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What is HLS streaming, and when should you use it?

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In this blog, you’ll understand what exactly is HLS streaming and how & when you should work on HLS streaming.

HLS is one of the most used videos streaming protocols based on HTTP. It was initially developed by Apple and is currently supported by all devices worldwide.

In recent years, there have been significant developments in digital broadcasting. In the past, the primary means for transmitting video over the internet was Adobe’s Flash technology. However, the Adobe Flash protocol is being gradually superseded by protocols like HLS.

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This change is suitable for both viewers and broadcasters. Why? Because HLS is an open standard, users can access it for free. Also, HLS is quicker, safer, and more dependable than prior ones.

HLS encodes videos in several renderings with varying resolutions and bitrates. HLS automatically adapts the lower bitrate to the available bandwidth when your Internet speed is slow. So there will be no long buffering and video pause. 

The main emphasis of this article by Graphy is HLS video streaming. First, we will learn about the working pros and cons of HLS.

What is HLS streaming?

HLS is a short form of HTTP Live streaming. In a nutshell, HLS is a media streaming protocol that uses the internet to provide visual and audio information to users.

In 2009, Apple introduced the HLS standard. However, previous iPhone versions had several video streaming issues. So the release of HLS was eventually scheduled with the iPhone 3 launch.

Before HLS, Quicktime Streaming Server was Apple’s media streaming standard. Unfortunately, despite being a reliable service, Quicktime used non-standard ports for data transport. Hence firewalls frequently block its RTSP protocol. Alongside, the internet speed was not high for everyone in the past, leading to the doom of Quicktime. 

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How Does HLS Work?

First, the HLS protocol uses the .ts file extension to divide video information into small chunks of 10 seconds. The streams are then stored on an HTTP server, and HTTP is used to distribute these brief snippets to viewers’ devices.

The HTTP server additionally generates an index of video chunks in an M3U8 playlist file. So, the file will still exist even if you just stream live with one quality option.

HLS identifies whether a user’s video player software is worsening or improving the network. The video player will examine the index in a poor or strong network to determine which video quality is best.

Although this may appear to be a technically complicated operation, the user will find it simple as everything occurs in the background invisibly.

This procedure necessitates using two essential software: a video hosting platform and a live video HLS encoder.

  • Input: recording and transmission of audio and video file to Encoder.
  • Encode: The encoder converts the input to HEVC and AC-3.
  • Output: Data output through MPEG-4 file or a MPEG-2 transport stream.
  • Segmenting: Media files are duly converted into small chunks and stored on the server.
  • Indexing: A track of all small media chunks.
  • Access: Viewers who tap into the feed will see all files in chronological order, with no gaps.

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When should you use HLS?

In certain circumstances, when videos are large. For example, a succession of a few photos encoded as a 1-2 second video will be less than 1MB. You can simply watch it through HTML5, and there is no advantage to using HLS. 

However, HLS offers a significant advantage when you have high-resolution videos with file sizes more than 3MB. Unfortunately, this content size is unsuitable for mobile internet when viewed in its original size.

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Advantages of using HLS streaming

  1. Supports a wide range of devices: HLS currently supports all current web browsers, including desktop, iOS, Android, and tablets. In addition, HLS videos can function on all platforms, including smart TVs, set-top boxes, desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
  2. High quality: HLS videos utilize the Adaptive Bitrate Streaming technique to evaluate the video viewer’s internet speed. The video quality dynamically changed according to the internet speed.

Consider that you have a quick Wi-Fi connection at home and are watching a video there. Once you’ve left your house, you can use a mobile internet connection to keep watching the video—possibly slower internet speed.

Videos running through HLS will dynamically offer you the highest video quality while minimizing buffering. It results in an improved user experience. The video will keep playing for as long as it can. Once you connect to a high-speed internet connection, quality will scale up.

  1. Low cost: HLS is cheaper than other video streaming formats. Almost any device can play the HLS format. You do not need a particular device to access the content. Also, HLS distribution can be handled by standard web servers without any issues.
  2. Good user experience: Users experience little to no buffering since the player shifts between high and low bandwidth depending on the internet speed.

Also, HLS just has to be launched through a browser, as opposed to P2P streaming, which requires additional programs and the user’s device to maintain TCP or UDP ports open.

Furthermore, all video frames are delivered without a loss since HLS employs TCP for transmission. As a result, there won’t be any distortion, and the movie will play without a hitch.

  1. Highly scalable: If you’re using cloud streaming, you can quickly scale up servers based on the demand because HLS is widely supported across most network infrastructures. If there is a sudden increase in viewers, this can assist in reducing bandwidth issues and meeting the demand. 

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Disadvantages of using HLS streaming

  1. High Latency: “latency” describes when an event occurs in reality and when you can see it. HLS has a high latency when used for live streaming, which is one of its biggest flaws.

This is due to the several steps that must be completed between when a video is recorded and when it is delivered in HLS to the viewer.

In a nutshell, it refers to the period needed for a video to be captured by a camera, processed by an HLS encoder, broadcast over the internet, and then decoded for viewing.

Some platforms optimize and offer low latency live broadcasting by combining multiple methods like Apple’s new low latency HLS or lowering chunk size.

  1. Efficiency: Each end user of HLS is required to get the video from the server directly. This is not the most effective method and might result in buffering. Unlike P2P streaming, which enables video sharing among peers while allowing each end-user device to function as a client and a server.

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Make use of HLS in your content with Graphy

As a content creator, you naturally want to give your audience the best. This blog clearly shows that HLS streaming is the best video streaming protocol.

Your audience can access your content even on a bad internet connection without buffering and security issues. Graphy streams your videos using HLS to give a pleasurable user experience.

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Graphy is an online course creation platform. It has a simple user-friendly interface with a drag-and-drop editor. You can create your course in no time and sell it directly through the platform. Graphy streams your content in protective mode using HLS.

Users can watch your video content on low bandwidth internet. You can get started with Graphy for free and later move on to a paid plan.

 HLS Streaming