Server-Side Considerations for Video Streaming

by John Ochwat

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So you're going to stream rich content on your site. What's that going to do to your server?

To abuse a metaphor for a minute, bandwidth is a two-way street. Not only does Joe Webuser need a big enough pipe to download rich media on his end, but pulling that many ions from your server means you've got to make some adjustments too.

To find out a little more about the server side of the equation, we wandered over to, which Mike Savello, director of marketing, says "is an initiative to demystify the process of doing streaming media."

"Most people see a piece of video on the Web and think it's done by a class of people who can do broadcast quality content on the web," he says. Since iCanStream believes it's not, the site's "mission to make it really easy to do that."

iCanStream's instruction is divided into four areas -- shoot, edit, compress and publish.

Tips on video for the Web

• Keep camera stable to aid with video compression.

• Lighting must be adequate; dark scenes often don't compress well.

• Clips should be under 3 to 5 minutes.

• Compress for the connection speed of your target audience.

When shooting video for the Web, "you need to do a couple of things differently than one you'd play on your TV," Savello notes, such as worrying more about lighting and keeping the camera very stable so that the video compresses more easily.

When it comes to editing, the rule of thumb is to keep a video clip under 3 to 5 minutes if it's going on the Web. "If you don't, it takes forever to upload to the server, forever to compress, and no one will sit through it," Savello says.

There are a lot of factors to consider when compressing video. The largest is, what audience are you trying to optimize for? In other words, what speed will most of your viewers be coming in on? Savello's answer -- not surprisingly -- is that, while a minority have broadband or have access to a T1 line at work, the majority are coming in on a 56K line.

Publishing video on the Web is easier than it sounds, the site maintains. "For average Joe Blow users, if you have up to 100 people hitting a piece of media at the same time, you don't have to worry about load balancing and bandwidth into the server," Savello says.

"People think they need a huge system and need a big pipe into their house, but most ISPs that are hosting that data will have the bandwidth to do that without any problem. If you have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people hitting your site - like Victoria's Secret's web cast - then you have to start worrying."

In that case, he says, "you need to defer to companies like Akamai."

John Ochwat is a former editor for Upside magazine and contributes to numerous tech publications.

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