Low Latency Streaming Solutions: Choosing a Platform to Live Stream Without Delay [2022 Update]

By Max Wilbert

24 Min Read

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Max Wilbert

Max Wilbert is a passionate writer, live streaming practitioner, and has strong expertise in the video streaming industry.

    According to this report, most of us spend over 100 minutes each day watching video content of different genres. That adds up to a considerable amount of time. But have you ever wondered which videos stand out? The videos that hook viewers from the start and maintain their interest throughout.

    One crucial aspect that makes or breaks the interest of your audience is the viewing experience that your videos deliver. When streaming live videos as a professional, you need to focus on creating a great experience for your viewers. One way to create a great live video viewing experience is by keeping the latency on your streams low.

    We’re sure you spend lots of time, money, and creative energy settling up the perfect background for your videos and perfecting the content you plan to record. If live-streaming is your preferred medium, keeping your viewers engaged and entertained is even more important.

    Imagine live-streaming a concert or live event, for example. You hype up your viewers by creating buzz around the event on social media. Everything’s lined up, you set up your equipment, and brief your staff. From your end, everything is ready to go.

    But what if there’s a lag in your live stream on the viewer’s end? Not many viewers will sit around waiting for the stream to load. A single buffering event can cause up to 40% of viewers to lose interest and switch to something else. Even if the live-stream buffers for a very short period.

    Not only will it be a buzzkill for your audience, but you will also surely lose viewers. These lost viewers might not be willing to tune in to watch your live streams in the future as well. Today’s audience is spoiled for choice, and they really hate waiting.

    That’s where low-latency streaming solutions come in. That’s how live streams maintain continuity throughout their duration.

    A low-latency streaming solution allows your viewers to experience the content in real time. Latency is the delay between when an image is captured on your camera and when your viewer experiences it on their screen. With live content, you want the lowest possible latency. Low-latency video streaming is essential for professional broadcasting.

    Understanding how low latency streaming works can help engage your audience better. That’s thanks to CDN solutions that can bring down latency to milliseconds. 

    In this post, we will explain what low-latency streaming is and take a look at the features you should look for when choosing a low-latency streaming platform. We will wrap things up by mentioning a few great encoders for low-latency streaming.

    Let’s get started.

    Table of Contents

    • What is Low Latency Streaming?
      • Impact of High Latency
    • The Value of Low Latency Streaming Solutions
    • How to Choose the Best Low-Latency Streaming Solution for Live Streaming Without Delay
      • HLS Streaming Protocol Delivery
      • How TLS Streaming Works
      • Less than 15 Seconds of Latency
      • Simple to Set Up and Use
      • Fits Your Budget
      • Reliable Content Delivery
    • Top 3 Solutions for Live Streaming without Delay
    • Encoders for Low Latency Streaming
    • How to Stream With No Delay With Dacast

    What is Low Latency Streaming?

    Live Streaming Without Delay
    Live streaming without delay helps make your streams more viewer-friendly.

    Let’s get a bit technical here. Live streams are not actually live. There’s usually a 20-120 second delay between the event actually taking place and the video streaming on viewers’ screens. That’s video latency, the delay between when a video frame is captured and when that frame is displayed to the viewer.

    For example, if you’re watching a live sporting event, latency is the time between a player making that legendary winning goal in real life and you actually seeing it happen on your screen at home. You want the stream delay to be short enough to be unnoticeable.

    Latency takes place in a broadcast because processing and sending live video takes time. It doesn’t take much time, of course. Nonetheless, each step in the process results in a tiny delay. These steps include:  

    • Camera processing the image
    • Encoders transcoding the content
    • Time for the video to be transmitted to the viewer
    • Buffering
    • One’s viewing device decodes and then displays the video.

    According to Encoding.com, most live streams have latency in the 30-120 second range—sometimes more. 

    In fact, there are two parts to latency:

    • Startup time and the lag between the event taking place
    • The video streaming on a viewer’s screen.

    Both are important to the viewer’s experience. Unfortunately, reducing one latency component can increase the other in some cases. That is why it is important to understand the balance between these two parts and how to stream with less delay effectively.

