Technology is synonymous with change; that’s part of what makes live streaming so interesting (and why it keeps all of us live streamers on our toes).
In an effort to help you stay current—and to provide a reference you can bookmark for some of the foundational terms related to live streaming—we’ve put together a list of key live streaming definitions. And while technology doesn’t stand still long enough for this to be considered a “definitive” list of terms, it is comprehensive enough to be of particular value for those who are new to the field.
Adaptive bit rate (ABR)—ABR is a video delivery technique that optimizes the viewing experience. Multiple versions of the content are transcoded for playback at different bit rates; during playback, the user’s computer may switch between streams as necessary, depending on available bandwidth.
Audio mixer—equipment that combines multiple sounds onto a single track and allows you to control volume, tone, and other dynamics.
Bandwidth—the volume of data that a transmission device is capable of transferring within a certain unit of time. For live streaming purposes, the streamer is more concerned with their upload speed while viewers will be more concerned with download speed.
Bitrate—the speed at which data is transferred from one device to another within a certain unit of time, i.e., higher quality streams will be in the 2.0-5.0 megabits per second (Mbps) range, while lower quality feeds will be in the 0.5-1.5 Mbps range.
Branding—creating a distinct image for an organization that is identifiable by the public. As it relates to live streaming, branding is an important consideration in terms of its prominence on your live stream itself and the platform it is viewed on.
Don’t start live streaming without this handy to-do list by your side!
It also includes a complete list of all the equipment you’ll need to get going.
Buffering—when a device downloads data, it temporarily stores that data in memory to be quickly accessed when needed. Intended to prevent lag time between downloading and viewing, buffering sometimes causes a pause during viewing while the device downloads more content and stores it before playing. This usually occurs for a viewer if they do not have adequate bandwidth to view a stream; for example, a 4.0 Mbps stream will buffer if users don’t have at least 4.0 Mbps upload speed.
Capture device—an adapter that converts video into a digital format that’s recognized by the computer.
Content delivery network (CDN)—a network of servers that copy and store internet content in different locations to make the delivery of that content more efficient. A CDN improves page load times.
Content management system (CMS)—an application or software that gives users the capability to create and manage digital content. In live streaming, you typically use your CMS to schedule broadcasts, download your content, check listener and viewer stats, etc.
CPU—stands for central processing unit. CPU is the main processor inside a computer (sometimes referred to as the “brain” of the computer). Live streaming is a computing-intensive process, and the CPU plays a critical role; typically, the lower your CPU percentage (which indicates how hard your computer is working) the better.
Embed—generally, to affix one thing into something else, as in embedding your live stream onto your website.
Ethernet—a hardwired internet connection; it also refers to the physical plugs and sockets used to create the hardwired network.
Fiber Optic Cables—lightweight cables that contain glass or plastic filaments enabling the high-speed transmission of digital data; used in video production to connect cameras or video control rooms separated by hundreds of feet, or even miles.
Gain—on an audio mixer, gain refers to an increase in the power of an audio signal.
GPU—stands for graphics processing unit. It is a computer chip that creates images, videos, and animation for display on the monitor; for streaming, we can offload the encoding to the GPU to free up CPU resources.
Graphics—computer-generated images or scenes; graphics added to a live stream could be anything from logos to lower thirds to scoreboards.
H.264—also known as MPEG-4 Part 10 AVC (advanced video coding), this is a next-generation video compression standard following MPEG-4.
Hardware encoder—a dedicated device made for video streaming, it converts video input into digital format for playback on various devices.
HDMI—stands for high definition multimedia interface. HDMI refers the cable and connector that allows high-quality transmission of video and audio data from one device to another.
HTML5—for the first time in history, default HTML5 players are available in all current browsers that allow for plugin-free video playback; Flash is no longer required. Additionally, there are high-end HTML5 players that can piggyback off those built-in players to provide extra “bells and whistles.”
Intel Quick Sync—Intel’s hardware video encoder that is integrated into the Intel processor. As a dedicated media processor it enables faster decoding.
