 6 formats (program structures) used for Streaming media to a website. They are:
Real Player (Real Video/Audio Format)
Windows Media (ASF format)
DCT based (Wavelet)
Each format above has its own advantages and disadvantages. The most popular to date is the Real Player (24 million users as of June 2000), followed by Windows Media (9 million users) and Quicktime (7 million users). Quicktime has been around the longest (since 1991). JAVA based, while new is growing the fastest. DCT based (Wavelet) is the latest to enter the arena.
Choice of format is one of the most important decisions you will make with regard to streaming. Real Player, Windows Media and Quicktime all require the viewer have what is known as a "player" or "plug-in" installed on their computer. Also, not all are the same and not all are compatible with each other. So, if you stream video in Windows Media format (known as ASF), someone with a computer without the Windows Media Player will not be able to view it without downloading the plug-in first. Also, someone with Real Player on their computer will not be able to receive the Windows Media stream. You can, of course, stream in numerous formats, but it requires more work and costs more money.
Java Scripts happen to fall into a unique category. The viewer need not to have a plug-in and can receive the stream regardless of the browser he/she is using. For this reason, Java Scripts are growing in popularity.
Not mentioned above is FLASH streaming. In general, Flash is used for animation of simple graphics, and is not used for high quality video and audio. An impressive site to see flash in action is Slip Stream.
What are CODECS and what do they do?
CODEC is an acronym for Compression and Decompression. Take a computer file (like a picture you have on your computer screen) and think of it as a loaf of bread. What takes up the majority of volume in a loaf of bread? SPACE (Air). The same thing is true for computer files, most of it is wasted space. If you compress the loaf of bread by pushing both ends together, the loaf of bread is still the same, but now it takes up 1/6 of the volume. A CODEC does the same thing, it compresses the file to a smaller size. The file then gets streamed across the internet, and once received the file is then decompressed (returned to its normal size) and then viewed. This means you can get more media (images and/or sounds) faster.
Preparing a CODEC to stream video is considered by many to be an "art form." There are important factors in compressing a video stream. The larger the video image, the larger the file size. The more you compress the file, the more you lose on quality of the video image. The less frames per second you stream, the image appears to be less "fluid" and more "jumpy." Most streaming video seen on the internet is a relatively small window compared to the size of the monitor. Properly compressed, this allows for a high-quality video image that appears to have fluid movement.
Windows Media uses a variant of the MP4 Codec. Real Networks uses an Intel based Codec. Quicktime uses a Sorenson based Codec. There are other proprietary based codecs out there. In August of 1999, MPEG-4 (MP4) was introduced as an open-source code. Its original use was for 'ripping' (copying) of DVDs, however it has found to be a flexible streaming solution with excellent compression.
How do I contact CODECS and FORMAT providers?
Real Networks (USA): Looking for the best products for creating and serving streaming media? We've made it easy by featuring some of our most popular tools, servers and packages. Real Player is our best streaming media player with brilliant video and picture controls, superb audio, a graphic EQ and 2,500 live radio stations
See the Specifications, Demo and Contact information for the RealPlayer and other products.
Destiny Media Technologies CANADA
Exent Technologies Israel
Fast VDO Inc.
GEO Interactive Media Group Israel
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