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Low Latency Video Streaming Solutions: Choosing a Platform to Live Stream Without Delay [2023 Update]
When streaming live videos as a professional, you must focus on creating an excellent experience for your viewers. One way to create a great live video viewing experience is by keeping the latency on your streams low.
Imagine live-streaming a concert or live event, for example. You excite your viewers by creating buzz around the event on social media. Everything’s lined up, but there’s a lag in your live stream on the viewer’s end.
Only a few 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 concise period.
These lost viewers might not be willing to tune in to watch your other live and on-demand streams in the future. Today’s audience is spoiled for choice, and they hate waiting.
That’s where streaming solutions that offer low latency come in. That’s how live streams maintain continuity best quality throughout their duration, allowing viewers to experience the content in real time. Latency is the delay between when an image is in the real-time video 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 video streaming works can help engage your audience better. That’s thanks to CDN solutions that can bring down latency to milliseconds.
This post will explain low-latency streaming and 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 Video Streaming Solutions
- How to Choose the Best Low-Latency Streaming Solution for Live Streaming Without Delay
- HLS Streaming Protocol Delivery
- How HLS 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?
Let’s get a bit technical here. Live streams are not live. There’s usually a 20-120 second delay between the event and the video streaming on viewers’ mobile devices. 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 seeing it happen on your screen at home. You want the stream delay to be short enough to be unnoticeable.
Latency occurs 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 of the image
- Encoders transcoding the content
- Time for the video to be transmitted to the viewer
- One’s viewing device decodes and then displays the video.
According to Encoding.com, most streams have latency in the 30-120 second range—sometimes more.
There are two parts to latency:
- Startup time and the lag between the event taking place
- The video streams 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’s why it’s 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 see things in real-time. High latency can negatively impact a viewer’s experience by lengthening the lag. Viewers don’t want to look on Twitter and see a tweet about what they are watching before it appears on their mobile devices.
- Live-stream audiences want to feel connected and like they are in there in person. When there’s a delay or if the video is constantly buffering and loading, it takes away from the real-life 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 Video Streaming Solutions
Studies show that longer startups drive viewers away and negatively impact their smooth streaming experience. Online videos with a start-up time exceeding 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 of deployed content is critical in various situations. Here are a few scenarios in which low-latency media solutions are especially critical:
- Sports streaming.
- Live auctions.
- Live streaming involves chat, real-time feedback, or audience participation.
- Dual-screen viewing (increasingly common for all broadcasts)
- Question-answer sessions.
- Political events such as debates or vote counting.
Streaming with low latency 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 few 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
- A reliable content delivery system
HLS Streaming Protocol Delivery
The best low-latency video streaming platforms use the HLS streaming protocol. “HLS” is short for “HTTP Live Streaming.”
Apple designed HTTP Live Streaming to work with HTML5 video players on iOS devices and applications like Apple TV. Both HTTP Live Streaming and HTML5 players are successors of the ancient Adobe Flash Player technology.
How HLS Streaming Works
Most HLS streams or HTTP Live Streaming protocols start with RTMP ingest, automatically converted to HLS for delivery by the video platform. That provides high-quality HTTP Live Streaming to viewers but can introduce a latency of 30 seconds or more, a huge live stream delay.
RTMP is still used for video ingestion rather than HTTP Live Streaming for deliveries and ingest because HTTP Live Streaming has a much higher latency. The RTMP ingest/HTTP Live Streaming delivery combo makes streaming on an all-device HTML5 video player possible while reaping RTMP’s low latency benefit.
When paired with the right-side CDN providers, this technology can help decrease your latency into the 12-15 second zone. That’s 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.
You want to aim for less than 15 seconds of latency for professional broadcasts. Dacast, for example, offers HLS delivery with RTMP ingests for low-latency video streaming. That reduces latency to 15 seconds or less and is most suited for professional broadcasts and online businesses.
At Dacast, we’re constantly working to reduce our latency further so that our end users everywhere can produce live streams close to real-time video 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 reducing stream delay; we will take care of it for you.
Simple to Set Up and Use
If you are new to professional broadcasting, you’ll want to choose a low-latency streaming solution that is easy to use. Unless your role at your company is dedicated to live streaming, you likely don’t have the time for a steep learning curve. That is why you need a video hosting service that makes learning to reduce stream delay as easy as possible.
Choose a user-friendly streaming solution with a reliable customer support team who can help you when you need it.
It is also good to ensure your streaming solution works seamlessly with professional equipment and the laptop or computer you plan to work with.
For example, Dacast 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.
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. That makes streaming professional-grade broadcasts without a massive budget more manageable than ever.
Fits Your Budget
Live streaming pricing varies widely. Many offer cheap introductory pricing but limit professional features to costly platforms.
- For example, a service like IBM Cloud Video restricts features like API access to plans costing over $999 monthly.
- 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 costly price range.
