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How do I stream audio and video from my web site?

Streaming Audio

For audio, mp3 is the best format. All modern browsers can play mp3 files and will automatically stream them. Convert your audio file to mp3, then have your web master upload the file and create a link to just as he would a .jpg image.

Streaming Video

For video, there is no easy one size fits all solution. The major choices are RealPlayer, Windows Media Player, QuickTime and Flash. You can also use a raw MPEG video file (or other basic file formats like AVI), but the compatible players are hard to come by. I've also seen Java applets used.

You can use a streaming server in conjunction with RealPlayer or Windows Media Player (and possibly other formats), but the optimizations that these servers offer are not as useful as they once were: Video content is static, and web servers are great at serving up static content. All the modern players will begin playing the video before the full file has been downloaded (when possible). Convert your video to your streaming format of choice, then have your web master upload the file and create a link to just as he would a .jpg image.  This will work fine for most applications. Streaming servers allow video to be viewed with dropped frames, but dropped packets aren't a big deal unless your viewers are using modems and modem users don't often watch video. The streaming servers also allow you to explicitly control the number of simultaneous viewers.

I have noticed that a lot of big sites have moved to flash for small clips and effects. The big news sites usually offer a choice of RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. I would says Microsoft Media Player 9 is one of the best formats right now and it's available for Windows and Macintosh (but not Linux). It's what CNN uses. You will also need to discuss with you webmaster how you are going to link to the video. Here are some examples:

It's fairly easy to convert/compress raw video footage into the format you need. The software needed to do the conversion is available from the vendor that controls the format. Real for RealPlayer, Microsoft for Windows Media Player and Apple for QuickTime. Sometimes they charge for conversion tools and sometimes you can downloaded the tools for free. Apple usually charges. Most often, basic conversion tools are free from Real and Microsoft. The conversion can be done by your webmaster. Here at Teztech we have access to a full studio, cameras and all kinds of software and equipment.


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