Streaming video requires the working of various technologies in unison. One aspect of this process involves knowing the various streaming protocols responsible for delivering both live streams and VoD to your viewers. As more and more streaming solution providers, broadcasters, and CDN providers prepare for a future filled with the widespread use of live streaming, the need for exploring more efficient protocols as an individual content producer has never been greater. This blog would focus on comparing SRT, an emerging streaming protocol with HLS and MPEG-DASH– the two most popular streaming standards.
What is SRT?
Initially developed by Haivision Systems Inc., SRT is an open-source video transport protocol and technology stack built for optimizing streaming performance across unreliable networks with secure streams. Based on UDP, SRT makes it possible to transfer any data type, however, it is particularly optimized for audio/video streaming.
You see, what happens while streaming is, video/audio packets sent between two points experience a host of transport obstacles like bandwidth fluctuations and packet loss. As a result, video quality at the endpoint gets delivered at a lower quality than what it originally was. The goal of SRT implementation is to solve that issue.
By adapting to real-time network conditions, SRT optimizes video transport from one end to the other over unpredictable networks and minimizes packet loss, leading to a better QoE. It delivers high-quality video and audio with low latency. Not only that, with easy firewall traversal, SRT makes it possible to bring the best quality live video over the worst networks.
Benefits of SRT
- Designed to protect against jitter, packet loss, and bandwidth fluctuations due to network congestion, SRT gives you high-quality video and audio.
- Despite dealing with network challenges, video and audio are delivered with low latency with combined advantages of TCP/IP delivery and the speed of UDP.
- Industry-standard AES 128/256-bit encryption ensures secure end-to-end content transmission over the internet, including simplified firewall traversal.
- SRT is a royalty-free, next-generation open-source protocol that leads to cost-effective, interoperable, and future-proofed solutions.
Where is SRT Supported?
Since SRT is still in the early stages of development, full-fledged implementation is still a work in progress. Most of the major live streaming platforms haven’t yet adopted SRT into their systems, which means that they can’t be used as endpoints. However, since it is open source and royalty-free, we expect more industry developers to integrate SRT into their systems in the coming months.
What is HLS?
Developed by Apple, HLS is a protocol for streaming live video content over the internet. HLS is short for HTTP Live Streaming. HLS is an adaptive, HTTP-based streaming protocol that sends video and audio content over the network in small, TCP-based media chunks that get reassembled during playback.
Initially, HLS was supported only by iOS. However, HLS has now become a proprietary format, and almost every device supports it. That means a stream delivered via HLS will guarantee playback on the majority of devices — thereby expanding your audience. All Google Chrome browsers, as well as Android, Linux, Microsoft, and macOS devices can play streams delivered using HLS.
As the name suggests, HLS delivers video content via standard HTTP web servers. This means that you don’t have to integrate any special infrastructure to deliver HLS content.
Benefits of HLS
- One of the best advantages of HLS is adaptive bitrate streaming– different versions of the stream are sent at different resolutions and bitrates, allowing the viewers to choose the quality of stream during playback.
- High-quality video and audio delivery across poor-quality networks where demand for low latency is not required.
- Multiple audio track support for things like multi-language streams.
- Unlike other streaming formats, HLS is compatible with a wide range of devices and firewalls.
- HLS supports metadata and other enhanced features.
- Maximum playback support including iOS, Android, Linux, Microsoft and macOS devices across web browsers like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge
What is MPEG-DASH?
MPEG-DASH is the latest and by far, the best competitor of HLS. Created by Moving Picture Experts Group between 2009 and 2012, it uses standard HTTP web servers like HLS. DASH is short for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP that means that like HLS, it’s an adaptive bitrate protocol.
MPEG-DASH is codec and resolution agnostic, which means MPEG-DASH can stream video and audio of any format (H.264, H.265, AAC, etc.) and supports resolutions up to 4K. Otherwise, MPEG-DASH functions much the same as HLS. to know more about HLS & MPEG-DASH, go through our blog on HLS vs MPEG DASH: Which Streaming Protocol Should You Choose?
Benefits of MPEG-DASH
- DASH is codec agnostic and supports almost every video codec available including H.264, H.265/HEVC, VP9/10 and WebM
- Supports all kinds of audio codecs including AAC and MP3
- Like HLS, MPEG-DASH supports adaptive bitrate streaming allowing you to detect your internet speed and deliver the most compatible video resolution at the given moment.
- Like HLS, DASH is also capable of high-quality video and audio delivery across poor-quality networks.
Which Streaming Protocol is the Best for you?
Streaming protocols perform differently in different areas, and one should carefully analyze them before narrowing down upon one. Some of the parameters that decide the performance of streaming protocols are as follows :
- Playback support
- Support for adaptive bitrate streaming
- Proprietary or open-source
- Codec requirements
- First-mile contribution vs. last-mile delivery
Prioritizing the above parameters helps you to narrow down on what’s best for you.
While SRT is a great bet for first-mile contribution, both HLS and DASH win hands down when it comes to playback. Better playback compatibility leads to a wider outreach, which leads to more engagement.
If latency or poor network conditions aren’t an issue, then HLS or MPEG-DASH beats out SRT. Both DASH and HLS are ABR enabled which helps in delivering the best possible video quality to viewers with different network conditions. Also, DASH and HLS are more straightforward to set up than SRT.
If you compare DASH and HLS, the weighing scale of compatibility would tip towards HLS. Here’s why- iOS users represent 25.26% in the global mobile operating system market share. Most of these users can’t play MPEG-DASH video streams unless they use third-party browsers.
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