RTMP Server Hosting: What It Is and How to Access It

Today, video and live streaming are all the rage. Accordingly, one study found that 80% of people surveyed preferred them over blogs and social media posts. This explains the predominance of Facebook Shorts, Instagram Reels and TikTok.

The technology that’s made this all possible is RTMP and its media servers. RTMP stands for real-time messaging protocol (RTMP). This technology is often credited with making video and audio sharing accessible to the masses accessible in just a few clicks. Now it’s the gold standard in the live video streaming industry and is utilized by savvy organizations wanting to capitalize on this revolutionary technology to reach millions.

We cover everything you need to know about RTMP. We discuss how RTMP streaming works and its role. Furthermore, we take a closer look at this technology and distil its components along with comparing it to HLS (HTTP Live Streaming). Finally, we go over how best to use this technology.

Table of Contents

What is RTMP Exactly?

How Does RTMP Streaming Work?

The Role of RTMP Servers

RTMP: A Closer Look

Five RTMP Variations

RTMP and HLS: How Do They Work Together?

  • RTMP vs. HLS
  • How RTMP and HLS work together
  • What about RTSP?
  • WebRTC vs. RTMP vs. HLS
  • HLS vs. RTMP Streaming

MPEG-TS vs. HLS vs. RTMP Streaming

How RTMP Streaming Works

What is an RTMP Server?

RTMP Server Uses

  • Role of an RTMP Encoder
  • Advanced Scheduling
  • Video on Demand
  • Low Latency
  • Reduced Buffering
  • Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

How to Access RTMP Server Hosting

  • Via an Online Video Platform
  • Setting Up Your Own RTMP Server
  • Benefits of Your Own RTMP Server

RTMP Alternatives

  • HLS Streaming Protocol
  • RTSP Streaming Protocol
  • WebRTC
  • SRT

Conclusion

What is RTMP Exactly?

The technology predates the mainstream use of cellular devices, and it’s been modified to stream across almost all devices.

Today, there are many variations of technology in circulation. RTMP proper, or real-time messaging protocol proper refers to the classical version of RTMP streaming technology and is often used as a yardstick to measure other RTMP variations such as RTMPE, RTMPT, RTMFP, and RTMPS.

The highly adaptable nature of this technology explains its popularity and widespread usage. The technology is known for its ability to transmit recorded or live videos with minimum lag across streaming platforms. We all know the importance of maintaining the audience’s interest and attention. However, even slight delays in buffering can cause viewers to switch to another video stream or live stream. That’s the issue RTMP streaming aims to resolve.

How Does RTMP Streaming Work?

RTMP is not hardwired but a streaming software that can be changed to suit your internet speed, video quality, and other variables. An RTMP stream divides a pre-recorded video or live stream into smaller pieces of customized size before sending it from one device to another. The size of each smaller fragment is set according to the internet connection available at both ends.

The size of the video’s chunks can be changed according to need. RTMP technology performs well even though your internet connection might not be the smoothest and fastest.

That’s precisely why RTMP streaming technology has been vital to the history of internet video streaming. The role of RTMP protocol in streaming has evolved, adapting to fit the needs of modern live streaming setups.

The Role of RTMP Servers

The importance of RTMP stream hosting has increased in recent years because RTMP streams and RTMP encoders help broadcasters deliver low-latency streams to their viewers, creating a better end-user experience.

Now that we’ve covered the importance of RTMP stream technology in streaming, we’ll cover everything broadcasters need to know about RTMP stream hosting, RTMP protocol, RTMP encoder technology, and where to use an RTMP stream.

Additionally, we’ll cover RTMP server hosting, the benefits of RTMP, and how you can access an RTMP server host for your streaming server needs.

Then we’ll end with the connection between RTMP and HLS and how this relates to broadcasters.

RTMP: A Closer Look

rtmp ingest

RTMP has been significant throughout the history of online live streaming.

RTMP stands for real-time messaging protocol and is a transport protocol that moves video files from one part of the live streaming workflow to the next. RTMP was designed by Macromedia, now owned by Adobe, to deliver video content to the Adobe Flash player.

Today, RTMP is most widely used for RTMP ingest rather than delivery since it is not compatible with HTML5 video players, which are the industry standard.

RTMP is known for its low video latency streaming and live streaming capabilities. It maintains a constant connection and splits streams into smaller chunks to transmit over the internet. RTMP uses the constant connection between the source and destination to determine the appropriate size of these chunks to send.

There are a few variations of RTMP that serve slightly different purposes. These include RTMPE, RTMPT, RTMFP, and RTMPS. The “regular” RTMP is referred to as “RTMP proper” when compared or discussed in terms of these other variations. RTMPS. is particularly valuable for streaming on cell phones over public internet networks since it is encrypted with an extra layer of security.

