HTTP Live Streaming

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HTTP Live Streaming playlist
Filename extension .m3u8
Internet media type application/vnd.apple.mpegurl[1]
Developed by Apple Inc.
Initial release May 2009
Type of format Playlist
Extended from extended M3U

HTTP Live Streaming (also known as HLS) is an HTTP-based media streaming communications protocol implemented by Apple Inc. as part of its QuickTime, Safari, OS X, and iOS software. It works by breaking the overall stream into a sequence of small HTTP-based file downloads, each download loading one short chunk of an overall potentially unbounded transport stream. As the stream is played, the client may select from a number of different alternate streams containing the same material encoded at a variety of data rates, allowing the streaming session to adapt to the available data rate. At the start of the streaming session, it downloads an extended M3U playlist containing the metadata for the various sub-streams which are available.[2]

An example HLS live feed from a camera pointed at a fish tank with multiple stream encoding qualities
HLS Live Stream Example

Since its requests use only standard HTTP transactions, HTTP Live Streaming is capable of traversing any firewall or proxy server that lets through standard HTTP traffic, unlike UDP-based protocols such as RTP. This also allows content to be offered from conventional HTTP servers as origin and delivered over widely available HTTP-based CDNs.[3]

HLS also specifies a standard encryption mechanism[4] using AES and a method of secure key distribution using HTTPS with either a device specific realm login or HTTP cookie which together provide a simple DRM system. Later versions of the protocol also provide for trick mode fast-forward and rewind and integration of subtitles. upLynk has also added the AES scrambling and base-64 encoding of the DRM content key with a 128-bit device specific key for registered commercial SWF applications together with a sequential initialization Vector for each chunk to its implementation of the standard.[5]

Apple has documented HTTP Live Streaming as an Internet Draft (Individual Submission), the first stage in the process of submitting it to the IETF as an Informational Request for Comments. However, while Apple has submitted occasional minor updates to the draft, no additional steps appear to have been taken towards IETF standardization.[6]

Architecture[edit]

HTTP Live Streaming uses a conventional web server to distribute audiovisual content and requires specific software to fit into the proper format transmission in real time. The service architecture comprises:

Server
Codify and encapsulate the input video flow in a proper format for the delivery. Then, it is prepared for distribution by segmenting it into different files. In the process of intake, the video is coded and segmented to generate video fragments and index file.
  • Encoder: codify video files in H.264 format and audio in MP3, HE-AAC or AC-3. This is encapsulated by MPEG-2 Transport Stream to carry it
  • Segmenter: divides the MPEG-2 TS file into fragments of equal length, kept as .ts files. It also creates an index file that contains references of the fragmented files, saved as .m3u8
Distributor
Formed by standard web Server, accepts requests from clients and delivery all the resources needed for streaming.
Client
Demand and download all the files and resources, assembling them so that they can be presented to the user as a continuous flow video. The client software downloads first the index file through a URL and then the several media files available. The playback software assembles the sequence to allow the continue display to the user.

Features[edit]

HTTP Live Streaming provides mechanisms to provide a scalable and adaptable to network, allowing playback quality in wireless networks with high bandwidth and low quality playback on 3G networks, where the bandwidth is reduced. HTTP Live Streaming also provides protection against errors, generating alternative different flows video to use them if there are any errors in segment.

Scalability[edit]

To make the system scalable and adaptable to the bandwidth of the network, the video flow is coded in different qualities. Thus, depending on the bandwidth and transfer network speed, the video will play at different qualities.

To implement this, the system must encode the video in different qualities and generate an index file that contains the locations of the different quality levels.

The client software internally manages the different qualities, making requests to the highest possible quality within the bandwidth of the network. Thus always play the video the highest possible quality, viewing lower quality on 3G networks and highest quality in Wi-Fi broadband.

One issue that can arise by relying on the client-side system is that a user may experience different bitrates throughout the duration of playback. This can be avoided by delaying the responsiveness of the player to changes in client-side bandwidth.[7]

Protection against errors[edit]

Protection against errors works like scalability. In this case is generated a different flows with the same quality video and locations are listed in the index file.