    Impact of High Latency

    Here’s how high latency causes lagging and can impact your live broadcast:

    • Viewers want to feel like they are seeing things in real-time. High latency can negatively impact a viewer’s experience by lengthening the lag. No viewer wants to look on Twitter and see a tweet about what they are watching before it appears on their screen.
    • Live-stream audiences want to feel connected and like they are in there in person. If there is a big delay in getting the content, or if the video is constantly buffering and loading, this takes away from the real-feel experience people look for with a live stream.
    • Minimizing latency helps relay the content you’re broadcasting to your viewers in a more “real-time” fashion. It helps keep them connected and engaged since it’s the closest thing to attending your event in real life. Avoiding a live stream delay keeps your viewers engaged in real time.

    The Value of Low Latency Streaming Solutions

    We’ve established that low latency is often the preferred way to stream, but you’re likely wondering why this is the case.

    As far as startup time, studies have shown that longer startups drive viewers away and negatively impact their experiences. Online videos with a start-up time exceeding even two seconds have significantly higher streaming video abandonment rates.

    Each incremental second lag propels another 6% of viewers to jump ship. That’s why learning how to stream without delay, or as little delay as possible, at the start of your video is essential to retaining viewership.

    Low latency during the broadcast itself is critical in a variety of situations. Here are a few scenarios in which low latency streaming media solutions are especially critical:

    1. Sports streaming
    2. Live auctions
    3. Live streams involving chat, real-time feedback, or audience participation
    4. Gaming
    5. Gambling
    6. Dual-screen viewing (which is increasingly common for all sorts of broadcasts)
    7. Concerts
    8. Question answer sessions
    9. Political events such as debates or vote counting

    Low latency streaming solutions help viewers watch these events unfold in almost real-time, creating a more lifelike experience.Getting rid of streaming lag is the best way to keep your viewers engaged. 

    How to Choose the Best Low-Latency Streaming Solution for Live Streaming Without Delay

    Only a handful of video streaming platforms deliver efficient low-latency video streaming platforms today. Each offers a different combination of price, usability, and features.

    Let’s look at some of the features you should look for when choosing a solution to live stream without delay.

    • HLS Streaming protocol
    • Less than 15 seconds of latency
    • Simple set-up
    • Budget-friendly
    • A reliable content delivery system

    HLS Streaming Protocol Delivery

    HLS streaming
    Make sure your chosen streaming solution uses HLS streaming.

    The best low latency video streaming platforms use the HLS streaming protocol. “HLS” is short for “HTTP Live Streaming,” and Apple designed it to work with HTML5 video players. Both of these technologies are successors of the ancient Adobe Flash Player technology.

    How TLS Streaming Works

    Most HLS streams start with RTMP ingest, which is automatically converted to HLS for delivery by the video platform. This provides a high-quality stream to viewers but can introduce a latency of 30 seconds or more. That is a huge live stream delay.

    The reason that RTMP is still used for video ingestion rather than using HLS for both deliveries and ingest is that HLS on its own has a much higher latency. The RTMP ingest/HLS delivery combo makes it possible to stream on an all-device HTML5 video player while reaping RTMP’s benefit of low latency.

    When paired with the right CDN, this technology can help decrease your latency into the 12-15 second zone. This is a much better live stream delay.

    Less than 15 Seconds of Latency

    Cable TV and professional broadcasts usually have 10 seconds or less latency. Ultra-low latency is under 1 second. 

    To achieve less than 15 seconds of latency, you need a combination of features to work together. That’s why, when comparing streaming solutions, it’s best to ask the sales representative how many seconds of latency their platform has. 

    For professional broadcasts, you want to aim for less than 15 seconds of latency. Dacast, for example, offers HLS delivery with RTMP ingests for low latency streaming. This reduces latency to 15 seconds or less. 

    This is the type of latency that’s most suited for a professional broadcast.

    At Dacast, we’re constantly working to reduce our latency further so that our users can produce live streams that are even close to real-time streaming. We’re very excited about our recent partnership with Limelight CDN with the launch of our UApp. Both of these additions aim to reduce latency even more. Dacast continues to invest in the best tools so that you don’t have to think about how to reduce stream delay; we will take care of it for you.

    Simple to Set Up and Use

    low latency streaming platform
    Find a low latency streaming platform that is easy to navigate.

    If you are new to professional broadcasting, you’re going to want to choose a low-latency streaming solution that is easy to use. Unless your role at your company is dedicated to producing live streams, you likely don’t have the time for a steep learning curve. That is why you need a video hosting service that makes learning how to reduce stream delay as easy as possible. 

    Choose a streaming solution that is both user-friendly and has a reliable customer support team that is there to help you when you need it.

    It is also a good idea to make sure your streaming solution works seamlessly with professional equipment as well as with the laptop or computer you plan to work with.

