In this fast-paced world, waiting for a video to buffer makes no sense to the viewer. People want their videos to upload instantly and start streaming without a lag.
The streaming platform that provides instant and smooth streaming becomes viewers’ favorite, and they tend to stick with it. Such an operation can be achieved by utilizing “adaptive bitrate streaming.”
As its name implies, this technique adapts to the available network conditions and streams the content accordingly, whether for on-demand or video live streaming.
In today’s article, we will learn more about adaptive bitrate streaming so you, as a creator, can employ the technique in your videos and make your viewers stay longer.
What Is Adaptive Bitrate Streaming?
Adaptive bitrate streaming is a technique used to provide best video bitrate for streaming where it keeps analyzing the bitrate that should be sent within a certain time.
To analyze the bitrate, this technique checks the internet speed of the user’s device along with other factors. The higher the internet speed, the higher the bitrate becomes, leading to better video quality.
It was demonstrated – past doubt – that ABS was required when it came to connecting video streams with users, no matter where they were.
Many content creators prefer to use video hosting platforms that avail them “adaptive bitrate streaming” feature. The technology lets their viewers stream the content even with a poor internet connection. This way, the viewers don’t have to buffer the video; instead, the video streams smoothly every time.
How Does Adaptive Bitrate Streaming Work?
ABR streaming works by encoding the video into different resolutions as per the internet bandwidth based on the user’s Internet connection. This technique checks the internet quality and switches to the available resolution that works for a particular bandwidth or internet speed.
Following are the steps that show the working method of ABR:
➡️ Encoding Preparation: In the first step, ABR prepares the video into different versions or resolutions using different encoding techniques.
➡️ Manifest File Creation: After creating these segments, adaptive video streaming creates a manifest file that contains data such as available resolutions, URLs, and other such information.
➡️ First Transmission: Then comes the time when a user selects a video to play, and the player selects the bitrate or the video quality accordingly. This happens after detecting the bandwidth of a user’s device.
➡️ Continuous Transmission: Continuing the process, the player keeps retrieving the information from the manifest file and sends these segments to the playback.
➡️ Bitrate Monitoring: The video player keeps monitoring the internet quality of the user’s device and keeps adapting to the video quality.
➡️ Segment Switching: The player requests the new video quality data from the manifest file to switch between the video qualities. The player also uses some algorithms to determine the switching time, video quality, available bandwidth, and other factors.
➡️ Buffer Management: The video player manages a buffer that stores some video segments in different video qualities. The player ensures that this buffer doesn’t remain empty or all full. This also ensures that the video gets streamed without any delays.
➡️ Continuous Monitoring: The video player monitors the bandwidth and all needed factors to continue switching to the ideal video quality.
Encoding Ladders For Dynamic Adapting
The encoding ladder represents the bitrate and resolutions; the higher the bitrate is, the better the resolution will be. Similarly, a lower bitrate leads to lower resolution.
Using the ABR, the player smoothly transitions among different bitrates and resolutions. Let’s see which bitrate refers to which resolution in the encoding ladder.
Advantages Of Adaptive Bitrate Streaming
Let’s understand the advantages of ABR from the perception of both viewers and content creators.
➡️ Buffer-free Videos
When users stream a video on a streaming platform that avails the ABR technology, they can stream videos without buffering. This provides a smooth streaming experience; they don’t have to wait for the video to buffer.
➡️ Better Quality Videos
ABR also lets users have the best quality as per their device’s internet quality. Even if the internet speed is slow, the videos don’t lag; instead, they get adjusted and keep getting streamed.
➡️ Lower Internet Consumption
Since ABR utilizes only the necessary amount of data, it also leads to lower data usage, which leads to lower internet bills.
If you want to reach your target viewers – wherever they might be at any point of time – Adaptive Bitrate Streaming is something you should consider.
For Content Providers:
➡️ Increased Engagement
By using ABR technology, content providers increase user engagement on their channels. Viewers are always captivated by streaming platforms where the videos don’t buffer. Hence if the video player can adapt to the available bandwidth, it leads to overall better engagement.
➡️ Less Expenses
By employing ABR-infused streaming platforms, content providers don’t have to spend on heavy servers. The ABR technology saves them even during peak watching hours.
➡️ Better Quality Control
Adaptive bitrate streaming provides more control over video quality and overall bandwidth usage. The same leads content providers to have more storage capacity on a budget.
