How to Convert RTMP to HLS for Live Video Streaming

By Max Wilbert

10 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.

    Do you know how to convert RTMP to HLS for live video streaming? RTMP and HLS are two streaming protocols that help transport live streams between the recording equipment, the encode, and the live streaming platform. 

    With the right video streaming host, you can automatically convert a single RTMP feed from your video encoder to HLS on the server end. 

    Here at Dacast, we use a stream packaging tool from Akamai for this process.  

    Today, we’re going to take a look at how Dacast and other video streaming platforms use these streaming protocols. We will define RTMP and HLS before comparing the roles of the two and discussing how to convert RTMP to HLS.

    Are you ready to learn about RTMP and HLS? Let’s get started!

    Table of Contents:

    • What is a Streaming Protocol?
    • What is RTMP?
    • What is HLS?
    • How to Convert RTMP to HLS for Live Streaming
    • Benefits of HLS Streaming 
    • Conclusion

    What is a Streaming Protocol?

    video streaming protocol
    Streaming protocols are an essential part of live broadcasting.

    First of all, when it comes to live streaming content, video files in various formats have to be transmitted from one device to another almost instantaneously. Video files are generally huge, making this feat quite impressive. 

    Streaming protocols are seemingly magical technology that makes live streaming possible. From a technical standpoint, video streaming protocols are standardized rules and methods for taking a large video file. This is done so that the files can be quickly delivered to the end user, where they are reassembled and turned back into videos you can watch.

    There are several video streaming protocols, but at this point, HLS is the most important, with RTMP coming in second. 

    What is RTMP?

    You need to use either live stream encoding software or a hardware encoder when setting up a live stream. The encoder connects to your video camera and other mobile live streaming equipment, then converts its RAW video output to a digital format better suited for live streaming. Most often, the default format for your encoder will be RTMP.

    RTMP stands for Real-Time Messaging Protocol and is a Macromedia (Adobe) standard created for real-time streaming audio, video, and associated data over the internet. It creates a constant connection between the client and server, which allows data to be quickly moved to the end user. 

    This protocol was initially created to transmit files from a server to a Flash video player. Since Flash is not used much anymore, many people assume RTMP has gone down with it. 

    Rather than dying out completely, RTMP has simply shifted gears. It is now responsible for feeding data to the streaming solution from the encoder. 

    This is a smaller role in the live streaming process, but it is still very important. This process is called ingest, and according to a 2021 Video Streaming Latency Report study, 76.6% of those surveyed used RTMP for ingesting. 

    Various streaming encoders—used by small operations and broadcast-level professionals, such as Wirecast, vMix, and OBS Studio—create feeds using RTMP.

    What is HLS?

    what is hls streaming
    Apple created HLS as a better alternative to RTMP and Flash Player.

    Have you heard of HLS streaming? If you haven’t, it is an essential piece of streaming technology you need to be aware of. 

    Apple created HLS streaming to allow video streaming on mobile devices with an iOS operating system, such as the iPhone and iPad. This was necessary because mobile devices using the iOS operating systems were not compatible with Flash Player and the RTMP technology used by Flash Player. 

    Mobile devices with an iOS operating system, including the iPhone and iPad, are not compatible with Flash Player, which primarily uses RTMP.

    HLS, which is shorthand for HTTP live streaming, was Apple’s solution to ensure that live video streaming was possible for its mobile users. Don’t worry, though; HLS is compatible with more than just Apple iOS devices. It is compatible with most internet-enabled devices.

    We’d like to point out that HLS is sometimes called an HTML5 video, but this is erroneous. HTML5 is an entirely different standard. 

    Converting RTMP to HLS for Live Streaming

    Converting RTMP to HLS
    Having RTMP and HLS feeds available is valuable.

    HLS is based on HTTP; the two formats exist for different types of devices. If you want to reach the largest possible audience with your live stream, you need to encode your RTMP stream to HLS. This is known as HLS ingest for live streaming. That way, the client’s device can access any of these streams.

    You can automatically convert a single RTMP feed from your video encoder to HLS on the server end with the right video streaming host. 

    Here at Dacast, we use a stream packaging tool from Akamai for this process. 

    Akamai uses RTMP ingest to deliver a stream from your encoder, then automatically transcodes the stream as HLS in near real-time, preparing the stream for any device format. This process does result in a minimal (30-45 second) delay on the camera feed.

    As you can see, converting RTMP to HLS for live video streaming happens behind the scenes, without the need for you to do much more than choose a service, like Dacast, that has the right tools to make this process happen. 

    Once the service transcodes the content, Dacast uses two top-tier live streaming CDNs (content delivery networks) to distribute the content via hundreds of thousands of servers worldwide. 

    This global service network ensures that live streams are delivered quickly and seamlessly to anywhere on the planet. 

    Using these top-tier video CDNs also helps to ensure reliability. If a server goes down or a million viewers suddenly show up for your broadcast, your content will continue to flow smoothly.

    All of this also means that any device can view your content seamlessly. The content delivery network automatically selects and delivers the best protocol automatically. 

    Using a global CDN reduces costs by ensuring that you only need one encoder. This means you can reach a global audience with a single setting and a single encoder.

    Benefits of HLS Streaming

    There are a few reasons why RTMP ingest to HLS streaming is so popular that you should be aware of. 

    • Cross-device compatible: HLS can be used on any device with a compatible video player, such as HTML5. Most all internet-connected devices support HLS. 
    • Multiple audio tracks: If you are streaming content worldwide and want to provide audio in different languages, HLS supports multiple audio tracks for one video track. This makes multi-language streams possible. 
    • Ad insertion: Want to monetize your video content? That can easily be achieved with ad insertion through VPAID and VAST interfaces. 
    • Subtitles: Need accessible content/ HLS supports closed captions, making your content accessible to a larger audience. 
    • Privacy protection: HLS streaming works with a wide variety of DRM technologies, helping to support privacy protection.

    Conclusion

    In this article, we’ve walked you through the basics of RTMP and HLS live streaming and the value of the RTMP to the HLS conversion process.

    If you’re looking for an easy way to convert your RTMP stream to HLS, we encourage investing in a live streaming solution like Dacast that makes the process absolutely seamless. 

    When you live stream with Dacast, your content is automatically available in whatever format is best for your viewers.

    Note: You can also access these full instructions on how to start live streaming with Dacast. When you go live, your content is automatically available in whatever format is best for your viewers.

    Want to stream live video on your website and maintain content control? We’ve got you covered! Plan to do regular, business-related broadcasts? We’ll help you make sure you reach all your viewers with the best quality stream possible. If you need additional help figuring out how to convert RTMP to HLS and HDS, or other support with live streaming, you can contact our technical support department from within your Dacast account.

    We invite you to try Dacast risk-free for 14 days. Access all of our features and see our powerful video streaming technology. All you have to do to get started is sign up today. No credit card is required.e

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    Did you find this article helpful? Do you have questions, comments, or ideas for other topics you’d like us to cover in our articles? Let us know in the comment section below, and thanks for reading! You can also join our LinkedIn group for regular live streaming tips and exclusive offers.

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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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