The management of all files is done from the client, so that if it fails the first flow, use the next and successively.

HTTP Live Streaming also allows you to combine the protection of errors and scalability. In this case generates an index file that contains for each bandwidth the alternative flows of the videos.

Server implementations[edit]

  • Adobe Media Server supports HLS for iOS devices (HLS) and Protected HTTP Live Streaming (PHLS).
  • Akamai supports HLS for live and on-demand streams.
  • Amazon CloudFront supports HLS for on-demand streams.
  • bitmovin provides the cloud transcoding service bitcodin.com which supports HLS for on-demand and live streaming.
  • Cisco Systems: Supports full end to end delivery for Live/TSTV/VOD/HLS and Cloud DVR services.
  • EdgeCast Networks supports cross-device streaming using HLS.
  • Edgeware: Supports full end to end delivery for Live/TSTV/VOD/HLS.
  • Helix Universal Server from RealNetworks supports iPhone OS 3.0 and later for live and on-demand HTTP Live or On-Demand streaming of H.264 and AAC content to iPhone, iPad and iPod.
  • IIS Media Services from Microsoft supports live and on-demand Smooth Streaming and HTTP Live Streaming.
  • Level 3 supports HLS live and on-demand streams.
  • Limelight Networks supports HLS for some accounts.[8]
  • Nginx with the RTMP Module supports HLS in live mode.
  • Nimble Streamer supports HLS in live and VOD mode.
  • TVersity supports HLS in conjunction with on-the-fly transcoding for playback of any video content on iOS devices.
  • Unreal Media Server supports low latency HLS as of version 9.5.
  • Ustream supports HLS delivery of live broadcasts. The ingested stream is re-transcoded if the original audio and video codec falls outside HLS requirements.
  • VLC Media Player supports HLS for serving live and on-demand streams as of version 2.0
  • Wowza Streaming Engine from Wowza Media Systems supports HLS and encrypted HLS for live (with DVR) and on-demand streaming.

Usage[edit]

  • Adobe Systems demonstrated an update to its Adobe Flash Media Server product supporting HTTP Live Streaming at the NAB Show in April 2011
  • Apple Inc. used this on September 1, 2010 to stream its iPod Keynote event live over the internet, and on October 20, 2010 to stream its 'Back to the Mac' Keynote event live over the internet.
  • Google added HTTP Live Streaming support in Android Honeycomb and later.[9]
  • Helix Universal Server from RealNetworks supports iPhone OS 3.0 and later for live and on-demand HTTP Live or On-Demand streaming of H.264 and AAC content to iPhone, iPad and iPod initial release April 2010, latest release November 2012
  • flashls is an open-source Adobe Flash/Adobe AIR plugin that provides HTTP Live Streaming support for Chromeless Flash/Air Player, Flowplayer, Video.js, mediaelement.js and Open Source Media Framework 2.0
  • HP added HTTP Live Streaming support in webOS 3.0.5.[10]
  • Microsoft added support for HTTP Live Streaming in EdgeHTML rendering engine in Windows 10 in 2015[11]
  • Microsoft added support for HTTP Live Streaming in IIS Media Services 4.0.[12]
  • Yospace added HTTP Live Streaming support in Yospace HLS Player and SDK for flash version 1.0
  • Sling Media added HTTP Live Streaming support to its Slingboxes and its SlingPlayer apps[13]
  • In 2014/15, the BBC introduced HLS-AAC streams for its live internet radio and on-demand audio services, and supports those streams with its iPlayer Radio clients.[14]

Supported players and servers[edit]

Clients[edit]