Disadvantages Of Adaptive Bitrate Streaming
Nothing is an exception to having downsides. Let’s get to know some downsides of ABR.
➡️ Different Encoding Providers
Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft, three major brands handle encoding implementation. All these three advertise their own ways of encoding, and none of them make use of each other’s information or interoperate.
This means that playing Flash videos is not possible on iOS, and for such videos, you must use Adobe’s encoding.
This forces content providers to choose one of these providers or all of them, leading to higher expenditures. The launch of MPEG DASH might bring some relief as it’s based on the idea that all HTTP ABR technologies will connect using a single protocol and manifest file.
➡️ Financial Burden
It comes down to content providers to decide which ABR technology they want to use and which video quality they want to provide. Since no content creator wants the financial burden of going with all three encoding brands, they need help with selecting the technology and how many versions of quality to choose or which one is the best bitrate for streaming.
Content providers also feel hopeless in determining which smartphone brands will dominate the market in the future and whether their videos will be seen on those devices or not. Plus, it is the lack of knowledge too which complicates things further.
➡️ Handset Manufacturers’ Lack Of Knowledge
Some smartphone manufacturers do not understand and follow the concept of efficient video delivery. Such brands would not utilize the encoding technology; instead, they would opt for the highest bandwidth available.
While this is not a problem when the internet connection is strong since it will instantly avail users of the video file without buffering. However, it becomes a problem when the connection is not fast enough and the handset doesn’t use the encoding technology.
Adaptive Bitrate Streaming Protocols
Adaptive bitrate streaming follows certain protocols; these video streaming protocols determine how the encoding and overall processing of the data will happen. HLS, DASH, and WebRTC are the three most used protocols for streaming. Let’s get to know them here-
➡️ HTTP Live Streaming (HLS)
HLS adaptive bitrate protocol was first used for Apple’s QuickTime in 2009. Later, other brands Google, HP, and Microsoft, also started using HLS for their products.
Since it doesn’t use streaming servers, adding a CDN along will help you with fast transmission. This protocol is preferred more because of its versatility and because it works with almost all operating systems like iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.
The Motion Picture Experts Group developed DASH; the protocol comprises the same format as HLS – M2TS with slight changes in the file structure. The downside of this protocol is that all video players don’t support it.
However, using players compatible with DASH or employing some plugins would do the trick.
WebRTC is known for providing lag-free videos. However, it doesn’t work on iOS. The protocol works on both the client side and server side, and it can create different versions of the video using any of the sides.
➡️ HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS)
Adobe developed the HDS protocol to deliver MP4 files using HTTP connections. Since the Adobe Flash Player is not used anymore, the protocol is supported by Adobe AIR.
The protocol works well for on-demand videos and live streams. However, it doesn’t support iOS devices.
➡️ Microsoft Smooth Streaming (MSS)
MSS is built to support the Microsoft ecosystem to stream audio and video operating on Microsoft OS and devices such as Windows, Xbox 360, Silverlight, etc.
Different Adaptive Bitrate Streaming algorithms
ABR utilizes a few algorithms that help the video player determine which bitrate to stream next. Here are the most common algorithms that are used nowadays-
- Buffer Occupancy-based Lyapunov Algorithm (BOLA): BOLA uses the current buffer capacity and sends the bitrate accordingly. Unlike other algorithms, it doesn’t predict which bitrate to send next. Instead, it analyzes the buffer occupation and sends the bitrate.
- Greedy Dual Size Frequency Algorithm (GDSF): This one uses both current buffer occupation and recent streamed bandwidth. Based on the data of both of these factors, GDSF sends the next bitrate.
- Machine Learning-based Algorithms: There is not a single machine-based algorithm and ABR uses many such algorithms to stream the bitrate. These algorithms collect data about bandwidth, buffer occupation, and other such factors. These algorithms form a model and predict the next bitrate based on this data.
ABR enables viewers to stream the content lag-free. By determining the correct video streaming bandwidth, it keeps the videos from buffering and ensures smooth streaming.
As a content provider, if you also want to utilize the power of adaptive bitrate streaming, look for the streaming platforms that utilize the technology. GUDSHO, for example, provides ABR in all their videos, letting your viewers stream the content without disruptions and increasing the overall engagement rate.