What is RTMPS and Why is it Important to Secure Streaming?

By Emily Krings

14 Min Read

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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.

    The technology behind live streaming has evolved significantly in recent years. Adobe’s Flash, a popular video player for decades, is now obsolete. Broadcasters now use the ultra-compatible HTML5 video player to deliver content to viewers.

    Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) is a protocol that has remained important in the live streaming process throughout its evolution. There is one variation of this video streaming protocol that is becoming more and more popular. 

    RTMPS is a variation of RTMP that has an added layer of security, which is important since piracy and cybersecurity threats are on the rise. RTMPS has evolved to help keep video streams secure. 

    This post will cover everything you need to know about RTMPS and its role in live streaming. We will start by discussing the history and uses of RTMP proper before discussing the ins and outs of RTMPS.

    From there, we will take a special look at RTMPS for mobile streaming before we wrap things up by reviewing a few other RTMP variations and additional tools for protected streaming.

    Table of Contents

    • RTMP: The History of Multi-Purpose Protocol
    • The Basics of How RTMP Streaming Works
    • How the RTMP Connection Works
    • What is RTMPS? 
    • RTMP vs. RTMPS
    • RTMPS for Mobile Streaming
    • Other RTMP Variations
      • RTMP Proper
      • RTMPE
      • RTMPT
      • RTMFP
    • Other Tools for Protected Streaming
    • RTMP vs. RTSP
    • RTMP Ingest on Dacast 
    • Final Thoughts

    RTMP: The History of the Real-Time Messaging Protocol

    Real-Time Messaging Protocol
    RTMP has served several purposes in the live streaming process over the years.

    Live streaming has evolved so much in recent years, and Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) has played several roles.

    Macromedia created this protocol, the predecessor to Adobe, to deliver content from RTMP hosting servers to the Flash video player. That function of the protocol is called “RTMP delivery” or “RTMP streaming.”

    For many years, RTMP streaming was the most popular live streaming system. It delivered video content directly to the Adobe Flash player. 

    However, the Adobe Flash player was not compatible with mobile streaming, which means people on a mobile device, such as a smartphone, couldn’t access content that used Adobe’s Flash player. As mobile viewing eclipsed computer viewing, this became a big problem, as more and more viewers couldn’t access content that used Adobe’s Flash player.

    Apple created a solution to this mobile video viewing issue by developing the HLS protocol, which would work with the universal HTML5 video player. HLS gradually replaced RTMP for live stream delivery as Flash player phased out. 

    However, RTMP still had a place in live streaming systems that used HLS delivery. RTMP ingest was born, and the protocol was then used to transport video files from the encoder to the online video platform. RTMP ingest allowed RTMP technology to live on with streaming video content.

    RTMP ingest is still the standard use of RTMP in live streaming. RTMP ingest valuable for broadcasters because it supports low-latency streaming and is made possible by low-cost RTMP encoders.

    RTMP Encoding

    RTMP encoding
    Choosing and configuring an RTMP encoder requires research, but it doesn’t have to be confusing or complicated.

    Choosing an encoder for your live stream that is both capable and reliable is very important. Streaming platforms like Dacast that use RTMP ingest are compatible with RTMP encoders. Luckily, there are so many great RTMP encoders on the market.

    Here are a few of the best encoders that our users rely on to produce high-quality streams:

    • OBS Studio
    • Wirecast
    • VidblasterX
    • vMix
    • Teradek hardware encoders
    • TriCaster hardware encoders

    OBS Studio is our preferred encoding software because it is free and open-source. It also supports the RTMPS protocol, which is excellent for protected streaming. Furthermore, the platform offers a custom version for Dacast users, which makes streaming with OBS Studio pretty seamless.

    For more information on streaming with OBS Studio on Dacast, please check out our dedicated guides for macOS and Windows users.

    The Basics of How RTMP Streaming Works

    RTMP is a TCP-based communication protocol for two-way data, audio, and video communication. It works by creating a communication pathway between the RTMP client and an RTMP server; this allows data to be quickly transmitted. 

    RTMP breaks video content into smaller fragments to make it easier to transmit the data. Audio is generally split into 64 bytes and video into 128 bytes. The exact size of the fragments can vary. 

    Breaking the content into small fragments allows the data to be quickly and effectively transmitted during a single connection, increasing the overall quality of your content.

    How the RTMP Connection Works

    With RTMP, a communication pathway is established between the client and the server, called the connection set-up. The connection set-up consists of three different parts: 

    • Handshake
    • Connection 
    • Streaming

    Step #1: The Handshake 

    The handshake is a very straightforward process. Once a TCP connection is established, the client and the server send three packets. These packets allow the client and server to create a connection. 

    The first packet from the client lets the server know what RTMP version it is requesting. The client responds with random bytes of data, letting the server know it received its request. 

    Then a few more packets of data are sent back and forth to establish what is being asked for, completing the handshake set and establishing a connection between the client and the server. 

    Step #2: The Connection 

    During the connection step, the client and server use Action Message Format (AMF) encoding to send messages. 

    Messages are also exchanged about “Set Peer Bandwidth” and “Window Acknowledgement Size.” This allows the server to stream video data once these connections are all established. 

    Step #3: The Stream 

    Now it is time for data to be transmitted between the client and the server. Several specific RTMP commands are sent, allowing video to be transmitted using the RTMP protocol. 

    That happens behind the scenes when you use RTMP protocol in the video streaming process.

    What is RTMPS?

    RTMPS is a variation of RTMP that uses extra security encryption to ensure that an unauthorized entity does not intercept the stream. The extra layer of security in RTMPS can be either TSL or SSL encryption.

