Video Streaming: how to shoot streaming videos for the web?

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How To Shoot Streaming Videos For The Web?

Streamed video is heavily compressed. The tricks of the compression are what determine what style of shooting streams well and what doesn't stream well.

One type of video compression separates the changing from the static parts of the frames in a particular clip of video. Then it recycles all the parts of the clip that are not sometimes moving, and encodes the moving parts of the images.

When the compressed video is transmitted, parts of the information get lost in the Internet traffic, but the decompression software compensates for this by using its best guess as to where things should be in the frame.

The official term for compression of this sort is Lossy Video Compression.

Lossy compression is needed, because the amount of information that digital video requires is far greater than the amount of information the Internet can transfer to an individual computer over a standard phone line, at least till today.

We measure the amount of information transferred in bits per second, and we call this bandwidth. Bandwidth is important because most connections to the Internet do not have enough bandwidth to send video without compression. For example, uncompressed video digitized to half the frames per second and lines per inch of television would require the bandwidth of around 8mbps.

Because the bandwidth is limited and the compression is lossy, video streaming will be choppy and unclear if there is too much movement. There are, however, some tricks to shooting video to be streamed.

  • The first trick is when in doubt use talking heads. A talking head is a tight shot of just a person's head talking. If we were to stream this over the Internet, the quality of the video would still be high. However, if we were to add more moving information to the shot it would become jumpy and hard to watch. The video and the sound get choppy because the compression has to refresh much more information.
  • You should remember that if the camera is moving, everything in the shot is moving too. To keep your video streaming from slowing down, always try to shoot from a tripod.
  • The colors you choose can affect how well your video will compress. Bright solid colors are best. Dark colors can confuse the compression software, by blending together with subtle shadows.
  • The contrast of colors is crucial too. Always try to make sure your subject contrasts distinctly from the background.
  • Make sure the background is a solid color because the compression will make hash out of patterns.
  • Patterns, either in the foreground or background, must be constantly refreshed even when there is only the slightest movement. So make sure your subjects get rid of the plaid shirts.
  • You want to have bright, even lighting. Shadows might make a scene more visually compelling, but if you have shadows in your shot, the compression will have trouble with them. It is a good idea to shoot video to be streamed in the daytime.
  • Panning and zooming are bad for streaming too. When you are panning or zooming, the whole background is in motion.
  • You also have to be careful not to have too many rapid-paced music video stype cuts in your video streming. Each time you change the scene, the compression has to load a whole new image, and it can lead to choppy video.

It might seem that the tricks you need to use for video streaming limit the creativity of the videographer.

But this is far from truth. A true mark of creativity is being able to make a compelling video within the framework and limitations of the bandwidth and compression.

These are temporary limitations anyway. Only the pioneers of video streaming will have to contend with them. When more Internet bandwidth is available, you will be able to shoot video in any style you wish, and still have it look smooth and not be jumpy.

Until that point, you have to work within the framework of what video the software can compress, and what video it can't compress.


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