Five RTMP Variations: 

Five different variations of RTMP are used today.

1.  RTMP: Plain TCP-based protocol

2.  RTMPS: Incorporates a secure SSL connection for cloud-based streaming. RTMPS is excellent for corporate meetings and town halls when you want someone to avoid hacking into the RTMP live stream.

3.  RTMPE: Lightweight encryption version of RTMPS based on Adobe’s proprietary security encryption methods.

4.  RTMPT: Works with HTTP to help streams bypass firewalls and corporate traffic filtering tools.

5.  RTMFP: Uses UDP instead of TCP

RTMP and HLS: How Do They Work Together?

Before we dive into the ins and outs of RTMP streaming server hosting, the advantages of RTMP to HLS servers, and whether you should use RTMP to HLS converters or not,  there are a few things that we need to clarify.

First, let’s discuss RTMP vs. HLS. Even though both systems are used for live stream video, they are not interchangeable.

RTMP vs. HLS

HLS, or HTTP live streaming, was designed exclusively for cellular devices. However, it delivers video compatible with mobile devices since it handles almost unlimited traffic seamlessly. RTMP was initially developed before mobile viewing was a thing. Variations have since been adapted as technology changes to work with devices of all kinds.

Flash is dead, but RTMP protocol most certainly is not. HTML5 video players have become the standard in video streaming since they are compatible with any device and operating system. They are also very easily customizable, which is essential for broadcasting at the professional level.

Streaming with an HTML5 video player requires HLS delivery. The HTML5 video player and HLS protocol were developed to meet the growing need for a set compatible with accessing online video content from a mobile device. In addition, HTML5 and HLS made up for gaps and deficiencies left in the Adobe Flash player.

Simply put, HLS is to HTML5 as RTMP is to Flash player.

How RTMP and HLS work together

Even though RTMP and HLS differ fundamentally in their operations, The two systems can still be used side-by-side (using web servers to get the best out of both technologies. The systems are different, but their usage does overlap.

RTMP streams are still used in setups that use HLS delivery to an HTML5 video player, but their role is slightly different. In this situation, RTMP is used for ingesting. Essential for feeding video files from an RTMP encoder or another source to an online video player or even directly to a video streaming CDN. That way, RTMP and HLS work together as a team, using the strengths of each system to deliver a better end product.

The beauty of the HLS/RTMP duo is that it can produce streams with low latency, high compatibility, and reliable security. Live streaming with both gHLS delivery and HLS ingest is possible, but this setup doesn’t support low latency like RTMP to HLS.

What about RTSP?

RTSP, short for “Real-Time Streaming Protocol,” is another essential video protocol often thrown into this mix. Many confuse it as an RTMP alternative, but it typically plays a different role in typical live streaming workflow, primarily involving video player commands.

However, RTSP can be used in encoding in some cases. For example, some RTMP hosting platforms use a workflow that uses an RTSP to RTMP conversion using encoding software to make ingest compatible with some sources, such as IP cameras. Similarly, in cases where RTMP and HLS are not required, RTMP to HLS transcode can be used to convert and send live videos.

Although it can be confusing to understand what each protocol does and whether or not you should be using it, the main thing to remember is that HLS or RTMP each have unique capabilities. Therefore, it is essential to understand how they can enhance each other for a better overall streaming video.

WebRTC vs. RTMP vs. HLS

Another common question is how WebRTC plays a role in video streaming. This technology is more commonly used in video conferencing when streaming video in real-time via web servers is crucial. In a virtual meeting, everyone must view the same material simultaneously, the gap WebRTC was designed to fill.

The downside is compatibility. RTMP/HLS streaming servers are more widely supported and preferable for many uses

HLS vs. RTMP Streaming

·      HLS was developed to address the difficulties with streaming over mobile devices.

·         RTMP streams are most commonly used today to ingest streaming data at low latency

·         RTMP streams require Adobe’s Flash Player to be installed in the browser to play videos

·         HLS works natively across all devices, such as Android, Apple, mobile devices, or browsers

·         RTMP is the most popular protocol for ingesting and HLS for known for its application in playback

·         An RTMP/HLS server produces streams with low latency, high compatibility, and reliable security.

MPEG-TS vs. HLS vs. RTMP Streaming

MPEG-TS is also a streaming software comparable to HLS and RTMP. Even with low latency connections, the format supports synchronization resulting in an excellent viewer experience. That’s possible because the stream is divided into sections no larger than 188 bytes.

So how does it compare to RTMP or HLS streaming software? The major drawback with MPEG-TS is that it only sometimes adapts the size of these sections according to the connectivity conditions of the user’s device—an advantage RTMP servers offer.