    For example, Dacast simply requires a consumer-grade laptop to run (i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM minimum). You can also use the OBS Studio software encoder with Dacast, which is free to use.

    Compare that to hardware encoders or workstations that typically cost $1,000 and up (some cost $10k+), and you can save substantial amounts of money. This makes it easier than ever to stream professional-grade broadcasts without a massive budget.

    Fits Your Budget

    Live streaming pricing varies widely. Many online video platforms offer cheap introductory pricing but limit professional features to very expensive platforms. 

    • For example, a service like IBM Cloud Video restricts features like API access to plans costing over $999 per month.
    • As another example, Vimeo restricts 24/7 live streaming, monetization, advanced security features, dedicated support, and video API access to custom plans with a similar very expensive price range.

    These aren’t cherry-picked examples. Almost every live-streaming platform on the market requires a bit of an investment to access more advanced features.

    Comparatively, Dacast offers live streaming starting at just $39 per month and all access to premium features starting at $188 per month billed annually. This includes all the features that are restricted to these other streaming solutions. Dacast offers low latency streaming at a price all businesses, and broadcasters can afford.

    VOD hosting, live streaming, API access, monetization, 24/7 tech support, and all security features are included with every Dacast plan. Dacast offers a full host of professional features that will allow you to produce professional content and avoid a long live stream delay when you broadcast. 

    Reliable Content Delivery

    Wondering why your viewers seem to drop out during your live streams? Let’s hear it straight from your audience. Sixty-three percent of live stream viewers last year cited buffering issues as the most serious issue they experienced, and that number is an increase from the previous year.

    Meaning streaming lag and buffering point to a serious issue. The best solution to this problem is to use a robust CDN or Content Delivery Network or a multi-cdn solution

    A CDN is a network of thousands of servers distributed to data centers around the world. These services help deliver content to users fast. They do this by automatically duplicating data and using intelligent routing algorithms to find the fastest path to any given viewer.

    That way, no matter where your viewer is located, the stream latency they experience will be as low as possible. That’s how you’re able to:

    • Improve security
    • Speed up delivery
    • Reduce buffering
    • Eliminate lagging issues, cutting down on steam latency
    • Improve scalability to suit audiences of any size
    • Build in an additional layer of redundancy

    You don’t want to introduce latency in your streaming when your audience grows; a multi-CDN network can avoid that.

    Not all CDNs are created equal. Some are much smaller and slower than others, and some CDNs don’t support live streaming video at all. Dacast works with Limelight, which is regarded as one of the most reliable CDNs on the market. That means your live stream delay will be as short as possible for your viewers worldwide. 

    Top 3 Solutions for Live Streaming Without Delay

    Now that you have a better understanding of what to look for in a low latency streaming service, let’s take a look at some of the top streaming solutions with integrated low latency live streaming options.

    We will compare our platform Dacast with the Limelight CDN and cloud streaming alternative Wowza.

    1. Dacast

    live streaming platform for audio and video
    Dacast is a unified streaming solution that uses HLS delivery and RTMP ingest for low latency streaming.

    First up is Dacast. The video streaming platform includes both live streaming and video-on-demand hosting, as well as a wide range of professional broadcasting features. You can enjoy low-latency streaming with Dacast. 

    These features include:

    Low Latency Options:

    Dacast now offers low latency streaming as a standard feature. This reduces latency to 10 seconds or less on average, a major improvement over standard HLS live streaming. Dacast can help you achieve your goal of ultra-low latency live streaming. 

    Pricing:

    Start streaming live video with Dacast starts at just $39 per month, and pricing plans include four packages:

    • Starter plan: ideal for newcomers with 1,000 TB of bandwidth and 50 GB of storage per month, at just $39 per month billed annually.
    • Scale plan: includes 24 TB of bandwidth per year, with 1 TB of storage for $188 per month billed annually. These Scale pricing plans add phone support, monetization paywall, an M3U8 online player for live channels, ad insertion, white-label Cnames, and video API access.
    • Event plan: for organizations who’d rather not sign a contract and want to purchase bandwidth separately to live stream an event. It offers 6 TB of bandwidth upfront, 50 GB of storage, and costs just $63 per month (or $750/year). Additional data and storage can be added as needed.
    • Custom plan: if your enterprise business has high-volume streaming needs.

    Broadcasters can contact Dacast directly to learn more about custom-priced plans.

    2. Limelight

    limelight networks cdn
    Limelight is a CDN and low latency streaming service. Source: Limelight.com

    Limelight, which is one of Dacast’s content delivery partners, offers some support for hosting live streams with low latency.

