How Does Video Streaming Work?

By Stephen Lilley


Video streaming is video that is being played as it is being received by a user's computer. Because the file is being played as it is being downloaded to your computer, it allows you to watch it in real-time with virtually no wait (depending on your Internet connection). The file is not "downloaded" in the traditional sense that in the end there is a video file on your computer. Rather, it is downloaded to a temporary Internet file that is automatically deleted when the file is no longer in use.

Live Streaming

It is possible to stream video from a live event, though it will require extra equipment than normal for the computer that is actually the source of the video information. The computer that is sending out the information needs to be able to compress the video footage while also encoding it and uploading it to the internet. This is more difficult than streaming something from YouTube, for example, where a user will upload a file to YouTube's server at which point their computer stops playing a part in the process.


Another type of video streaming is a "multicast" stream. In a multicast stream one source of video information is sent to a computer router where it is copied and sent out to all computers on that particular network. This way every computer on the network has its own copy of the data and they don't have to depend on the system resources of the other computers. This method does however require addition bandwidth as well as processing power from the computer that is encoding and sending out the video information.