In the now seemingly distant past, RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol) used to be the absolute standard for streaming video over the internet.
RTMP was developed by Adobe as the foundation for the then extremely-popular Adobe Flash Player and the popular Flash plugin that powered 98% of all internet browsers all around the world back in the day. With the popularity of Flash, it’s fairly obvious that RTMP was also used unanimously.
Most encoders today still support RTMP transmission, and most media servers can stream RTMP. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch, among other popular platforms, still accept RTMP. However, it’s true that other protocols like HLS have effectively replaced RTMP in popularity, and RTMP streams often run into compatibility playback issues in certain devices and browsers.
However, here we will discuss while RTMP, especially RTMP ingestion is still relevant in 2021 and onwards.
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Flash Is Discontinued, So Is RTMP Dead?
Adobe Flash Player, the video player that originally used RTMP, is practically dead for years, and quite recently Adobe themselves announced that the Flash Player will be officially discontinued by 31st of December, 2020.
Thus, a common misconception is that RTMP is also dead along with Flash Player, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. RTMP as a protocol is still valuable in various roles in live streaming.
With Flash Player, RTMP was used as a delivery protocol to connect the Flash Player to a delivery server. However, with HTML5 players (that have replaced Flash Players), the HLS protocol is more widely used.
Thus, it is true that RTMP as a delivery protocol is indeed, ‘dead’, but RTMP ingest is still alive and kicking. We will discuss more on RTMP ingest in the next section.
In short, RTMP is still the standard for delivering your streams to your online video platform, while newer protocols like HLS are used to deliver streams to viewers. The two protocols simply work together to allow a reliable and high-quality live streaming experience.
With streaming technology and protocols evolving so fast, we can expect to abandon RTMP and even HLS in the future. Yet, for now, and at least for a few years in the future, RTMP will remain essential in live streaming.
RTMP Ingest: Why Is It Important?
RTMP ingest is a video source option available on various live streaming platforms like Viloud. In Viloud, for example, RTMP ingest allows users to add third-party encoders and any stream key as video sources.
Meaning, you can add any equipment and platforms as your video source as long as you can get the required RTMP info. Then, you can broadcast it via Viloud to your viewers.
With RTMP ingest, you get more versatility and freedom in your live streaming setup, and essentially with RTMP ingest your video stream will follow this structure:
- Video source (i.e. a camera recording)
- Video streams are fed to an encoder that supports RTMP, prepared for delivery using RTMP protocol
- Sent to your online video hosting platform (i.e. Viloud)
- Prepared for delivery to viewers, typically with HLS protocol
- Broadcasted to viewers via HTML5 players
Which Encoders Support RTMP Ingest?
Most hardware encoders support the delivery of streams to video hosting platforms via RTMP, and software encoders that support RTMP include Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), Wirecast, and XSplit Broadcaster.
RTMP and Cloud Transcoding
A unique feature of using RTMP to deliver your video stream is cloud transcoding. Essentially this feature allows us to stream just a single bitrate from the encoder, which your video hosting platform (that supports the feature) will then convert into various bitrates and resolution qualities in the cloud.
For example, if you send your stream via RTMP to a video hosting platform with 1080p HD quality (1920×1080) with 4Mbps bitrate. Then, the viewer can get the following video qualities:
- 1080p: 1920×1080, 5256kbps
- 720p: 1280×720, 2756kbps
- 540p: 854×480, 1756kbps
- 360p: 640×360, 628kbps
The video player provided by the video hosting platform can automatically adjust the video quality and bitrate depending on the viewer’s current internet speed. This will dramatically improve the viewer’s viewing experience and will considerably reduce the required bandwidth you need in delivering your videos.
Without this feature, for example, you’ll need to send multiple video files with multiple bitrates and resolutions, which can be a major hassle and can cause a major waste of bandwidth.
While RTMP is no longer the standard for delivering video to viewers due to the ‘death’ of Adobe Flash player, RTMP is still the standard protocol for delivering video content between creators and servers/ video hosting platforms, so, RTMP is here to stay in 2021 and at least for a few years in the future.
Getting a video hosting service that supports RTMP ingest, like Viloud, is very important if you want to ensure a stable, high-quality live broadcast whether on your website or on third-party platforms like Facebook, YouTube, or Roku Channel.