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General

1. What is Audio or Video Streaming?

Streaming video or audio is video (as on television) or sound (as on the radio) delivered over the Internet via a modem, or broadband or cellular connection.

2. Why is it called “Streaming”?

It’s called “streaming” because the sound and picture data flow in a digital stream from a host computer to your computer, ready to hear or view in real time, without having to download all of the content before you can enjoy it. It comes to you in a stream of digital bits… hence the term “streaming.”

3. What difference does it make if content is streamed, rather than downloaded?

Audio and video files can be very large. You would spend many minutes or even hours waiting for them to be downloaded to your computer if they weren’t streamed. Streaming media technology allows you to see or hear the content in just a few seconds, instead of having to wait for it.

In the majority of cases streaming media is also used to maintain control over the distribution of the media files. Compared to a downloaded file, streaming media can’t be shared as easily (recording is difficult). This provides enhanced protection for intellectual and copyright holders.

4. What special equipment do I need to watch streaming audio and video?

You need a computer, tablet or mobile with a Web connection and software capable of playing audio or video called a “player”. A player receives and processes audio/video streams.

These days, players are usually pre-installed on your computer, tablet or mobile device.

5. If I need a player, how do I get one?

Most streaming media will inform you if you don’t have the right player and provide a link to download the correct player if you don’t. The most popular players can be downloaded using the following links:

Download Adobe Flash Player
Download Windows Media Player
Download Silverlight

6. Why can’t I just host my streaming content myself?

You can host your content on whatever hosting account you have. However, you’ll be limited in what you can offer. You won’t be able to offer live streaming for example. And only HTTP streaming is supported with most hosting plans (which actually are downloads not technically streaming).

PlanetStream hosting provides an answer to the problems of hosting your own streaming content by providing an easy, affordable, more functional alternative to self-hosting. And your viewers always get the best experience by using a reliable and fast content delivery network. Read more about what we offer.

7. Do you have anyone in-house / partnered which we can use for the production?

We offer a video production directory for those looking to locate a professional production company . Everyone on the list is checked out by our team to ensure they are an actual production company. We also use a rating system to help you understand the value of each company. Click here to see the current list of companies.

8. Can we record a copy of the stream for future on demand use?

Absolutely! Many people choose to save a live stream for on demand use later. It’s really just a matter of checking to make sure your streaming package has enough bandwidth to cover all your needs – live and on demand streaming. We’re happy to help you figure this out. Please contact us to discuss your needs.

9. What hours do you support?

Our customer support representatives are available 8:30-5:30 Monday-Friday at 01905 672593. We’re also available anytime via email with a 24-hour response time. You can also leave a message for us 24/7 on our customer service number. If you have an urgent technical issue we will respond promptly, even if the call is outside our normal hours.

10. What happens if I go over my allocated usage?

If your monthly usage is over your chosen plan allocation you’ll be charged the overage fee clearly listed in your plan. There are no surprise fees using the PlanetStream service.

You’ll also receive alerts to let you know when this happens, giving you the option to upgrade your account to the next plan level, take the content down to avoid additional charges, or to do nothing and pay the overages.

Business

31. Are there limitations to the free account?

Free accounts include 2GB/month of combined storage and bandwidth. You’ll have access to all the basic features and analytics of the paid accounts. Should you exceed the 2GB/month there is a small overage fee of £2+VAT per GB. You can however choose to switch off your usage for the rest of the month and avoid any costs at all.

32. How long does it take to activate a free account?

Activation is completed the same day. We’re here to get you up and running fast.

33. Is support included in with the free account?

Yes support is always included. We’ll help you with everything from configuring your account settings to producing working player code and give tips on encoding. Whatever you need we’re here to help you get the most out of your trial.

34. How much is the encoding software?

This will vary depending on your requirements. But in most cases Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE), Handbrake, or encoding.com will meet your needs. If you’re unsure, contact us and we’ll get you started on the right path.

35. Can I publicise a case study of our partnership on your site?

We’re always interested. If you’ve got a great story let’s talk! Contact us at 01905 672593, or via email.

36. How can I suggest improvements to the service?

We’re always open to hearing from our customers. You can contact us via email, phone (01905 672593) or the contact form at the bottom of every page on our website.

37. When does the monthly contract start and end?

The contract ends one month from the day you order. For example if your order is processed on the 15th, it ends on the 14th of the following month.

38. During what period is my overage calculated?

All overages are calculated on anything you use over your agreed allowance in a particular contract month.

39. Is there a 12 month commitment on your streaming accounts?

No. But we do offer cost savings for 12 month contracts. Contact us today to see how much you can save.

40. What is the cancellation period for the account?

All cancellations are effective one calendar month after you’ve notified us of your decision to cancel.

41. Is it possible to upgrade during my contract period?

Yes, anytime. We make upgrading easy so you can avoid overage fees.

Technical

11. What is a codec, and where can I get one?

Codecs function much like plug-ins for browsers, and are used by players or authoring software to work with the specific media type. Most codecs you will come across are decoders that are geared to presenting media content to players. Media players usually have a list of websites that supply codecs and will go in search of them when a file is played that requires a particular codec.

If your player isn’t able to locate the correct codec, you can usually find it via a search engine. Another good resource is Free-Codecs.com. It lists free versions of codecs and is generally up to date.

