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What is Adaptive Bitrate Streaming? How to Get Started on Using It?

By Shahan Zafar
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Even though you might not be familiar with what Adaptive Bitrate Streaming (ABR) is, chances are that you have already used it. Does the familiar “auto” option on YouTube ring any bells? It’s a feature that automatically adjusts the quality of the video depending on the speed on your internet, and thereby, reduces buffering. That’s exactly what adaptive bitrate streaming is!

In this blog, we get into the details of adaptive bitrate streaming, what it is, how it works and more importantly how you can get started on using it for streaming live or on-demand videos.

Adaptive Bitrate Streaming in VIDIZMO

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Adaptive Bitrate Streaming (ABR): An Overview

Adaptive bitrate streaming or ABR is a technology that automatically adjusts video quality, compression and resolution to provide end-users with the best possible quality. Adaptive bitrate streaming definitions usually limit it to “best viewing experience as per the users’ bandwidth”, but that’s just not it because a good ABR technology will optimize the experience for bandwidth, device resolution and CPU power as well.

Auto Quality Option Through Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

 

History of Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

If you try to search for the history of adaptive bitrate streaming, you’ll find a Wikipedia article that mentions it being created at the WG1 Special Streaming group in October 2002. There are no citations to back this claim so this may not entirely be true. In fact, ABR goes way before 2002 as there is a patent registered to it in 1998. This patent mentions the process of breaking down a video file into a sequence of slices and allowing the end computer to be able to switch between slices based on the download rate. You can always read more on Patent US6389473B1 here.

How Does Adaptive Bitrate Streaming Work?

Video files are first transcoded into multiple versions, each with a different resolution and bitrate. Each of these is suited for different bandwidth conditions and end-user devices. Each version of the video is then broken down into short 2-10 second chunks. The different versions are bundled up and sent as streams. The chunks allow the player to switch between streams midway depending on the end-users’ device and internet. The streams also include a master .M3U8 file or manifest file, to act as index and let the player know the chunks available and their order. This index file informs the player about the locations of the different qualities available, and it can request them accordingly.

 

Adaptive Bitrate Streaming Infographic

 

Adaptive bitrate streaming is mostly delivered using modern protocols such as HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), MPEG-DASH and Microsoft Smooth Streaming.

The Benefits of Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

The major benefit of adaptive bitrate streaming is reduced buffering! And this in turn helps increase your content’s viewership. If internet speeds drop, adaptive bitrate streaming lowers the quality and load time reduces, which helps stop buffering.

Reduced quality is less likely to make users quit watching a video as opposed to buffering, and research comparing the two proves this! Moreover, according to research by MUX, buffering reduces average content viewing time by 39%. According to another academic research, under 800 10-minute tests comprising of 1,449 valid views, initial delay in loading and video stalling resulted in users to quit watching the video.

Video Buffering Infographic

Buffering could be an issue if you need to deliver an internal training or share a recorded meeting with important information, or simply embed a video advertisement online. If the audiences’ quality of experience matters to you, then you need to reduce buffering and ABR can help you do this.

Adaptive Bitrate Streaming also helps in ensuring device compatibility by delivering a video format that is best suited for the end-user device. 

Mobile Compatibility Infographic

How is Adaptive Bitrate Streaming Different from Progressive Video Streaming?

Progressive streaming or Progressive download involves streaming a single encoded file. Progressive streaming also involves breaking down a video file into chunks, but unlike ABR, the player can’t dynamically switch between different quality options. Progressive streaming is perfectly fine if the end-user’s device supports the video format and resolution and has a high-speed internet connection. However, if the internet speed is low or if resolution levels do not match that of the stream, it will cause issues.

Even with high internet speeds, a 720p video file won’t look the best on a 1080p screen. Moreover, a 720p video file may buffer on a slow internet connection.

Read More: What is Video Streaming?

How to Get Started on Streaming with ABR?

There are two ways to get started on streaming with adaptive bitrate streaming:

  • Build your own workflows; connect video to a transcoder, video streaming server and CDN for streaming.
  • Or make use of a ready-made application that automatically performs all the workflows at the back, to stream all your videos with ABR.

You can opt for our product VIDIZMO EnterpriseTube, if you choose the latter option. When opting for our solution, you get your own YouTube-like video platform where you can upload your videos. The playback experience is as good as YouTube and your viewers get to benefit from minimal buffering through means of ABR.

EnterpriseTube 1

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VIDIZMO helps you do much more:

  • All of your videos can be made playback-ready through technologies such as transcoding, ABR, and CDN delivery. No need to download videos every time your audience needs to watch them and this highly beneficial if you need to share large video files (which could be in GBs).
  • You can stream both live and on-demand videos.
  • You can define access as to who gets to see your videos and who doesn’t. You can keep videos public as such that they can be embedded on your website or privately stream them to your authenticated users only. You can even go a step ahead and define which users or group of users can access your videos.
  • You can benefit from AI-generated accurate closed captions and transcripts in over 80 different languages.
  • You can share videos through multiple tokenized links, each of which can be expired when needed.
  • You can use the platform to train employees internally by adding quizzes, forms and handouts to videos.
  • You can integrate VIDIZMO’s video platform with your LMS or CMS to improve video playback within these applications. For instance, SharePoint is good for managing documents but not the best for streaming videos files. VIDIZMO can integrate and improve video streaming in SharePoint.
  • You can also automatically ingest recorded Zoom meetings and Teams meetings onto the platform, to manage them in a secure and compliant manner.
  • You can host and stream videos in Azure, AWS or on your premises’ datacenter.

VIDIZMO EnterpriseTube is a complete enterprise video platform, such that you can use one platform for all video use cases. Whether it be archiving old videos, or making large files playback-ready, or sharing confidential meeting recordings or embedding a product demo on your website. You can use one platform to do it all, and not worry about playback functionality as adaptive bitrate streaming, transcoding and various other workflows do this automatically at the back.

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Contact us for a product demonstration or other queries, or sign up for a free trial and get started on using VIDIZMO today.

Posted by Shahan Zafar

Shahan is the Product Marketing Manager at VIDIZMO - An expert in video streaming, sharing and management platforms. Shahan is actively involved in researching and consolidating information regarding innovative features, customer challenges and emerging trends in this domain. You can email at shahan.zafar@vidizmo.com for any queries.

Tags: video streaming protocols

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