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Broadcasting Video Over the Web

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And you thought access to 200 cable channels was more than enough? Now there could be millions more. Per Matthew David, the time has finally come for video to be successfully broadcast over the Internet.
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Have you noticed the new growth pattern hitting everyone on the Internet? Those TV-like commercials. It doesn't matter whether you are on Yahoo!, MSN, or video—it's the rage. And this not the grainy video from years back; this is the real deal.

Finally, after a lot of speculation and hype, video on the Internet is really here. But now the questions arise. Which video solution should you use? And how do you go about broadcasting over the Internet?

Broadband Days Are Here to Stay

Back in '96, when I started placing video and audio files onto a web site, my peers told me that I was mad. "Don't you realize that most users use dial-up modems?" Although they were correct at the time, today 50% of all access is through a broadband connection. Whether those connections are DSL, cable, or any other means, they are usurping dial-up modems at a fast pace.

Video does require more bandwidth than almost any other file format you'll use on the Internet. The reason is simple: There's a lot going on. For one thing, now you can use a sound track that plays voice, music, and sound effects. Not to mention the complex series of still images we call "moving pictures," or video.

To give you an idea of how large video files can get and why they are so large, let's break down a movie that is five minutes long. There are different ways you can view the movie. If you want the film to look like television, you need 28 still frames for each second of video (like the old flip-book cartoons you played with as a kid).

Quickly moving from one still to another makes moving pictures. But with each still there is a cost in file size. Multiply it by 28 for each second, multiply it by 60 for the number of seconds in a minute, and again by 12 for hours per day. Add in the audio—what you find is that your files will grow to about 3–5Mb for each minute of video. If you want DVD MPEG2 quality video, throw another zero on the end.

All the tools for broadcasting video on the Internet allow you to throttle back the quality of your final movie to meet the demands of the person viewing the files. For instance, you could take the video of a NASA space launch and create a low-, medium-, and high-quality version. You can see this on many web sites that have video. The better the quality of the movie, the larger the file size.

You can also change the physical dimensions of the video. A video that is 120 x 60 pixels will be smaller in file size than a 640 x 480 pixels video of the same bit rate. Finally, you can modify the audio settings. You might not need to have CD-quality audio, for example. If your movie is just two people talking, there's no reason why you can't tweak the audio down to AM radio quality (which is about one-fourth of the file size of CD-quality sound).

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