    RTMPS can often be used interchangeably with RTMP, as long as your chosen broadcasting tools support it. It is beneficial for broadcasting on a public network. That’s why this protocol is popular for streaming from a mobile device.

    Broadcasters prefer RTMPS in many situations because of its added security. RTMPS streaming helps keep your videos secure.

    RTMP vs. RTMPS

    RTMPS is RTMP with an added layer of security for protected streaming. Aside from the fact that RTMPS is more secure, the most significant difference for broadcasters is that the live stream’s URL will start with “rtmps://” rather than “rtmp://” when you stream with the secure alternative.

    The RTMPS protocol works like the RTMP proper protocol, so it functions the same way with HLS delivery, and RTMP ingest.

    Unfortunately, there are currently some limitations with RTMPS compatibility with encoding tools, mobile streaming apps, and online video platforms. However, this should not be an issue once RTMPS becomes the norm shortly.

    If you prefer to use RTMPS over RTMP, it is essential that all of your tools are compatible and that your settings are properly configured.

    RTMPS for Mobile Streaming

    mobile live streaming
    “RTMPS” is another protocol you’ll run into when choosing a live streaming app for iPhone, but with an extra layer of security.

    RTMPS is very important for mobile streaming since people who stream on the go often use public internet networks. Public networks expose devices to other users who could hack them and create issues with security. That is why you need RTPMS to keep your stream secure.

    Facebook Live is one of the first social streaming platforms to switch from using RTMP proper to the RTMPS protocol for live streaming for this very reason. They noticed the trend in the use of public networks and made the transition as a way to avoid infiltration from external threats.

    Experts in broadcasting have remarked that other major social streaming platforms are not yet using the RTMPS protocol despite their users generally using mobile streaming. They predict that heightened security may be applied to the content delivery network since unfortunate security breaches have become more common.

    Hopefully, Periscope, Twitch, Instagram, TikTok, and similar platforms will start using RTMPS to keep their users’ streams safe and secure.

    If you are looking for a mobile live streaming app to broadcast from your iPhone, we highly recommend choosing one that supports RTMPS.

    Other RTMP Variations

    As we mentioned, RTMPS is simply one variation of the RTMP protocol. Several other variations of the RTMP protocol have slightly different purposes in live streaming. 

    Let’s take a quick look at the other variations and their uses.

    RTMP Proper

    rtmp vs rtmps
    In addition to RTMP vs. RTMPS, there are several other protocol variations.

    RTMP proper is the standard version of the protocol, and this is the original form of the protocol designed for RTMP delivery. It is built on top of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), a standard protocol for transmitting data between a client and a server. 

    RTMP, on its own, has some issues with security since the protocol is relatively easy to infiltrate. That’s why programmers developed the RTMPS variation.

    RTMPE

    RTMPE is another variation of RTMP that is used for protected streaming. The “E” in RTMPE refers to “encryption.” RTMPE uses Adobe’s security standards and is slightly simpler than RTMPS.

    RTMPT

    RTMPT is a special variation of RTMP that encapsulates other protocol variations to get them past firewalls. 

    RTMFP

    RTMFP stands for “Real-Time Media Flow Protocol,” which is used in peer-to-peer (P2P) streaming. P2P streaming is used for video chatting and video conferencing. Apps like Zoom, Skype, and Facetime use this technology. It is also common among social media apps that support video calling, like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

    Other Tools for Secure Streaming

    RTMPS is a great starting point for protected streaming, but many broadcasters value layering up security measures. 

    Some of the other top tools for protected streaming include:

    • Password protection
    • Double-factor authentication (OVP login)
    • AES encryption
    • Tokenized security
    • Geographic/IP restrictions
    • Domain restrictions 

    Security tools are not just for limited access to your live stream from specific viewers. They are also crucial for keeping your content library, online video platforms, and viewers’ information safe. It is important to layer RTMPS with other security measures to keep your content secure. 

    RTMP vs. RTSP

    Another clarification that we’d like to make is the difference between RTMP and RTSP. Aside from their general importance for live streaming, the two have nothing in common.

    RTMP is for transporting files, whereas RTSP is for transporting commands. Specifically, RTSP is used to carry orders between the viewers and the video player.

    When a viewer clicks buttons in the video player, such as “Play,” “Pause,” and “Fast Forward,” RTSP lets the video player know what to do.

    There is no significant link between RTSP and RTMPS.

    RTMP Ingest on Dacast

    rtmp ingest
    Dacast supports RTMP ingest but not RTMP delivery.

    Dacast uses HLS streaming to deliver content to an HTML5 video player. However, the platform uses RTMP ingest to transport the video files from the encoder to Dacast.

    This setup makes Dacast a suitable option for broadcasters who need access to multi-bitrate streaming, low latency, maximum compatibility, and high-quality streaming. These are all essential qualities for professional streams. 

    Final Thoughts

    RTMPS is a valuable protocol for broadcasters who want to protect their streams from external threats. It works almost precisely like RTMP proper, but it has an added layer of security.  This protocol benefits streaming from mobile devices since it provides the extra protection required for protected streaming on public networks.

    Regarding streaming with Dacast, the protocol works seamlessly with our typical RTMP ingest functions. 

    Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our tech support team for additional information on RTMPS or anything else related to RTMP. An expert team member can answer your questions and point you in the direction of additional information.

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    In the meantime, feel free to head over to the Knowledgebase section of our site. A quick search for “RTMP” will pull up dozens of related articles for you to browse. 

    Please join our LinkedIn group for additional tips for live streaming, exclusive offers, and other community support.

    author avatar

    Emily Krings

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

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