12. What is H.264?

H.264 is generally known as the ‘HD codec’. It offers high quality viewing at substantially lower bit rates than previous standards. H.264 is also device independent meaning it works on all types of platforms (mobile, desktop, tablet).

13. What are mms:// and rmtp:// urls?

These signal to the browser and player that a certain media protocol is being used. RTMP is used for Adobe Flash ; MMS is used only for the Windows Media format.

14. What media file types are available for streaming?

The following are commonly used file types on the Internet:

Video Types: MPEG (.mpeg, .mpg files), AVI (.avi, generally not a streaming format), ASF (.asf), WMV (.wmv), QuickTime (.mov, .qt, .3gp and .mp4 ), Flash/Shockwave (.swf and .flv)

Audio Types: MP3 compression (.mp3), WMA (.wma), Ogg Vorbis (.ogg), acc Plus (.aac, .mp3)

Mp4 is the most common format used. We recommend it as it will work with Flash and HTML5. Also .ogg and .webm formats are useful for HTML5 when using browsers that don’t support .mp4.

For more definitions or descriptions of the various formats please see our glossary.

15. Will people behind Firewalls be able to receive my streams?.

Generally firewalls will allow incoming streaming content. However if your viewers experience issues, here are the common ports used by standard protocols:

RTMP: port 1935 (TCP) or 80 (RTMPT)
MMS: 1755 (UDP/TCP, deprecated in 2003)
RTSP: 554 (TCP/UDP)

If you have issues or questions about configuring firewalls to allow streaming please contact us.

16. How much bandwidth is required to stream my media?

For On Demand Streaming the amount of bandwidth that you use will depend upon:

a) How many streams you have on your site.
b) How many visitors play these streams.
c) The bitrate of the encoding (and the resulting file size).

You can see there could be a wide range of bandwidth depending on traffic to your website, the purpose of your website, and how much streaming content you have.

Due to this we have a range of different pricing models for you to choose between. We also make it easy to change between packages on a monthly basis if necessary. We suggest that you sign up for a standard package, and analyse your statistics for three months to gauge your exact requirements.

In Live Event Streaming the bandwidth depends on:

a) Number of concurrent viewers
b) Length of the event
c) Quality of the stream

To work out the total data transfer used for a live stream, try our bandwidth calculator.

You can also speak to our streaming experts to determine the best package for your situation. Click here to contact us today.

17. What is the best format to stream in?

The best format for streaming depends on many factors. What you are streaming and who you are streaming it to are important factors. If you’re streaming to a general audience on any device, MPEG-4 using H.264 codec might be best. If you have an internal event streaming only to company provided desktop computers Flash might be suitable.

Our streaming experts can help you determine what is best for your needs and budget. Contact us today for a consultation.

18. What type of internet connection would I need to stream an event?

The speed of your internet connection at the event determines the quality of your streaming. Therefore, a high-speed broadband connection offers the best quality streaming.

19. What equipment would we require to stream?

For live streaming, you need to have a camera (webcam, video camera or professional videographer), a computer to encode the stream, and an Internet connection to send it to our servers.

20. Can we use our own / develop our own player?

Yes. We offer a full featured player that you may customise, or you can use any player you choose.

21. Do you support iOS devices and non-Flash devices?

Yes. The H.264 codec supports all devices and utilises HTML or Flash depending on the browser and player the viewer uses.

22. What is the latency we can expect on the stream?

Latency on a stream can happen for various reasons. Generally it is due to the speed of the connection at the viewer’s location.
Our point of presence (POP) infrastructure ensures that latency from our servers is minimized by delivering from the location closest to the viewer. In addition, the state of the art data centres in our network ensure delivery that is faster than the competition.

23. Do you support devices / software such as Tricaster, wirecast etc?

Yes we support these devices. Integrating them with us is simple, you just need to request the publishing point details for your account.

24. Do you support server-side ActionScript support?

Yes we do.

25. Do you have an API which we can use to integrate into our own platform?

Our Web Services consist of a REST-compliant API allowing integration to most of our content delivery network’s functions. Details are available upon request.

26. How am I informed of network status issues?

The network status is always displayed in your media control centre.

27. My stream is not connecting to the server?

This is usually due to a simple error in the setup. If you’ve checked your settings and you still can’t connect, contact us and we’ll be happy to help troubleshoot the solution.

28. The internet connection I am using is blocking media streaming ports. What do I do?

Most protocols use standard ports. Check to make sure these are open. If you are unsure of what ports to check talk with your systems administrator, see question 15 above, or contact our streaming specialists for help.

29. My viewers are complaining my stream has a high latency. Why is this?

Latency is usually a result of a stream being encoded at a high bitrate (high quality) while the viewers connection doesn’t support the bandwidth needed. The only real option to improve the viewer’s experience is to encode at a lower bitrate to support your viewers connection speeds.

30. How do I improve the quality of the stream?

The quality of the stream depends on the bitrate used in encoding. A higher bitrate provides a higher quality. It’s also important to use the correct codecs (h.264 & AAC).

Reseller

42. Do you offer white label services?

Yes. Many web designers, ISP’s and media producers resell our services to enhance their business. We essentially offer a business in a box, complete with all the software and documentation you will need to launch the product to your customers, all with your own branding.

43. Can the video / audio be embedded directly into the client’s site?

Yes. We can also change domains used to match your own branding. To do this you’ll need a complete install of the player on your account.