wiki:live-video-streaming-support

Version 5 (modified by Jamie McClelland, 9 years ago) (diff)

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Live Video Streaming

Live video streaming has emerged as a critical component to face-to-face gatherings, particularly international events for which travel is expensive and environmentally destructive. With live video streaming, events that were previously exclusive to people who could afford to travel can be made significantly more inclusive.

Since early 2010, May First/People Link has answered multiple calls to provide support for audio and video streaming for social movement events such as the World and US Social Forums and the Cochabamba Climate Conference. We've learned many of the ins and outs of video streaming in vastly different circumstances all over the world. From Bolivia to Senegal, Palestine to Mexico, we have provided some form of virtual interactivity through broadcasting. No two situations have ever been the same and we have learned a lot about what works and what doesn't; and all using Free and Open Source Software.

As a movement, it's critically important that we continue developing this technology, using free and open source technology.

The problem with how streaming is currently done

Currently the state of video streaming on the Internet revolves mainly around a set of protocols and software owned by one company, Adobe. There are essentially two video formats that are used for the streaming done on most of the Internet today; FLV is used primarily for prerecorded video (Youtube), and RTMP which is used for streaming (uStream) as well as prerecorded video (Hulu). Both formats are owned in full by Adobe (and previously Macromedia), to be used with Flash Player. There are very few video sites on the Internet today that are not mostly or wholly dependent on Adobe software.

There are all sorts of technical reasons why Flash is a bad choice for video. In short, it boils down to the fact that Flash decodes the video at the software layer rather than taking full advantage of the video hardware. This offloads all of the decoding to the CPU; this slows machines down, and spikes power usage.

More importantly, however, while the Flash Player is free to download, it is not Free Software in any sense. Flash implements a non-open web "standard" for streaming video. Building streaming video based on Flash and RTMP means we are hitching our movement to a single company that neither shares our vision nor is willing to share the development of the technology freely.

Free software and protocols

Fortunately, free software (both cost-free and free of intellectual property constraints on sharing) provides technologically superior options for streaming. May First/People Link has a collection of tools using the free OGG video format.

How does streaming work?

There are several components to video streaming:

  • Planning. The first step is to assemlbe your team. You'll need people to handle the onsite work and the server work. Recruit well in advance to ensure you will have the labor you need.
  • Audience: While debate rages about the mythical tree falling in the forest, a video stream that nobody watches is not very useful. People won't know about your video stream unless you tell them. Be sure to do outreach about your stream well in advance.
  • On site:
    • Internet connectivity: You will need some kind of broadband Internet connectivity. Cell phone data plans are a great backup, but not good enough to plan on as the primary Internet connection.
    • Audio: You cannot live video stream an event that is not amplified unless you only have one speaker and will have no questions from the audience. The audio system should allow for an audio out cable that can be made available for the live video stream.
    • Video camera: you will need at least one cam corder that has firewire output.
    • Lapotp, with firewire/DV input, running Linux
  • Server side:
    • A server running software that can stream video (May First/People Link maintains two Iceast servers for this purpose)
    • A web site with an embedded video player (also available through May First/People Link).

A live stream starts with the video camera and audio input. The video signal travels over the Internet to the server running streaming software.

Meanwhile, viewers visit a web site that is running the embedded video player. Every person who connects to the web site triggers the embedded video player to connect to the streaming server. Every viewer sees the video as it is happening, live (there's a delay about 30 seconds to a minute).

How can we make this happen for my event?

May First/People Link wants to make it a priority to partner with organizations that are committed to opening participation to their events with live streaming with the use of Free and Open Source Software. Especially, we encourage our members to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about FOSS alternatives to live streaming video.

May First/People is available for remote assistance, onsite support and multi-day workshops.

If you are interested, please contact us at info@mayfirst.org or open a ticket.