Product Platform Live Streaming DRM As of Version Vendor
Android (native media support) Android Yes Yes 3.0+[15]
Support for HLS streams in the stock browser or Chrome is generally stable from Android 4.1 onwards (with minor issues).
Google
iOS (native media support) iOS Yes Yes 3.0+
Has full HLS support. HLS streams can be accessed via Safari without the need of any 3rd-party app.
Apple
Safari (web browser) OS X, iOS Yes Yes 6.0+ Apple
Google Chrome (web browser) Android, iOS Yes Yes 30+
Unsupported on desktop OSes
Google
Microsoft Edge (web browser) Windows 10 Yes Yes Microsoft
QuickTime Player (media player) OS X Yes Yes 10.0+ Apple
iTunes (music player) Windows, OS X Yes Yes 10.1+[16]
Has full HLS support. To play a HLS stream, go to File > Open Stream and replace "http://" with "itls://" in the stream URL.
Apple
VLC media player (media player) Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone Partial No 2.0[17]
Has partial HLS support. VLC may load the playlist as individual chunks instead of a gapless live stream for some server configurations. This causes a slight pause or missing audio between each file segment.[18]
VideoLAN
Media Player Classic Home Cinema (media player) Windows No Yes Gabest, Doom9 forum users
PotPlayer (media player) Windows Yes Yes Daum Communications
MPlayer / SMPlayer / mpv (media player) Windows, Linux Yes Yes Ricardo Villalba
Audacious (software) (music player) Windows, Linux Yes Yes
Radio Tray (radio player) Linux Yes Yes Carlos Ribeiro
Kodi (software) (home entertainment application) Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS Yes Partial 12.0 Alpha 5 and later
DRM support requires a monthly/nightly build
XBMC Foundation
MythTV (home entertainment application) Windows, OS X, Linux, FreeBSD Yes Yes 0.26 MythTV
JRiver Media Center (home entertainment application) Windows, OS X Yes Yes JRiver
XiiaLive (radio player) Android, iOS Yes Yes 3.0+
Plays internet radio streams (audio only).
Visual Blasters LLC
Tunein radio (radio player) Android, iOS Yes Yes 3.3+
Plays internet radio streams (audio only).
TuneIn
myTuner Radio (radio player) Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8, OS X Yes Yes Appgeneration Software
Internet Radio Player (radio player) Android Yes Yes MuserTech
GuguRadio (radio player) iOS Yes Yes Leon Fan
MX Player (media player) Android, iOS Yes Yes J2 Interactive
RockPlayer (media player) Android, iOS Yes Yes Shanghai ChangeTech Co. Ltd.
DicePlayer (media player) Android 2.2+ Yes Yes Diceplayer 1.0+ INISOFT
HP Touchpad WebOS Yes Yes 3.0.5 HP
Amino x4x STB Amino set-top boxes Yes Yes 2.5.2 Aminet Aminocom.com
Dune HD TV Dune HD set-top boxes Yes Yes TV Series dunehd.com
nangu.TV Motorola set-top boxes Yes Yes 2.0 nangu.TV
Roku Digital Video Player Roku set-top boxes Yes Yes Roku OS / SDK 2.6 Roku
Telebreeze Player (online service) HTML, Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, Roku STB, MAG250, Samsung SmartTV, LG SmartTV, T503, Enigma Yes Yes 3.2 Telebreeze
bitdash (SDK) HTML5 or Flash, Web and Mobile Yes Yes Version 3.0+ bitmovin
3ivx (SDK) Windows 8, Windows Phone 8[19] & Xbox One[20] Yes Yes 2.0 3ivx
THEOplayer (SDK)[21] HTML5 Yes Partial OpenTelly
Viblast Player (SDK) HTML5, iOS, Android Yes Partial Viblast Ltd
Flowplayer (SDK) Adobe Flash, iOS, Android Yes Yes The Flash HLS plugin is available from GitHub. Flowplayer Ltd
JW Player (SDK) Adobe Flash, iOS, Android Yes Yes A Premium or Enterprise license is required for HLS support. JW Player
Radiant Media Player (SDK) Adobe Flash, HTML5 Yes Yes 1.5.0[22] Radiant Media Player
Yospace (SDK) Adobe Flash Yes Yes 2.1 Yospace
Onlinelib (SDK) Adobe Flash Yes Yes 2.0 Onlinelib.de
VODOBOX HLS Player (online service) Adobe Flash, HTML5, iOS, Android Yes Yes Vodobox
NexPlayer (SDK) iOS, Android, Windows Phone Yes Yes NexStreaming
ffplay/avplay (multimedia framework) Yes Partial FFmpeg/Libav
GPAC (multimedia framework) Yes No 0.5.0 Telecom ParisTech inc.