These aren’t cherry-picked examples. Every live-streaming platform on the market requires an investment to access more advanced features.
Comparatively, Dacast offers live streaming starting at just $39 per month and all access to premium features at $188 per month, billed annually. That includes all the restricted features of these other streaming solutions. Dacast offers low-latency video 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 many professional features allowing you to produce professional content and avoid a lengthy live stream delay when you broadcast.
Reliable Content Delivery
Why do your viewers seem to drop out during your live streams? Let’s hear it straight from your audience. Sixty-three percent of live streamers’ viewers last year cited buffering issues as the most severe issue they experienced, an increase from the previous year.
Meaning streaming lag and buffering point to a tough issue. A robust CDN, Content Delivery Network, or a multi-CDN solution is the best.
A CDN network consists of thousands of servers distributed to data centers worldwide. These services help deliver internet content to users fast. They do that by automatically duplicating data and using intelligent routing algorithms to mine web traffic and find the fastest path to any website or viewer.
Here are some plus points to streaming with less bandwidth usage, no matter where your viewer is located and regardless of their network conditions, 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.
Don’t want to introduce latency in your streaming when your audience grows? Then close your CDN providers carefully. Using more than one CDN can also help since multi-CDNs help improve web performance and security. Using multiple CDNs is an excellent plan B in case one fails. Not all CDNs are created equal. Some are much smaller and slower than others, and some CDN providers don’t support live streaming video. Dacast works with Limelight, one of the most reliable CDN providers. 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 understand what to look for in a low-latency video streaming service let’s 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 network, and the cloud streaming alternative Wowza
First up is Dacast. The video streaming platform includes both live streaming and video-on-demand hosting and a wide range of professional broadcasting features. You can enjoy low-latency streaming with Dacast.
These features include:
- Cloud video transcoding with true adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR)
- Multi-bitrate streaming for live video and VOD
- Player API access for 3rd party player integration
- Video API access on premium plans
- Zoom live streaming integration
- Expo galleries video portal
- VOD platform to monetize on-demand content and scale your VOD business
- White-label streaming service
- Built-in video monetization
- Video security features, including password protection and encryption
- RTMP Encoder for ingesting HLS streaming
- Real-Time Analytics
- CDN delivery via several partnerships
- 24/7 tech support with all plans, including email and live chat
- Competitive live streaming pricing plans
Low Latency Options:
Dacast now offers low-latency streaming as a standard feature. On average, this reduces latency to 10 seconds or less, a significant improvement over standard low-latency HLS live streaming. Dacast can help you achieve your goal of ultra-low latency live streaming.
Start streaming live video with Dacast starts at just $39 per month. Pricing plans include four packages:
- Starter plan: ideal for newcomers with 1,000 TB of bandwidth and 50 GB of storage per month, billed annually at just $39 per month.
- 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, a 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. 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.
Limelight, now Edg.io, is one of Dacast’s content delivery partners that offers some support for hosting live streams with low latency.
The package broadcasters would use in that situation would be “Video Delivery,” not to be confused with their “Content Delivery” package.
Although this platform can host a live video and manage ordinary web servers, end-user deployment features are much more limited than Dacast.
That said, here are a few of the other tools and features of this platform:
- VOD and live video hosting
- Video content management
- Video storage
- 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 streaming protocols to make that possible to wireless connections. They can provide you with access to low-latency video streaming protocols for wireless connections that will enhance the performance of your live broadcasts.
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
Finally, let’s take a look at Wowza’s live streaming and VOD platform. The Wowza product most relevant to low latency video streaming is “Wowza Streaming Cloud.”
Some features of this low-latency video 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:
Low latency streaming media solutions deliver with less than 10-second latency.
As we mentioned, Wowza Streaming Cloud is the product from Wowza most comparable to the abovementioned ones.
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 complete brand control, multi-bitrate streaming, and UHD and HD streaming.
Wowza is a good choice if you want to enjoy ultra-low latency in live streaming without monetizing your video content.
Low-Latency Encoders for Streaming
Several other high-performance and-quality features need to work together to stream video files with low-latency. One of the additional tools you will need to use is a video encoder alongside your video streaming solution.
One of the essential tools for live streaming is a video encoder. You can stream your media files using a free or paid video encoder or 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 Windows and Mac and integrates with various 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 video encoders. A few of the top paid software video encoders include:
Paid Hardware Video Encoders
There is also a wide range of hardware video encoders you can use as well, such as:
- LiveU Solo
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 invest in a paid encoding tool instead of 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 essential in professional broadcasting. When comparing video streaming solutions, pay close attention to the offerings that support low-delay live streaming.
Dacast’s low latency live streaming, video streaming platform, and other features make it the best solution today. Dacast offers low-latency camera streaming, so your live content will reach your viewers quickly.
If you’re looking for a platform today, we can help you get started. We offer white-label video hosting, a 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.
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.