Interlaced/Deinterlaced—most video is sent as either progressive or interlaced (that’s what the letter refers to in 1080p or 1080i). This can impact how the video looks to the end user, but the important piece for live streaming is to make sure that you are deinterlacing the video if your camera is sending a 1080i signal. With live sports especially, an interlaced signal will look very “streaky” as the camera and players move around. Using a progressive signal will typically look smoother, and some encoders allow you to de-interlace an interlaced signal.
Internet download speed—the rate at which your network connection pulls data from a server to your computer, measured in megabits per second. Free tools like speedtest.net can be used to check your speeds, though you can’t always take the results at face value. Some Internet Service Providers show a download speed of 100 Mbps but that bandwidth is actually being shared by you and all of your neighbors.
Internet upload speed—the rate at which your network connection transfers data from your computer to a server or another system, measured in megabits per second. See Internet download speed for information on how to measure.
Live production switcher—an all-in-one video switcher that helps mix and manage production sources and gives you the ability to live stream your output in real time.
Live streaming—broadcasting live video and audio over the internet.
Live streaming platform—the vehicle used to broadcast and deliver a live stream to the web.
Local recording—recording directly on your streaming machine or camera.
Metrics—a way to measure or track something, usually to assess performance.
Mi-Fi—a brand-name portable wireless device that connects to a cellular network, acting as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
Mobile live streaming—the use of a mobile device to produce a live stream.
Monetization—turning a non-revenue generating asset (like your live stream) into something that earns money, as with pay-per-view or sponsorship.
Natural sound—the audio produced by the video showing on-screen, i.e., the sound of people talking in a crowd shot, or the sound of the players moving around on a basketball court during a basketball game.
NDI—stands for network device interface. NDI is a standard developed by NewTek that allows cameras and other video sources to communicate over a local area network (LAN).
NVENC—a hardware video encoder embedded into NVIDIA graphics cards.
On-demand viewership—viewers who watch a live stream after its initial broadcast, whenever they want.
Optical zoom lens—a camera lens that captures a closer shot of a faraway image by adjusting the focal length; it offers a better quality image than digital zoom.
OTT—stands for over-the-top. OTT film, television, and live streaming content is accessed via high-speed internet connection (in contrast to content accessed through traditional cable providers). There are many OTT devices available on the market, some of the most popular include Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire.
Overmodulation—when audio levels are too hot (amplified above a certain level) and audio gets distorted.
Paywall—limits access to digital content to paying customers only.
Portal—the landing page or “container” for your digital content. This is where viewers will navigate to consume your content.
Pre-roll—the short commercials that run right before live video airs.
Processor—the energy center of your computer, which determines how much you can do and how quickly you can do it.
Production workflow—repeated processes and resources typically used to produce your live stream. Can also refer to the specific equipment you use to get your live stream up and running.
Production value—the quality of a broadcast, usually impacted by elements such as single camera vs. multi-camera, lower third graphics, audio sources, etc.
RTMP—stands for real-time messaging protocol, designed to transmit real-time audio, video, and data via the internet.
Scoreboard integration—a scoreboard overlayed on your live stream that pulls in real-time scoring data during a game.
SDI—stands for serial digital interface. The transfer of digital video from one device to another over coaxial cable; an SDI connection enables video signal transmission of up to 300 feet without amplification.
Signal amplification—boosting the strength of a video signal through the use of an electronic amplifier.
Software encoder—a program running on a laptop or desktop computer that converts video input into digital format for playback on various devices.
Sponsorship—support for a live streaming event or program (usually monetary) provided by businesses or organizations.
Telestration—illustrating a live stream broadcast by adding freehand drawings, spotlights, magnifiers, lines, arrows, etc.
Tripod—a 3-legged stand to support and hold steady a video camera or recording device.
White-balancing—adjusting the colors in video so they appear more natural.
Wi-Fi—abbreviation for wireless fidelity. Enables an internet connection over radio waves, without using wires.
X.264—similar to H.264, X.264 is a software library used for encoding but released as part of a GNU General Public License for open development.
Any questions about these or other live streaming concepts? Get in touch! We’ll do our best to help. (Plus, we’re glad for any excuse to chat about live streaming!)