I’ve been diving deep into the fascinating world of Video on Demand (VOD) streaming and learning how the impressive cocktail of technology behind it is ever-evolving. If you, like me, are intrigued by what makes this digital world tick, then stick around.
Let’s improve our understanding of the tech that brings our favourite shows and movies to our screens, regardless of where we are in Canada. Don’t worry if you are travelling, you can still stream Max or HBO Max in Canada using a different method.
My Encounter with the Streaming Process
Imagine for a moment: you’re relaxing at home, a favourite show queued up and ready to stream. This whole experience begins with a camera capturing the RAW video footage, which is then sent to an encoder via a capture card or similar hookup. The encoder’s job? It transforms this raw video into a digital file.
This digitised content then makes a pit stop at an online video platform (OVP), from where it is transmitted to a video player via a content delivery network (CDN).
And voila! That video player presents the stream on your internet-connected device, and you are instantly into a different world, courtesy of your chosen show. Now, isn’t that impressive? Let’s break it down a bit further.
You might be asking, “how does a RAW video turn into a digital file that can traverse the internet?” Enter codecs—a piece of tech that wears its purpose on its sleeve, with its name being a blend of the words “coder” and “decoder.”
Picture codecs as diligent little workers who take care of packaging up video files for their internet journey. They either jettison unnecessary parts of the video or compress them for easier transportation. This efficient packing is done using two types of codecs, aptly named audio codecs and video codecs.
The handy tools making the most of codecs are called “encoders.” They can either be a piece of hardware or software. These encoders take the RAW video files from the camera, pass them through the codec to convert them into digital files, and get them ready for online sharing.
Meet the Video Player
Finally, the digital video arrives at its last destination before your eyes: the video player. It is the software that interprets the digital data, creating the images and sounds you see and hear on your screen. This happens in real-time, which is how we get to watch streams as they occur.
What’s exciting is that these video players can exist on an array of platforms—desktops, mobile devices, smart TVs, and more. They include browser-based players like YouTube and Vimeo, and dedicated apps like Netflix and Prime Video. But, remember, these players need to support the codecs used to encode the video; if not, the player can’t decode and display the video.
Online Video Platforms (OVPs)
Once the video data is encoded, it needs a highway to get to the viewer, and that’s where online video platforms (OVPs) come in. They host and distribute video content, and provide a host of services like content management, delivery, monetization tools, analytics, and more. If you’ve ever used YouTube, Facebook Live, or Vimeo, you’ve interacted with an OVP.
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)
Our exploration wouldn’t be complete without understanding the role of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)—the networks of servers spread around the globe, delivering content to viewers based on their geographical location. They’re like global couriers, ensuring your videos arrive quickly and reliably, with minimal buffering or latency. You can also check out the effective content marketing strategies.
Future Technologies to Watch
As fascinating as current technologies are, what gets me really excited is what’s on the horizon. Let’s talk about some emerging technologies that are all set to further revolutionize the world of VOD streaming.
The Power of 5G
The much-anticipated arrival of 5G networks promises a giant leap forward for streaming technology. Think faster speeds, reduced latency, and the ability to handle a greater number of connected devices simultaneously. 5G could mean ultra-high-definition streaming becomes the norm, even on mobile devices.
The Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is increasingly making its presence felt in streaming platforms, improving video quality, automating tasks, and offering tailored viewing experiences. From automated video editing to delivering personalized content recommendations, AI is changing the game in VOD streaming.
The Emergence of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
While VR and AR are not exactly new, the technology is continually evolving and becoming more accessible. The use of VR and AR in VOD streaming opens up a whole new world of immersive experiences for viewers, taking the engagement factor to a whole new level.
The Rise of Blockchain
Primarily associated with cryptocurrencies, blockchain has intriguing applications in VOD streaming as well. From improved rights management to innovative monetization methods, blockchain could transform how content creators benefit from their work.
Edge computing — processing data closer to the source rather than relying on a distant data center — can improve content delivery speed, reducing buffering and latency. As the Internet of Things (IoT) trend continues to grow, edge computing will play a crucial role in ensuring smooth streaming experiences.
As a Canadian streamer, it’s easy to take for granted the tech that makes it possible to enjoy your favorite show or movie with a few clicks or taps. But the journey of a video from camera to screen is a fascinating interplay of various technologies and processes.
As these technologies continue to evolve, so too will our viewing experiences. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the future of streaming holds in store for us.