Servers[edit]

Product Technology As Of Version Vendor Notes
bitcodin SaaS bitmovin [23]
VLC 1.2
Unicorn Once SaaS Unicorn Media
IIS Media Services 4.0[12] Microsoft
Antik Media Streamer Ingest Module (UDP/HTTP Transport Stream, Backup Stream with auto-switching, stream status monitoring and logging), Stream replication UDP/HTTP, HLS streaming, Video archive with snapshots, Server-side Timeshift, Timezone Shifting with multi-timezones, Stream Encryption using AES and key-rotation (with Antik Key Server) 3.0 Antik technology
Adobe Media Server Live and VOD streaming as origin and edge server 5.0 Adobe
Evostream Media Server Cross-platform including embedded systems such as encoders, IP cameras, DVRs, and more. Supports: Adobe Flash RTMP, RTMPS, LiveFLV, full transcoder for creating lower bitrate streams, HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) for streaming to iPhones, iPads and Androids, HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS) for Adobe Air, Microsoft Smooth Streaming (MSS) for Microsoft devices, RTSP with RTP or MPEG-TS, MPEG-TS (unicast/multicast), compatible Live Encoding, strong security for your content ( Verimatrix DRM, HLS AES encryption, Stream Aliasing, Watermarking), built-in clustering mechanism and more. 1.6.5 EvoStream
MythTV 0.25 MythTV
MACNETIX VOD-Server 3.0 MACNETIX
Anevia ViaMotion Servers Transcapsulation: from one input, several outputs
(HLS, MS Smooth Streaming, ADS Flash, MPEG DASH)
Anevia
Packet Ship OverView:Origin Server Capture from IPTV multicast and chunking to HLS for multi-bandwidth live streams, with AES encryption 2.1 Packet Ship
nangu.TV Streamers on-the-fly adaptation: content is stored once enabling several outputs
(HLS, MS Smooth Streaming, ADS Flash, MPEG DASH)
nangu.TV
TVersity Media Server 1.9 TVersity Pro Edition only
Helix Universal Server Live + VOD HLS with Verimatrix DRM integration, ABR, Multi-Resolution, AES encryption 15.0+ RealNetworks High performance HLS (12,000+ concurrent devices)
Wowza Streaming Engine Live and VOD streaming as origin and edge server with DVR, DRM Integration and Transcoding for adaptive delivery. Outputs to MPEG-DASH, HLS, HDS, Smooth Streaming, RTMP, and RTSP 2.0+ Wowza Media Systems
Unified Streaming Platform Muxes media content from one unified source to multiple outputs (Smooth Streaming, HDS, HLS and MPEG DASH) Unified Streaming
VODOBOX Live Server Outputs HTTP Live Streaming with Adaptive Bitrate (up to 6 simultaneous qualities).
Video codecs : AVC H.264 / HEVC H.265
Audio codecs : MP3 / AAC
Transport layers : HTTP / FTP / Amazon AWS S3 / Microsoft Azure Web Storage / writing to disk (NetBios / Samba)
Hostings : internal HTTP Web server and/or external Web servers (ex: Apache, IIS, NGinx, etc.)
1.0 Vodobox Supports input live streams from DVB-T devices, satellite receivers (Dreambox), IP streams (RTSP, RTMP, MMS, HTTP), Microsoft DirectShow drivers (video capture cards, live production software, camera).
Flixwagon Platform Video Server Flixwagon
StreamCoder Live Encoder Realtime video encoder (inputs : DVB/IP stream or video signal). Supports multi-bitrates and multi-languages Ektacom
Apache HTTP Server Apache Software Foundation
Unreal Media Server 9.5 Unreal Streaming Technologies Latency of live streams can be as low as 2.5 seconds over the Internet
lighttpd 1.4.x
Nimble Streamer RTMP / RTSP / Icecast / MPEG-TS to ABR HLS. MP4 / MP3 to VOD HLS 1.0.0-x WMSPanel
Nginx-rtmp-module Free module for nginx server with support of HLS live streaming. Compliant with iOS and Android. 0.9.x Roman Arutyunyan
Nginx Plus VOD HLS as origin NGINX, Inc.
Flussonic Media Server Multi-platform support for HTTP, RTSP, RTMP, Time Shifting, DVR Functions with Unlimited Rewind Capabilities HLS streaming specific to iOS platform support. 3.0+ Flussonic, LLC. Supporting a magnitude of features with full HTTP support.
VBrick Distributed Media Engine ("DME") 2.0 VBrick Systems, Inc. Live and stored HLS. Live can be transmuxed from several input mux including RTP, RTMP, and MPEG-TS using H.264 encoding
Telebreeze Coder / Media Server HLS, HTTP TS, RTMP, TimeShift, VoD, DVR, Hardware Acceleration 2.0 Telebreeze
LEADTOOLS Media Streaming Server SDK Converts files on the fly to Flash, Adobe HDS, Apple HLS, MPEG-DASH, Microsoft Smooth Streaming, RTSP and HTML5. 19.0 LEAD Technologies

