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How to Convert RTMP to HLS for Live Video Streaming

By Max Wilbert

9 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.

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      With the help of streaming solutions, like Dacast, it can be easy to forget that there is a highly technical process that occurs behind the scenes of mobile live streaming.

      The technology that transports live streams between the recording equipment, the encoder, the live streaming platform, and the user-facing video player is called a streaming protocol.

      The technology behind live streaming has not reached its final form. Updates in protocols occur relatively quickly. As some technology becomes obsolete, others rise to the forefront. Two popular protocols are RTMP and HLS. 

      Today, we’re going to take a look at how these streaming protocols are used by Dacast and other video streaming platforms. We will define both 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?

      Table of Contents:

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

      What is a Streaming Protocol?

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

      When it comes to live streaming, video files in varying formats are transmitted from one device to another almost immediately. Considering the size of video files, this is quite impressive.

      As we mentioned, streaming protocols are magical technology that makes live streaming happen. They take tiny pieces of video files and transport them from one step to the next in the streaming process.

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

      What is RTMP?

      When setting up a live stream, you need either live stream encoding software or a hardware encoder. The encoder connects to your video camera and other mobile live streaming equipment, then converts its RAW video output to a digital format that is 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 streaming audio, video, and associated data over the internet in real-time. 

      This protocol was originally 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.

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

      What is HLS?

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

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

      Since Apple’s devices have grown in popularity, Apple was forced to face this issue. They had to create a protocol that was not exclusive to the Flash video player so that their users could access videos right from their devices. 

      From there, HLS streaming was designed by Apple to address the issues imposed by Flash and RTMP.  

      HLS, which is short for HTTP live streaming, is another protocol for live video and audio streaming. This protocol is designed to bring advanced video live streaming to iOS devices

      The HLS protocol uses standard HTTP web delivery methods. Additionally, it uses some enhancements to these methods to optimize media streaming. For example, HLS live streaming delivers audio and video files as small MPEG2-TS file downloads that are interpreted as a seamless stream.

      HLS video is preferred on Android mobile devices, as well as with iOS.

      We’d like to point out that HLS is sometimes referred to as an HTML5 video, but this is actually erroneous. HTML5 is a completely distinct standard. 

      Converting RTMP to HLS for Live Streaming

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

      As we mentioned, HLS is based on HTTP, the two formats exist for different types of devices. If you’d like to reach the largest possible audience with your live video 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 whichever of these streams it is best equipped to handle.

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

      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 feed.

      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 server 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 if 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. 

      The use of 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.

      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 do 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 control of your content? 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 30 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 required.

      GET STARTED FOR FREE  

      Did you find this article helpful? Do you have questions or 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! For regular live streaming tips and exclusive offers, you can also join our LinkedIn group.

      Please note that this post was originally written by Max Wilbert. It was revised in 2021 by Emily Krings to include the most up-to-date information. Emily is a strategic content writer and storyteller. She specializes in helping businesses create blog content that connects with their audience.

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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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