    The package that broadcasters would use in this situation would be “Video Delivery,” not to be confused with their “Content Delivery” package. 

    Although this platform is capable of live video hosting and management, it is much more limited in terms of features as compared to Dacast.

    That said, here are a few of the features of this platform:

    • VOD and live video hosting
    • Video content management
    • Video storage
    • Ad-insertion
    • Video analytics
    • API to improve workflows

    Low Latency Options:

    Limelight is an ultra low latency live streaming service by nature. The platform uses WebRTC technology and UDP data transfer protocol to make this possible. They can provide you with access to low-latency protocols that will enhance the performance of your live broadcasts.

    Pricing:

    Limelight does not have live streaming hosting prices listed on their website, but you can request a free trial to get started.

    3. Wowza Streaming Cloud

    wowza low latency streaming solution
    Wowza Streaming Cloud is a great choice for live streaming without delay.

    Finally, let’s take a look at Wowza. Wowza is a live streaming and VOD platform, similar to Dacast. The Wowza product that is most relevant to low latency streaming is “Wowza Streaming Cloud.

    Some features of this low latency streaming service include:

    • Live streaming and on-demand video hosting
    • Host-you-own live streaming server product
    • White-label streaming
    • API and SDK available
    • Mobile-compatible video player
    • Customer support (*note that phone support and fast responses cost extra)
    • RESTful API available
    • No monetization options
    • No phone support

    Low Latency Options:

    Wowza’s low latency streaming media solutions deliver with less than 10-second latency.

    Pricing:

    As we mentioned, Wowza Streaming Cloud is the product from Wowza that is most comparable to the ones we mentioned above.

    Within Live Event Pricing, monthly plans include:

    • Pay As You Go: $29/month, with a 3-month minimum; flexible streaming with low startup costs
    • Basic: $99/month; includes 20 hours of live streaming and 1000 viewing hours based on video resolution of 720p
    • One Month Event: $149 one-time purchase; includes 20 hours of live streaming and 1000 viewing hours also at 720p
    • Plus: $499/month; includes 150 hours of live streaming and 7000 viewing hours based on video resolution of 720p

    All of these Live Event plans include full brand control, multi-bitrate streaming, and UHD and HD streaming.

    Wowza is a good choice if you want to enjoy ultra-low latency in streaming, and you don’t want to monetize your video content. 

    Encoders for Low Latency Streaming

    Several high-quality features need to work together in order to achieve low latency streaming. One of the additional tools you will need to use is a video encoder alongside your video streaming solution.

    One of the most important tools for live streaming is a video encoder. You can use a free or paid video encoder, and you can use either a software or hardware solution. 

    Free Video Encoder 

    One of the best free encoders on the market is OBS Studio. OBS Studio is compatible with both Windows and Mac and can seamlessly integrate with a range of production and mixing tools.  You can also use a wide range of plugins, scripts, and custom themes with OBS Studio. 

    Paid Software Video Encoder

    You can use a wide range of strong paid software video encoders. A few of the top paid software video encoders include: 

    • Wirecast
    • VidBlasterX
    • vMix

    Paid Hardware Video Encoders

    There is also a wide range of hardware video encoders you can use as well, such as: 

    • LiveU Solo
    • TriCaster

    Want to learn more about encoders you can use to support low latency live streaming? Read our article comparing the 12 best live streaming encoder software and hardware solutions.

    As you become more experienced, you may want to invest in a paid encoding tool instead of using a free one. We recommend exploring different hardware and software encoders.

    How to Stream With No Delay With Dacast

    Ultra-low latency video streaming is very important in the world of professional broadcasting. When comparing video streaming solutions, pay close attention to the offerings that support low-delay streaming.

    Dacast’s low latency streaming platform and other features make it the best solution on the market today. Dacast offers low-latency camera streaming, so your live content will get to your viewers as fast as possible. 

    If you’re looking for a platform today, we can help you get started. We offer a white-label video hosting and live streaming platform and a 14-day free trial. That way, you can test out all the features before committing. 

    Create a Dacast account to get started today. No credit card is required.

    Get Started for Free

    Do you have further questions or comments about these software applications? We’d love to hear from you in the chat section below. For regular live streaming tips and exclusive offers, you can join the Dacast LinkedIn group.

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    Max Wilbert

    Max Wilbert is a passionate writer, live streaming practitioner, and has strong expertise in the video streaming industry.

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