VOD encoders[edit]

Product Technology As Of Version Vendor Notes
VODOBOX HLS Encoder Converts video files into pre-encoded HLS Adaptive Bitrate streams, ready to be hosted and streamed by Apache/IIS Web servers/NGinx. Supports AVC H.264 / HEVC H.265. 1.0 Vodobox Transcode classic video files (avi, mp4, m2ts, ...) into HLS streams with multi-qualities for VOD or replay usage.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pantos, R.P. (April 2014). "HTTP Live Streaming draft-pantos-http-live-streaming-13". Network Working Group: 1. 
  2. ^ Jordan, Larry (10 June 2013). "The Basics of HTTP Live Streaming". Larry's Blog. Larry Jordan & Associates. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  3. ^ MPEG-DASH vs. Apple HLS vs. Smooth Streaming vs. Adobe HDS
  4. ^ Pantos, R. (30 September 2011). "HTTP Live Streaming". Internet Engineering Task Force. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  5. ^ "Application keys". Digital rights management (DRM). upLynk Support. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  6. ^ van Kesteren, Anne (2010-09-01). "Internet Drafts are not Open Standards". annevankesteren.nl. Self-published. Retrieved 2015-03-22. 
  7. ^ April 2015 Integration of videoJS Brightcove technology on IGN.com.
  8. ^ "Limelight Orchestrate Video Support". Limelight Networks. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "Android 3.0 Platform Highlights". 
  10. ^ "webOS 3.0.5 Updates". 
  11. ^ Simplified Adaptive Video Streaming: Announcing support for HLS and DASH in Windows 10
  12. ^ a b "First Look: Microsoft IIS Media Services 4". StreamingMedia.com. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  13. ^ Blogcritics, November 26, 2010. iPad App Review: SlingPlayer (Retrieved April 14, 2014)
  14. ^ Scott, Andrew (27 Feb 2015). "Audio Factory: an overview". Internet Blog. BBC. the only on-demand assets will be AAC HLS. ... We are still talking to manufacturers and many are confident that they will be able to provide their users with access to all 57 of our HLS AAC streams at 320kb/s within a few weeks or months. 
  15. ^ Supported Media Formats | Android Developers
  16. ^ Hints of 'iTunes Live Stream' Service Found in iTunes 10.1 - Mac Rumors
  17. ^ https://trac.videolan.org/vlc/ticket/2943 VLC Ticket #2943 (Support for HTTP Live Streaming as a client)
  18. ^ https://forum.videolan.org/viewtopic.php?t=113275
  19. ^ http://www.3ivx.com/technology/windows/metro/http_live_streaming.html
  20. ^ http://www.3ivx.com/xbox/
  21. ^ THEOplayer | HLS Support
  22. ^ Radiant Media Player version history
  23. ^ StreamingMedia Review bitcodin