How Does a Streaming Video Work?

Servers and Clients

Streaming video exists only because a server (large network storage server) and a client (personal PC) can communicate and share information in the form of bits. These two computers make the streaming video happen. It is not a form of media–that is how you would refer to the actual video file. Streaming video is more a method of sending media between two points or computers.

Transferring of Bits and Bytes

The server stores a video file which contains several bits and bytes of code. This code contains the instructions that the computer needs to follow in order to play the video on its screen. This file would look like a simple collection of characters if you viewed it in a text editor. It is similar to the code that is written on a DVD, but it is in a different format. You can think of the server as a DVD that plays on your computer from a remote source. However, a DVD is usually not involved in streaming media. For the most part, actual computer files contain the video information.

Reading and Receiving a Movie

When the server lays out an association with a distant client like a PC, it starts to move the directions to play the video on the PC in a little stream of code.The code is transferred in packets across the network, and it loads in the computer’s memory. The computer processes the video code and then plays it on the screen for the viewer.

I Need a Buffer

The computer stores and organizes the video code in its memory in a buffer file, so it does not have to be continuously connected to the server. If there is a temporary break in the connection, the computer and server can simply pick up where they left off, the server sending more code to the computer as the video plays on the screen. The computer can both download and store the video code in the buffer file until it is ready to play on the screen.

Players and Formats

The computer needs a way to decipher the coded file it is receiving from the server. If you were to look at it, you would not know it was a video. So, the computer uses a piece of software called a viewer to display the code as a movie on its screen. There are many kinds of viewers available, and both the server and the computer have to agree on the type of software to use to display the movie.

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