The Ultimate Guide to HLS Streaming: What It Is, How It Works, and Its Benefits
With on-demand video and live streaming taking center stage in the world of online entertainment, the way we consume content has evolved drastically. But not everyone is aware of the shifts that have taken place in the world of video content delivery with HLS streaming.
Gone are the days when you had to download a bulky software package just to watch a single video, and video quality was often inconsistent due to primitive connectivity speeds.
Thankfully, video streaming solutions have come a long way in recent years, with providers striving to find the best standards and protocols to deliver top-quality video. That’s where HLS video streaming comes in.
If you’re not familiar with HLS, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.
In this blog post, we’ll walk you through what HLS streaming is, how HLS streaming works, and why it’s such a game-changer for video streaming.
So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn all about the future of video streaming!
What is HLS Video Streaming?
Imagine being able to stream your favorite audio-visual content seamlessly across all your devices, from your trusty old desktop to your brand-new smart TV. That’s where HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) comes in – a protocol designed to make media streaming a breeze.
Originally developed by Apple, HLS has since become the go-to option for live and on-demand media distribution across various platforms and devices. In fact, if you’re an app developer hoping to offer video content longer than 10 minutes or heavier than 5MB, HLS is the mandatory choice for you. You’ll need to provide at least one stream that’s 64 Kbps or lower.
But what sets HLS apart from other protocols? The answer lies in its adaptability. HLS allows you to ensure a top-notch viewing experience for your audience, regardless of their device, playback platform, or network conditions. This makes it the perfect choice for streaming video to large, geographically diverse audiences.
And the best part? Despite its Apple origins, HLS enjoys widespread support among most streaming and distribution platforms. So, whether you’re a content creator, a developer, or just a streaming enthusiast, HLS is the perfect way to ensure that your content reaches its audience in the best possible way.
How Does HLS Streaming Work?
Have you ever wondered how videos can be streamed seamlessly across different devices and locations? The answer lies in the HLS protocol, which utilizes three key components to make it happen: video data, distribution channels, and client devices.
Encoding and Segmentation of Video Data
Before video data can be streamed using HLS, it needs to be prepared for streaming. This is done through two processes: encoding and segmentation.
Encoding is the magic that transforms raw video footage into a format that devices can recognize and decode. It’s like translating a language that only a few can understand into a universal language that everyone can speak.
This process also involves creating copies of the video in different quality levels, like preparing multiple outfits for different occasions, to ensure smooth and uninterrupted streaming. The result is a video that looks great and plays seamlessly on any device.
Segmentation is the process of dividing the video data into short segments of a standard length, usually six seconds. After segmentation, index files are created to specify the order and timing
Distribution Channels for Video Data
Once the video data has been encoded and segmented, it can be streamed to viewers through two main distribution channels: content servers for on-demand streaming, and real-time video sources for live streaming.
When using a content server, viewers make requests for specific video segments and receive them directly from the server. Alternatively, streaming can occur through a Content Delivery Network (CDN), which helps to distribute the streams across a geographic area and caches data for faster delivery to client devices.
Client Devices and Playback of Video Data
Once the video data is transmitted, client devices take over the baton and play the video on various gadgets such as smartphones, laptops, desktops, smart TVs, and others. The client device establishes the sequence in which the video segments are played based on the index file.
Additionally, client devices determine which stream quality to adopt based on the connection speed, local system resources, and screen dimensions.
Client Support and Latency
HLS is universally supported and works on multiple platforms, including mobile devices, tablets, or HTML5 video players. However, HLS had a relatively longer latency than other streaming services, leading to a delay of up to 30 seconds.
To address this issue, Apple unveiled the HLS low-latency mode, which has a sub-two-second latency period for live streaming. Initially, implementing low-latency HLS was complex and required modifications to the way publishers served video streams, special client support, and CDN support.
Advantages of Using HLS Streaming
HLS streaming has revolutionized the way audio-visual content is delivered online. It has numerous benefits for both content creators and consumers. Here are some advantages of using HLS streaming:
Supports Various Devices and Browsers
One of the significant advantages of using HLS streaming is its broad support across various devices and web browsers.
The HLS video player online works on mobile devices, tablets, desktops, and smart TVs, allowing a larger audience to access the video content. Since it uses the HTTP protocol, it works seamlessly with most browsers, making it easier for viewers to watch videos online.
HLS streaming software provides a flexible streaming experience through adaptive bitrate streaming, which means that the video quality adjusts according to the viewer’s network speed and device processing power.
As a result, viewers can enjoy a seamless and uninterrupted viewing experience, no matter what device they are using or how strong their internet connection is. The video player automatically selects the best quality level for the viewer, ensuring optimal performance throughout the stream.
Good User Experience
HLS streaming provides a better user experience by minimizing buffering and reducing playback errors. HLS video player online uses small segments of video files, allowing for quick start times and low latency.
Also, since HLS supports adaptive streaming, viewers can enjoy videos in the best quality available without experiencing any lagging or stuttering.
HLS streaming is highly scalable because of its adaptive nature. It enables you to stream the content in the best possible quality while adapting to the user’s internet connection. This feature makes it easier for you to distribute your content to a large audience without having to worry about the infrastructure’s capacity.
The use of an HLS streaming player ensures that your content is accessible and has good quality, regardless of the number of users.
HLS streaming player ensures content security by offering support for digital rights management (DRM) and encryption. This means that content providers can protect their video content from unauthorized access or distribution.
Additionally, since HLS uses the HTTP protocol, it works with standard web security mechanisms, such as SSL/TLS encryption, making it more secure for viewers.
HLS streaming is an efficient, widely-supported streaming protocol that offers a number of advantages to content creators, publishers, and viewers alike. Its ability to adapt to varying network conditions and provide a seamless viewing experience makes it an ideal choice for delivering video content on a wide range of devices.
If you’re looking to create HLS streams, consider trying VPlayed’s HLS Player. Our state-of-the-art streaming software is designed to offer a high-quality viewing experience across devices and network conditions. Contact our team today and take your video streaming to the next level!