How RTMP Streaming Works

With online live streaming platforms, the live stream is recorded with a camera and sent to an online or live video host via an RTMP encoder. This process is referred to as the first mile that your content goes through.

The content is scaled and sent through a content delivery network (CDN) to the end user’s device and video player. That’s the last mile in the streaming video process.

At the time of its launch, RTMP was designed to keep a steady connection open between the viewer’s video player and the streaming server transmitting the video. It acted as a funnel to quickly and smoothly transport video data to the end-viewer.

Thanks to the rapidly changing and evolving technological scene, that’s no longer the case.

RTMP used to be used for the last mile, helping content play on Adobe Flash Player. However, since Adobe Flash Player is retired, the RTMP stream is only used for the first mile of the streaming process.

Think of it this way: RTMP used to be the main lead in the well-orchestrated protocol of smooth video delivery. It’s still there, just behind the scenes now as supporting staff. Its role is still vital for a glitch-free viewing experience.

In the first mile, RTMP helps split your audio and video data into smaller chunks. Then, it acts as a protocol to carry the various video and audio data packets. That’s a three-step process that happens in a matter of seconds.

·         The TCP/IP Handshake: First, the client and web server exchange information in what is known as a handshake, agreeing to work together

·         The Connection: Then, the client and web server create a connection using a message sequence

·         The Stream: To start the video, the client sends the web server a create Stream invocation and then ping and plays the message.

This process is so quick that you wouldn’t even know it was happening. This process allows your video data to be accepted by the web server and carries your video over the first mile so that it will eventually reach your end user.

What is an RTMP Server?

RTMP hosting server

An RTMP server is what makes RTMP ingest possible.

An RTMP server is the technical setup to receive an RTMP data stream via RTMP ingest protocol. An RTMP dedicated server has the tools to receive and decode video data transported from an RTMP encoder or other source.

RTMP streaming media servers are created based on standard streaming server technology and are often built into your video streaming platform or your created platform to self-host your video content.

By using RTMP encoders, a server, and RTMP ingest, broadcasters can tap into the benefits of RTMP as a protocol even when using HLS streaming to deliver their content.

RTMP Server Uses

In general, RTMP servers are used to offer support for RTMP ingest. That’s handy for several different use cases. There are many reasons to use an RTMP encoder for live video, such as advanced scheduling options, VOD libraries, low latency and reduced buffering, and adaptive bitrate streaming.

Role of an RTMP Encoder 

One of the most notable uses of an RTMP server is to connect with RTMP encodersThat’s because RTMP encoders are cheap and accessible, which is not yet the case for HLS encoders—allowing you to choose between various software encoders and hardware encoders with a wide range of functionality and price points.

 Advanced Scheduling 

With RTMP ingest protocol, you can connect sources in advance so that everything can go live at a scheduled time. Handy for new programs that do linear broadcasting. This setup also works well with IP camera streams and webcam streams.

Video on Demand

RTMP streaming servers are also used for uploading video content to create video-on-demand (VOD) libraries with dynamic content.

Low Latency 

That lower latency capability means reduced buffering. Buffering occurs when an internet connection or equipment is too slow. The ability of an RTMP stream to maintain a constant connection while streaming helps correct this problem.

Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

RTMP servers offer adaptive bitrate streaming, which matches the streaming to the user’s equipment. Making content more accessible to everyone and giving them the best experience on their equipment, whether connecting with a smartphone, tablet, or PC.

How to Access RTMP Server Hosting

There are several methods for accessing RTMP server hosting for your RTMP stream. Many broadcasters use an already online video host or live video host platform equipped with an RTMP server; others build their own.

Both methods have their pros and cons. Usually, using an online live video host platform such as Dacast is recommended if you’re starting. That way, you can focus on creating engaging content while Dacast’s RTMP server takes care of the technical end of streaming.

Let’s take a close look at each of these methods.

Via an Online Video Platform

online video platform

Broadcasters can access RTMP server hosting through a dedicated OVP.

An easy way to access RTMP server hosting is through a professional online video streaming platform like Dacast. You’ll want to look for a professional streaming platform that supports RTMP, specifically ingest, and has an RTMP server.

This approach is favorable because it doesn’t involve much technical know-how or support from an experienced developer. The RTMP server hosting happens behind the scenes, so connecting your RTMP-compatible sources is as simple as copying and pasting a URL.

Since everything is automatically handled by the online video host platform’s developers, you don’t have to invest money and other resources in hiring a developer or purchasing the supporting software.

Aside from Dacast, some online video platforms that support RTMP ingest and have RTMP servers include Brightcove, Wowza, IBM Cloud Video, Panopto, and more. Kaltura uses RTSP to RTMP ingest, but it is unclear if the platform supports RTMP ingest independent of the RTSP conversion or with an RTMP streaming server.

Ready to try Dacast for your RTMP Server needs? Start your no-credit card required free trial. We encourage you to check out our comparison of the top video streaming platforms, to browse additional features, functionality, and pricing for the RTMP hosting platforms mentioned above.

Setting Up Your Own RTMP Server

If you are not using a live video streaming platform, accessing RTMP server hosting on your own website is possible. Some development experience will come in handy, so if you don’t have that experience, it is wise to hire someone who does. Either way, there are a few tools you can use.

To host your own RTMP stream via a dedicated server, developers must choose a server-building tool to create an RTMP server. Adobe Media Server, Red 5, Wowza’s Live Streaming, and Nginx engine are four of the top offerings. These software options are paid, but you may use one or more for other operations.

Creating a private RTMP server will vary depending on the tools you use. We recommend checking out Doug Johnson’s RTMP server setup video tutorial for a technical walkthrough of this process with Nginx.

Benefits of Your Own RTMP Server

One benefit of creating your own accessible RTMP server is that you have the power to adjust it to meet your specific needs and video source. That comes into play when you stream different events requiring different latency levels.

For example, a little latency is helpful if you are concerned about a potential mishap (think wardrobe malfunction, foul language, or sharing of improper information). However, if you’re focusing on peer-to-peer streaming, the lower the latency, the better.

Again, this approach is much more technical and will likely require support from a developer with relevant experience. Even though it’s a long process and it can be more challenging to make your own RTMP server, sometimes a custom approach from scratch is the solution your organization truly needs.

RTMP Alternatives

RTMP is one of the oldest internet streaming protocols, having been around for two decades. Today, it’s also used to create live streams. During that time, live streaming has evolved. As a result, live streams are now available on all internet-enabled devices, not just web browsers.

RTMP doesn’t work at high bitrates, so it can’t be used to stream high-resolution live videos, such as 4K content. Nevertheless, RTMP is still one of the most used streaming protocols, especially for the first-mile content delivery process, after HLS. However, there are emerging streaming HTTP-based streaming protocols you should be aware of.

HLS Streaming Protocol

Apple designed HLS, which stands for HTTP Live Streaming. HLS is used for last-mile delivery and is the most used video streaming protocol for that purpose. HLS is scalable and compatible with mobile devices, web browsers, streaming services, and other devices. In addition, it is generally used with RTMP, creating a great first and last-mile video delivery system.

RTSP Streaming Protocol

RTSP, which stands for Real-Time Streaming Protocol, is used for the last mile of the streaming process. RTSP takes your live video from the cloud to the player via a streaming service. In addition, RTSP allows the viewer to play, pause, and rewind the video, features people expect today with their video content.

WebRTC

WebRTC, which stands for Web Real-Time Communication, is an open-source protocol. It’s used to help with real-time communications, such as live streams. This internet protocol supports ultra-low latency, with as little as 500 millisecond delays. As a result, WebRTC works best for small broadcasts with low numbers of viewers or participants.

SRT

SRT, which stands for Secure Reliable Transport, is a new internet protocol for first-mile delivery. It’s designed to support low-latency streaming. In addition, it is designed to optimize bandwidth. The biggest drawback to SRT right now is that it is new, which means a full array of platforms doesn’t support it.

As RTMP is an older streaming protocol, it is helpful to be aware of alternatives and up-and-coming protocols that could eventually take its place.

The legendary Flash player came, saw, and conquered. But it’s outdated and dead in this fast-paced era of technological changes and innovation. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about RTMP server hosting and the fundamental technology that powers RTMP.

Though their role has transformed, RTMP streams and RTMP modules are still very much around and relevant to video and live video streaming. Using a platform such as Dacast leverages all the benefits this technology offers in your favor without the precondition of you having to learn the ins and outs of every technological advancement in the industry.

RTMP server hosting is essential for broadcasters who want to use video encoders, video sources, and other supporting software that requires RTMP ingest. As a broadcaster, you can host the RTMP server through Dacast’s VOD platform or build one of your own.

Conclusion

Using a service like Dacast to deliver live streams and access RTMP server hosting is an easy and cost-effective solution for most broadcaster’s needs. You don’t need a developer — it enables you to start streaming today.

If you are looking for a professional video hosting platform equipped with an RTMP server for RTMP ingest, we invite you to try Dacast. In addition to RTMP ingest, we support HTTP live streaming to an RTMP video player, which is the perfect setup for high-quality, ultra-compatible streaming with very low latency.

Interested in trying out all the features mentioned in this article for yourself? Try our 14-day free trial today. You can test-drive all the features and reap the benefits before deciding if it’s for you. It’s hassle and commitment-free.

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Emily Krings

Emily is a strategic content writer and story teller. She specializes in helping businesses create blog content that connects with their audience.